"Geography is a uniquely integrative subject encompassing study of physical environments and the processes that have shaped them, the nature and dynamics of societies and the impact of human activity on the physical realm. Geography provides the framework for understanding the changing world in which we live."

Dr Patricia Warke, Head of Discipline

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Undergraduate degree courses in Geography




Geography is a vibrant and diverse subject embracing topics and methods that span the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. The degree programme reflects this intellectual richness while exploring in-depth issues that define our world and its future.

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With this programme you can include the study of a language (Spanish or French) and an additional year of study in a European city with one of the universities we have partnered with through ERASMUS +

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Combine your interests on the impact of natural events and human activities on landscapes, climate and the changing environments within this innovative joint degree. At Queen’s students taking Palaeoecology have access to world class facilities that even include a Radiocarbon Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 14 CHRONO Laboratory.

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The School warmly welcomes all enquiries regarding MPhil and PhD research in geography (physical and human).

There are two possible routes to devising a suitable PhD / MPhil topic. The first is to construct a proposal in consultation with a potential supervisor based in the School. The second is to apply for a staff-driven proposal. It is possible to apply for a place to study towards a PhD at any time. Part-time study is possible for self-funded students. Deadlines for funding competitions relevant to UK/EU applicants vary and details are provided below. We are delighted to receive applications from international/non-EEA students at any time.  APPLY HERE: 


Doctorates are awarded for the creation and interpretation of knowledge through original research. This requires the ability to conceptualise, design and implement projects for the generation of significant new knowledge and understanding. The programme runs for 3 year full-time or 6 years part-time.


An MPhil is similar to the PhD, but is undertaken over a shorter period of time. Entry to the MPhil programme normally requires at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The programme runs for 2 years full-time or 4 years part-time.


For a place to pursue PhD and MPhil postgraduate studies, we normally require an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) as a minimum in geography or a related subject. Please note that there are differences between entrance requirements and requirements for funding, which are assessed separately. 

The School is normally allocated a number of research studentships each year relevant to UK/EU applicants. These studentships are managed through School. To apply, please indicate that you wish to be considered for ‘funding administered by Queen’s University Belfast’ on the online application form. The deadline for applications that wish to be considered for a School studentship (or DFE award) is 17 February 2017.

Suitably qualified applicants applying for a project orientated towards the humanities will also be eligible for a Northern Bridge (AHRC) studentship. For further details of this competition, please visit the Northern Bridge website: Note that the deadline for applications is Wednesday 11 January by 5pm. If you have further inquiries about this funding opportunity, please contact Dr. Diarmid Finnegan (

Suitably qualified applicants applying for a project orientated towards the social sciences may be eligible for a NINES (ESRC DTP) scholarship. Further details can be found here: Note that the deadline for applications is Monday 16 January by 5pm.

There is a residency requirement (UK, EU) for all three funding schemes. Funding for non-EEA students varies by country. For examples of international funding opportunities through Queen’s for 2017-18 please see here: Applicants who are non-EEA nationals must satisfy the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requirements for English language for visa purposes.


Dr Merav Amir

Dr Iestyn Barr

Dr Oliver Dunnett

Dr Paul Ell

Dr Diarmid Finnegan

Dr Nuala Johnson

Dr Satish Kumar

Professor Keith Lilley

Professor David Livingstone

Dr Jenny McKinley

Dr William Megarry

Dr Donal Mullan

Dr Helen Roe

Dr Alastair Ruffell

Dr Ian Shuttleworth

Dr Tristan Sturm

Dr Patricia Warke



Title: Evaluating non-climatic controls on glacier fluctuations 

Proposed supervisors: Dr Iestyn Barr (QUB) & Dr Donal Mullan (QUB)

For further details please contact Dr Iestyn Barr (

Glaciers are one of the best natural indicators of climate change, since their dimensions respond to both temperatures and precipitation. Glaciers are also important since they act as a source of freshwater to mountain communities, and their mass balance (mass gain or loss during a year) has a direct impact on global sea levels (amongst other factors). Given this importance, considerable effort has been put into modelling future glacier fluctuations under different climate scenarios. Though this approach has yielded useful information, it is founded on one key assumption: that glaciers respond to climate in a predictable way. This study aims to test this assumption by analysing global trends in glacier mass balance over recent decades, and quantifying the role/importance on non-climatic factors. In doing so, the study aims to provide information that can be used to validate and improve models used to predict patterns in glacier fluctuations over the 21st century.        

