Project Description

A full project description can be found on Find a PhD.

The project objectives are:

1. Identifying glacierised basins with sufficient data (glacio-hydrological, climatic, and remote sensing) coverage as the target study regions.
2. Developing semi-automated approaches to map SGPs on a variety of remotely-sensed datasets, extendable to any glacierised region globally.
3. Multitemporal mapping of SGPs in the study regions.
4. Characterising SGPs based on several physical determinants such as their dimensions, rate of change, albedo, etc. and studying the variations across the IHR.
5. Linking the spatiotemporal evolution of SGPs with the climate evolution in the IHR.

Essential skills

  • Remote sensing and GIS
  • Python

Desired skills

  • Numerical modelling

Photo by Thierry BEUVE on Pixabay.


Anshuman Bhardwaj

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Anshuman Bhardwaj
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Donal Mullan

Secondary Supervisor:

Profile: Donal Mullan
Institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Department/School: School of Natural and Built Environment

Matteo Spagnolo

Additional Supervisor:

Profile: Matteo Spagnolo
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Additional Supervisor:

The following staff members can form the additional supervisory/advisory team:
1. Prof. Brice Rea
University of Aberdeen
School of Geosciences

2. Dr. Lydia Sam
University of Aberdeen
School of Geosciences

3. Dr. Shaktiman Singh
University of Aberdeen
School of Geosciences


(1) Irvine‐Fynn et al. (2017) Geophysical Research Letters, 44(23), 11-894.

(2) Miles et al. (2017) J. Glaciol., 63, 88–105.

(3) Sakai et al. (2009) J. Glaciol., 55, 909–917.

Research Methods

The work will involve a number of research methods, including:

  1. Remote sensing and fieldwork-based mapping
  2. GIS analysis of mapped landforms
  3. Analysis of climate data
  4. Geostatistical analyses


Detailed population-scale spatiotemporal analysis of supraglacial ponds is important due to their role as ablation hotspot and their link with the englacial hydrological network. Understanding of their characteristics and spatiotemporal variation can therefore be increasingly significant for the Himalayan glaciers showing continuous negative mass balances. In this context of climate change and glacier shrinkage, mountain ranges are thought to display further transition from debris-free to debris-covered, with an increase of their relative importance on the freshwater availability, quality and timing. This highlights the importance and relevance of the project.

Proposed Supervision

The lead supervisor, Anshuman Bhardwaj, is a remote sensing specialist and a glaciologist based at the University of Aberdeen and the second supervisor, Donal Mullan, is a climatologist based at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). The candidate will be based in Aberdeen but will have regular contact with QUB and, if desirable, may be able to undertake some of the PhD based in Belfast. The candidate will also benefit from supervision/advisory support from other members of staff of the Cryosphere and Climate Change Group in Aberdeen (Matteo Spagnolo, Brice Rea, Lydia Sam, and Shaktiman Singh).

There will be regular (typically every 15 days) meetings between the student and the lead supervisor, and at least one monthly meeting with the entire supervisory team. While the student will be based in Aberdeen, it is anticipated that they will spend some months, especially in the second and third year, at Queen’s University Belfast to facilitate the collaboration with Donal Mullan.


Proposed Timetable

1st year
Reviewing the literature; downloading and archiving of relevant remote sensing data, remote sensing mapping of recent and historical imagery; planning and conducting fieldwork to observe the SGPs.

2nd year
Continuation of spatiotemporal mapping work, presentation of preliminary works in conferences, compilation of climate datasets.

3rd year
Completion of spatiotemporal mapping, correlation of mapped results with climate data, synthesis of research articles.

Last 6 months
Communication and revision of research articles and finalising the thesis.


  • earth-systems

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