The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Andy Large

Reader in River Science


I have over 25 years’ experience in researching river and associated wetland ecosystems, with a focus on developing knowledge of how extreme events affect river catchment vulnerability and resilience. I place a particular emphasis on using novel approaches to quantifying river geomorphology, social and physical effects of flooding, and quantifying how rivers benefit society though provisioning, regulating and cultural  ‘ecosystem services’. I have a proven track record of mentoring and fostering the next generation of environmental scientists (2 PDRAs, 21 postgraduate students: 18 PhD (7 current, 11 completed) and 4 MPhil).  All completed PhDs are in high profile careers in areas of national and international policy and academia. As Head of Physical Geography at Newcastle University (NU: 2011-16), I provided leadership and vision, implementing an ambitious research strategy including the appointment of 5 academic staff, 3 technicians, 4 postdoctoral research associates and rapid expansion of PGR numbers. Significant income was raised for new and cutting-edge equipment to underpin this strategy.  Evidence of leadership includes (i) University-level: Founder and Leader of the NU Anthropocene Research Group; NU Institute for Sustainability Research, Theme leader for the Terrestrial theme; Member/Chair of NU’s NERC Demand Management Panel; (ii) national: NERC Peer Review College; RYA National Planning and Environmental Committee; UK National Ecosystem Assessment – the latter two are linked to direct policy advocacy; (iii) international (Secretary-elect, International Society for River Science; ISRS Scientific Advisor to MRCTI for Global Rivers Agreement, COP 21 Paris 2015; (iv) wider society: Chair of Governors, Darras Hall Primary School , Northumberland (2010-): developing educational strategy, overseeing annual budget of £1.5 million and actively managing 53 staff.


I am a field-based Physical Geographer with 25+ years’ experience in interdisciplinary river science, evidenced by 76 publications with an over-riding emphasis on Q1 international peer-reviewed journals.  I have a publication h-factor of 21 and an i10 index of 36. This has been underpinned by ~£1M of RCUK (NERC) funding since 2008. My research strengths lie across a number of areas and my corpus has a strong focus on (a) cutting-edge and novel approaches to quantifying river hydromorphology (b) research on social and physical effects of flooding, and (c) developing the science base on natural capital to better quantify how rivers benefit society though provisioning, regulating and cultural  ‘ecosystem services’.  A key new area of research is on Rivers of the Anthropocene.   

I am a team-based scientist and my publications reflect this. Recent publications emphasise high-impact international peer-reviewed journals: e.g. NERC-funded work on volcanically-generated outburst floods in Iceland and on riverine ecosystem services. I regularly publish in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms and Geomorphology, both Q1 journals and the most relevant in my field.

My NERC-funded science (see below) advances our understanding of the processes behind flooding from intense rainfall and catchment geomorphological response to this, so that we are better equipped to manage societal vulnerability, risk and resilience, response and recovery.  I peer-review for 13 Q1 international journals and am on the editorial board of River Research and Applications. I have a frequent record of invitations to, and organisation of, prestigious international research conferences. 


Evidence of successful research leadership:  I have a substantial and a sharply rising national and international trajectory of research reputation and leadership. I mentor the next generation of scientists, supervising 21 postgraduate students: 18 PhD (8 current, 10 completed) and 4 MPhil.  All completed PhDs are in high profile careers in areas of national policy (e.g. UK flood risk management) to academia (lecturer to Deputy Vice-Chancellor level).  I have acted as PhD Examiner to 10 UK and overseas Universities.

I currently supervise 3 NERC-DTP (IAPETUS) PhD students.  I also provide academic mentoring and guidance to more junior academic colleagues; I mentor a PDRA on the NERC FFIR SINATRA project, and have a leadership role on the University’s NERC Demand Management Panel.


