Alastair Ruffell


  • Room 02.027 - Geography Building

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

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


Research activity 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. 1. Filippo Bertozzo (dinosaur palaeopathology, first supervisor - Eileen Murphy); 2. Ben Rocke (crime scene mapping and sampling); 3. Amy Lally (Deglaciation in Iceland).


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


Expertise related to UN SDGs

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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