Computational Modelling Group

Dr. Joanna M. Nield

Senior Lecturer
Geography (FSHS)
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Jo is a Associate Professor in Aeolian Geomorphology at the University of Southampton. She obtained a BE (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and a BSc (Physical and Inorganic Chemistry) at the University of Adelaide in 2001 and completed a PhD at the same University in 2006, entitled ‘Equilibrium Morphological Modelling in Coastal and River Environments: The Development and Application of Self-Organisation- and Entropy-Based Techniques’. Before joining the University of Southampton in 2007 she undertook an 18 month postdoc in the Department of Geography at King's College London, with Andreas Baas, supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant to develop a Discrete ECogeomorphic Aeolian Landscape model (DECAL). She is a member of the Earth Surface Dynamics Research Group within the Geography and Environment Academic Unit.

The core of her research as an aeolian geomorphologist centres on furthering scientific knowledge and understanding of key controls on sediment transport and dune mobility in aeolian environments. To do this she develops and applies a number of innovative techniques that focus on the formulation of computer simulation algorithms to model system response to climate and environmental perturbations, in conjunction with the use of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to obtain field measurements at a high spatial and temporal resolution.

She is interested modelling long-term evolution and disturbance characteristics of aeolian dune fields and the use of optimisation methods including genetic algorithms and simulated annealing in geomorphic landscape modelling. She is also interested in the use of simple modelling methods such as cellular automaton to pin-point key physical controls in long-term landscape development and the quantification of these through phase space trajectories. Terrestrial laser scanning is a technique with potential which excites her, particularly in its ability to examine spatial and temporal surface changes and link these to processes above the surface, elucidating the importance of feedback between process and form (see her Geography webpage for details of salt pan, vegetation and glacial applications in Botswana, south-west USA and Iceland respectively). Her research is funded by The Royal Society, National Geographic, NERC, EPSRC, NASA, the Royal Geographical Society, the British Society for Geomorphology and WUN.

Jo is currently teaching 'Desert Landscapes: Aeolian Processes and Change' to third year students.

Jo recently convened a session with Matthew Baddock (Loughborough University), Jack Gillies (Desert Research Institute, Reno] and others, entiled 'Aeolian Processes and Landforms (on Earth and other Planets)' at European Geosciences Union (EGU) Annual Meeting, Vienna, April 2016.

Jo was recently recognised for her early career research into aeolian processes and arid landform development by the Royal Geographical Socity, with a Gill Memorial Award, which was presented on the 6th June 2016.

Joanna's team members

Robin Wilson
Research Fellow, Geography (FSHS)

Joint projects with...

Edward Milton
Professor, Geography (FSHS)
Jason Noble
Research Fellow, Electronics and Computer Science (FPAS)
Robin Wilson
Research Fellow, Geography (FSHS)



Simulated vegetated aeolian dune landscapes under different environmental conditions. Dune types range from stabilised parabolic dune landscape (d) under ideal growth conditions, through to transgressive transverse dunes (c) and mixed dunes (a) under drought conditions. (Nield and Baas, 2008, Global and Planetary Change)

Terrestrial laser scanner measured rippled sand strip and moist interstrip at Ynyslas, Wales. Surface moisture is derived from intensity of the return signal. This work was funded by a BSG small grant. More details can be found in Nield et al. (2011), Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.