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PhD projects

Source-to-sink dynamics and palaeo-environment reconstruction from a dynamically evolving glacial foreland


Research output per year

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Personal profile



I work mainly in using Earth science techniques in forensics, both in the search for hidden objects (bodies, buried materials) and in trace evidence analysis.  This work has been applied to @CreativeIreland funding; consultancy projects and two Knowledge Transfer Partnership grants, one on imaging vulnerable historic buildings and structures (essentially, a forensic search) and the other on sub-aqueous mapping of bridges, piers etc, essentially water-based searches. I am part of the SALINAS team, investigating saline aquifeer intrusion (lead: Gerry Hamill).

I bring 5-10 consultancy projects to Queens each year, from forensic analysis, through environmental crime to assessment of ground conditions. Three recent grant awards underpin much of my research - two associated with the TellusBorder SEUPB-funded project and FRAGSUS, an EU-funded project on fragile island communities with Caroline Malone here at Queen's (and colleagues). I currently supervise three PhD students - Neil Powell (scent detection in dogs, especially for early epilepsy warning); Niamh McCullough (homicides in Ireland) and Filippo Bertozzo (dinosaur palaeopathology).


Research Statement


  • Five current research council grants, totalling over £500,000.
  • Top score (4*) for my Geoforensics Impact Statement in UK Government Research Excellence Framework (2014).
  • Total (including collaborative) grant earnings exceed £9 million over 30 years.
  • Published over 125 peer-reviewed papers and one book.
  • Completed over 130 major (over £1000) consultancy projects, mainly on Geoforensics.
  • Collaborative projects in 10 countries worldwide, Training Officer for the IUGS-funded Initiative on Forensic Geology (£15,000 per year)
  • Health & Safety Coordinator; formerly Director of Education, Postgraduate Coordinator, completed Queen’s Leadership course.
  • Teaching includes geology, geomorphology, GIS, climate change, field classes throughout the UK, Ireland, Mediterranean, Geoforensics, Masters level geophysics.


1. @CreativeIreland outreach funding: search and archaeological excavation/recovery of a crashed and burieed WW2 P38 Lightning, Monaghan.

2. Remote sensing and geophysics for archaeology (€2.6 million European Research Council FRAGSUS grant: PI Professor Malone).

3. SALINAS - saline aquifer intrusion monitoring and modelling, PI Professor Gerry Hamill.

4.. TellusBorder peat depth monitoring for carbon stocks (£4.5 million INTERREG [EU] with £72,000 to Ruffell & colleagues).

5. TellusBorder remote sensing of illegally buried waste (£72,000 to Ruffell & colleagues).

6.  Volcanology/glaciology (£47,000 EPSRC Ph.D studentship: CI Ruffell)


- Using non-destructive geological techniques in landscape and material analysis for forensic, archaeological, geological and geomorphological research.

- Forensic research. Multiproxy methods (remote sensing, geophysics, landscape interpretation) for the search of buried and sunk items. Trace evidence analysis methods for criminal investigations.

- Consultancy for engineering companies, the police and environment agencies and the Independent Commission for the Recovery of Victims Remains.


GAP1007 Dynamic Earth

GAP2002 Landscapes & Geographic Information Systems

GAP 3049 Geoforensics


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Research Output

First workshop on the Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic): a report

Dal Corso, J., Benton, M. J., Bernardi, M., Franz, M., Gianolla, P., Hohn, S., Kustatscher, E., Merico, A., Roghi, G., Ruffell, A., Ogg, J. G., Preto, N., Schmidt, A. R., Seyfullah, L. J., Simms, M. J., Shi, Z. & Zhang, Y., 26 Feb 2018, In : Albertiana. 44, p. 49-57

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 342 Downloads (Pure)

    Geophysics and the search of freshwater bodies: a review

    Parker, R., Ruffell, A. & Hughes, D., Jun 2010, In : Science and Justice. 50, 3, p. 53-65 13 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    18 Citations (Scopus)

    Gamma-ray spectroscopy in structural correlations: an example from the Neoproterozoic succession of Donegal (NW Ireland)

    Ruffell, A., Hadley, M. J. & Leslie, G., 2000, In : Geological Journal. 137, p. 137-152 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    17 Downloads (Pure)

    3DGPR for the Non-Destructive Monitoring of Subsurface Weathering of Sandstone Masonry

    Johnston, B., Ruffell, A., Warke, P. & McKinley, J., 04 Dec 2019, In : Heritage. 2, 4, p. 2802-2813

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 53 Downloads (Pure)


    Fellow of the Geological Society of London

    Ruffell, Alastair (Recipient), 2001

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively

    William Smith Medal

    Ruffell, Alastair (Recipient), 04 Jun 2020

    Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)


    Albertiana (Journal)

    Alastair Ruffell (Peer reviewer)

    01 Jan 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review

    Archaeology for All: Event 2 at The Giant's Ring

    Laura Basell (Organiser), , Michael O'Mahony (Organiser), , Jonathan Small (Organiser), , Kirsten Cottey (Organiser), , Lauren Carberry O'Neill (Organiser), , Adam Purvis (Organiser), , Georgia Vince (Organiser), , Dan Clarke (Host), , James Perkins (Contributor), , Alastair Ruffell (Contributor), , Stine Carlsson (Contributor), , Barrie Hartwell (Contributor), & Tomasz Ciesielski (Presenter)

    19 May 2018

    Activity: Other activity typesHosting a school group or open day

    Albertiana (Journal)

    Alastair Ruffell (Peer reviewer)

    01 Jan 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPublication peer-review

    Ussher Society

    Alastair Ruffell (Invited speaker)

    04 Jan 2017

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Geological Murders, Suicides and Accidents

    Alastair Ruffell (Advisor)

    31 Oct 2017

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic lecture/debate/seminar