Title: The response of Arctic glaciers to future climate change

Proposed supervisors: Dr Iestyn Barr (QUB) & Dr Donal Mullan (QUB)

For further details please contact Dr Iestyn Barr (

Global temperatures have increased rapidly over recent decades, and are predicted rise further over the 21st century. These changes have been, and are predicted to be, most pronounced in Arctic regions, where polar amplification acts to accelerate warming. For example, since the 1980s, Arctic regions have warmed at almost double the global rate. One way in which the impact of this warming is most clearly demonstrated is in the retreat (mass loss) of mountain glaciers and small ice caps. This retreat has progressed rapidly over recent years, and is expected to continue over the 21st century, with important regional and global consequences (e.g., future variations in global sea level). To prepare for these changes, there is a need to predict how glaciers will respond to future variations in climate.  In order to address this, the present study will use a combination of modelling, remote sensing and GIS techniques to project the behaviour of Arctic glaciers under different future climate scenarios. The information obtained will provide an improved understanding of future environmental change in these regions of dramatic warming, and will allow an improved assessment of the future contribution of glaciers to global sea level rise.   

Title: Resilience and adaptation of muddy flooding mitigation to climate change

Proposed supervisors: Dr Iestyn Barr (QUB), Dr Donal Mullan (QUB) & Dr Karel Vandaele (Watering van Sint-Truiden, Belgium).

For further details please contact Dr Donal Mullan (

Muddy flooding (MF) occurs when prolonged or intense rainfall generates runoff on agricultural land, triggering the detachment and transport of considerable quantities of suspended sediment and resulting in its deposition in the neighbouring natural and built environment. MF occurs in parts of northwest Europe and can incur considerable expense to private landowners and public infrastructure. In the Flanders region of Belgium – where MF is particularly problematic – the ‘Erosion Act’ of 2001 made available funding for a series of mitigation measures. A pilot project set up in a case study catchment in Flanders found that a range of mitigation measures considerably reduced MF and are cost-effective within three years. Another recent pilot project revealed that these currently successful mitigation measures may become compromised under a changing climate owing to changes in future rainfall characteristics. The proposed project aims to build upon this work by adopting a decision-centric approach to stress-testing the resilience of mitigation measures to future climate change within a test catchment in Flanders. It is hoped the findings will be useful in adapting MF mitigation to future climate change in Flanders, and more widely act as a case study on taking a stakeholder-involved, decision-centric approach to building resilience into natural disaster planning.

Title: Objects for an Island World: Exploring the extraction and distribution of felsite on Neolithic Shetland

Proposed supervisors: Dr Alastair Ruffell (Queen’s University Belfast); Dr William Megarry (Queen’s University Belfast); Prof Gabriel Cooney (University College Dublin)

This project will explore the extraction and exploitation of felsite in the Neolithic period in the Shetland Islands. Felsite is a fine-grained volcanic rock which was used to make visually distinctive polished axes and knives. The geological diversity and properties of felsite are reflected in its selective use as stone tools. These tools are found throughout the Shetland Islands but no examples have ever been identified further afield. The primary aim of the project is to explore the provenance of artefacts on a landscape scale, and to better understand the decision making process behind the targeting of specific dykes and rock sources. It will use data collected by the North Roes Felsite Project (NRFP), a three-year archaeological and geological investigation which has recorded the locations of felsite dykes and quarries in the Northmavine region. Portable x-ray fluorescence (PXRF) readings were taken from all dykes and artefacts, and geological samples from dykes. The project has a strong geospatial component with all fieldwork data organised spatially as features and tables in a geodatabase. The visualisation of the geological properties of dykes within a GIS and of the relationships between artefacts and landscapes will also be of central importance.             

Title: Using network analysis to manage congestion at visitor attractions in Northern Ireland: A regional geospatial approach.