Research funding:  I have secured sustained RCUK funding. My NERC-funded work (> £1 million since 2008) has a consistent focus on quantifying catchment and reach-scale response to extreme events (Coquet floods 2008: NE/G011141/1; Cumbria floods 2009 NE/H025189/1; Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, Iceland2010: NE/I007628/1).  This research is supported by repeat funding awards (2006; 2007; 2009) for remotely-sensed LiDAR acquisition through the NERC Airborne Remote Sensing facility (ARSF: equivalent value >£100,000).  The rising trajectory of my NERC funding track record is evidenced through my research on a £2.7m Consortium project (2013-2017: £864,000 to Newcastle). The goal of the SINATRA (Susceptibility of catchments to INTense RAinfall and flooding) project is to improve understanding of interacting meteorological, hydrological and hydro-morphological processes, leading to better prediction of flooding from intense rainfall (FFIR). Project partners are the Met Office, SEPA and the Environment Agency (EA).  I anticipate SINATRA outputs, allied with my other catchment-based research, focus on innovative remote sensing-based quantification of flood impacts involving ‘citizen science’.


Success in management and long-term support of a significant research groupI have a strong track record of management and leadership and engagement both within and outside the University .  As Head of the Physical Geography Research Group in School of GPS (2011-16) I provided decisive leadership and research vision.  I have instigated and overseen a more focused Group strategy including appointment of 4 academic staff, 3 technicians, 2 postdoctoral research associates (the first to the group) and expansion of PGR numbers.  My leadership and engagement extends beyond the Group to (i) University-wide (NIReS Terrestrial Theme leader; Chair of University NERC Demand Management Panel; Water Research Steering Group member); (ii) national (NERC Peer Review College; RYA National Planning and Environmental Committee; UK National Ecosystem Assessment – the latter two having direct policy linkages) and (iii) international (Board Member, International Society for River Science) levels.

Collaborative high quality research work with academics within this University and elsewhere:   I have played a significant role in maximising the success of the University’s Societal Challenge themes. I led the Terrestrial theme in NIReS, the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, from its inception in 2011 to late 2013. Here I instigated a vibrant cross-University research community and served on the NIReS Strategy Board. 

The Antthropocene was formally proposed in 2000 as Earth's newest epoch - a period in which humanity;'s impact on the planet has rivalled that of the great geological forces. human's are changing the Earth's biophysical system: atmospheric and ocean climatology, the extent of snow cover, permafrost, ice sheet and ocean volume and indeed the entire hydrological cycle.  But in the past few years, this concept has escaped its geological confines to emerge as a new paradigm that embodies and altered human-environment relationship.

Natural and social scientists, humanists, artists, educators and journalists are beginning to examine this concept from a variety of perspectives.  From 2015 onwards, significant strides have been made in building an Anthropocene research community across Newcastle University.  In a short period of sustained effort (January-July 2015) I brought together 50 academic colleagues (3 Faculties; 13 Academic Units, also involving the Societal Challenge Institute Directors) and I have secured University backing for this: I convene the Anthropocene Research Group to facilitate funding applications around fundamental questions pertaining to the new paradigm of the Anthropocene. Building on this, I have been appointed leader of an Anthropocene Rivers working group in the International Society for River Science (August 2015).

Finally, I have strong connections with local and national industrial, commercial and public sectors.  Examples include current PhD studentships funded by the Tyne Rivers Trust, Scottish National Heritage and United Utilities with the EA via STREAM (the Industrial Doctoral Centre for the Water Industry). I also represent the University on the Tyne Rivers Trust-coordinated Ouseburn River Partnership.


Undergraduate Teaching

Module leader for the following Undergraduate modules:

GEO1095 Study Skills for Physical Geographers (Stage 1)
GEO2037 Ireland Field course (Stage 2)
GEO3117 Sustainable Water Resources Management (Stage 3)

I also teach on the following Undergraduate modules:

GEO1012 Introduction to Earth Sciences (Stage 1)
GEO2106 Earth Surface Processes (Stage 2)

CEG2715 Study skills for Physical Geographers (Stage 2)

GEO2111 Study skills for geographers (Stage 2)
GEO3099 Dissertation

GEO3074 Physical Geography Dissertation


Postgraduate Teaching

(e) Taught Masters courses (Faculty of SAGE):

CIV8052 Flood Risk Management

CIV9056 Sustainable Management of the Water Environment