Proposed supervisors:  Dr Jennifer McKinley (Queen’s University Belfast); Dr William Megarry (Queen’s University Belfast)

For further details please contact Dr William Megarry (

As the number of visitors to Northern Ireland continues to grow, there is increasing pressure on the region’s cultural attractions. While the popularity of attractions is good for the economy, seasonal overcrowding and congestion can damage the structural and environmental integrity of attractions while significantly impacting visitor experience. Poor visitor experience has a detrimental impact on tourism statistics and greatly reduces the likelihood of visitors returning to Northern Ireland in the future. This project will explore how geospatial approaches to network analysis can be used to minimise congestion at attractions by managing the flow of visitors around Northern Ireland. It is not about the study of individual sites per-se, rather it seeks to manage congestion by controlling the flow of visitors at a regional scale, identifying key attractions and transportation patterns, isolating bottleneck times and points, and identifying alternate attractions to provide added value to visitor experience, while also minimizing congestion at traditional attractions. The project will focus on the construction and analysis of geometric networks using a geographical information system. Exploring different approaches to cost, it will build a model which can be used to propose alternate patterns of visitation. Central to this will be the identification of, and collaboration with key stakeholders. 

Title: The impacts of permafrost degradation on boreal ecosystems in the central northwest territories, Canada

Proposed Supervisors: Dr Helen Roe (; Dr Alastair Ruffell; Dr Stephen Wolfe (Geological Survey of Canada)

Recent climate warming has stimulated dramatic changes in the physical and ecological systems of high latitude regions, particularly boreal and subarctic regions, where permafrost has warmed and is thawing in many areas.  Climate warming has also resulted in drought, hydrological alternation and an increased incidence of forest fires in many subarctic regions, which has further accelerated permafrost degradation.  This project will examine the character, causes and impacts of recent (ca. last 50 years) and earlier episodes of Holocene permafrost degradation on boreal vegetation communities in the Northwest Territories, Canada, providing new insights into the links between climate change, burn events and ecological processes.  The study will employ integrated methodologies that will include the analysis of plant macrofossil remains and other hydrologically sensitive subfossil groups preserved in dated sediment cores (e.g. testate amoebae), charcoal analysis, and geophysical survey of near-surface permafrost layers.  The successful applicant will join the School’s Environmental Change research cluster, and will have a strong grounding in Quaternary environmental change, ecology, palaeoecology or a related subject at undergraduate and/or Masters level.


In the first instance, please contact a potential supervisor to discuss making an application. For general inquiries, please contact the Postgraduate Research Coordinator, Dr. Diarmid Finnegan (

Title: Tropical Travellers: Frank Kingdon-Ward’s plant-hunting expeditions and the geographies of South-East Asia

Supervisors: Dr Nuala Johnson (Reader: Natural and Built Environment/EPS) Dr Justin Livingstone (ECR: Arts, English and Languages/AHSS)

Although there is a considerable literature analysing the travels and writings of significant naturalists like von Humboldt, Darwin and Hooker there are relatively few studies of dedicated plant-hunters.  As Britain’s empire expanded in the nineteenth century and the trade in economic crops (e.g. coffee) deepened, there was a simultaneous rise in the demand for plants that would advance learning in scientific botany and meet an increased appetite for trees, shrubs and flowers to stock the public and private gardens and parks of Europe. The desire for new and exotic species prompted vigorous plant exchange networks between botanical gardens but also fostered numerous individualised plant-hunting expeditions. Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958), son of Professor of Botany at Cambridge University was one such plant-hunter. Beginning in 1909 as part of an American expedition to the River Yangtze, Kingdon-Ward spent the next forty years exploring, mapping and collecting botanical material through the interiors of Burma, Tibet, China and parts of India. Over the course of his lifetime he wrote twenty-five travel books charting his expeditions, was awarded the RGS’s Founder’s Medal and introduced many new plants to Britain, yet there is little scholarly research on his activities, writings and influence. This project seeks to investigate, in detail, the work of Frank Kingdon-Ward as an ‘amateur’ polymath exploring, charting, narrating and translating to Britain knowledge about some of the less frequented territories (formal and informal) of its empire in south-east Asia.

For further details please contact Dr Nuala Johnson (


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How to apply

How to apply