School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Ross Stirling

Lecturer in Geotechnical Infrastructure


Background & Research Interests

Since joining Newcastle as an academic in 2016, my role has been to co-ordinate the research activities of the National Green Infrastructure Facility (NGIF), part of the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) network, situated at Newcastle Helix.

Completed in September 2017, the National Green Infrastructure Facility is a ‘living lab’ for exploring how Green features such as planting and soils (natural and amended) help mitigate the effects of climate change in urban areas, making them more resilient and sustainable. This is a world-class facility hosting collaborative, full-scale, multi-disciplinary research into Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), Green Infrastructure performance and fundamental soil-plant-atmosphere interactions.

Prior to my involvement in the NGIF, I completed a PhD in numerical modelling of desiccation cracking in unsaturated, compacted clay fill in the field of infrastructure slope stability. I then worked simultaneously on two large EPSRC funded projects –iSMART and Assessing The Underworld - as an experimentalist (laboratory and full-scale). I continue to manage the BIONICS research facility - a trial infrastructure embankment which hosts a number of innovative techniques to monitor the slope asset condition (e.g. Electrical Resistivity Tomography and Acoustic Emission) as well as a comprehensive suite of buried and meteorological sensors and associated extensive dataset.

My laboratory interests centre on the cyclic wetting-drying behaviour of clays - specifically geotechnical properties (e.g. Soil-Water Retention Curves (SWRC), tensile and shear strength testing and small-large strain stiffness testing), geophysical techniques (i.e. resistivity) and imaging (Digital Image Correlation, Environmental-SEM and XRCT). My work also centres on understanding geotechnical deterioration mechanisms across the scales of infrastructure performance, from the soil element up to the network, strategic level. Through my involvement with a number of large projects (e.g. ACHILLES, iSMART and ATU), I have helped to develop ideas of progressive asset deterioration in the context of infrastructure slopes and buried utilities, assets upon which the future resilience of our cities relies.

The National Green Infrastructure Facility: @NGIF_UK |UKCRIC NGIF


I am actively engaged in geotechnical design consultancy and have worked with Electrokinetic Ltd on several slope stabilisation sites for Highways England. Electrokinetic Ltd provides solutions for remediating unstable slopes and dewatering slurries and sludges based on patented electrokinetic geosynthetic technology. They are recipients of numerous ICE awards owing to the outstanding sustainability credentials that electro-osmotic remediation brings.

Together with the Environment Agency, I have supervised bank stability monitoring and analysis on the River Tyne. The purpose of this work is to identify sustainable remediation methods that exploit coupled hydro-mechanical mechanisms to provide green, aesthetic solutions.


  • BSc (Hons) - Geology - Durham University 2008
  • MSc - Geotechnical Engineering - Newcastle University 2009
  • PhD - Multiphase modelling of desiccation cracking in compacted soils - Newcastle University 2014 (available here)

PhD: Development of a pseudo-discrete continuum finite difference model (FLAC) capable of capturing two-phase flow within a porous media subject to mechanical and hydrological boundary conditions and a tension failure criterion. Additionally, this work saw the design and development of an apparatus to establish the variable (un)saturated soil tensile strength.

External Memberships & Esteem Indicators

  • Fellow of the Geological Society of London (GSL)
  • Member of the British Geotechnical Association
  • EU COST Action TU1202 member
  • Editorial Board Member - Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (GSL)
  • CIRIA Steering Group member - RP1090 Improving performance of linear assets through green infrastructure

Invited lectures:

  • ICE Northern Geotechnical Group 2019 Annual Seminar series “Green Geotechnics”
  • Smart Cities Alliance (EU) 2019 Heating and Cooling Smart City Initiative
  • Environment Agency NE H&T Briefing Day 2017
  • Landscape Institute & Royal Town Planning Institute NE 2017
  • Urban Flood Resilience - Learning and Action Alliance 2017 - NGIF
  • Addressing the impacts of climate change on engineered slopes for infrastructure: COST TU1202 2016 Dissemination symposium (École des Ponts ParisTech)
  • EU COST TU1202 - The Vadose Zone Workshop 2015, Durham University

External Grants & Awards

  • “From Roots to Leaves: Linking vegetation to natural hazards” Incubator workshop (EPSRC Inclusion Matters project: Reimagining Recruitment @University of Bath EP/S012168/1), Date TBC (£15,000)
  • UGDaMS - Urban Green Design and Modelling of SuDS) (EP/S005862/1) Co-Investigator, March 2018 - Feb 2021 (£800,000)
  • ACHILLES - Assessment, Costing and enHancement of long lIfe, Long Linear assEtS (EP/R034575/1) Co-Investigator, July 2018 - Dec 2022 (£4,872,904)
  • CACTUS - Climate Adaptation Control Technologies for Urban Spaces (EP/R005834/1) Co-Investigator, Jan 2018 - Dec 2021 (£1,761,592)
  • PLEXUS - Priming Laboratory EXperiments on infrastructure and Urban Systems (EP/R013535/1) Co-Investigator, Jan 2018 -  Feb 2021 (£1,013,092)
  • UKCRIC - UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities: Newcastle Laboratories (EP/R010102/1) Co-Investigator, April 2016 - March 2021 (£9,671,332)
  • Organiser of the International Training School ‘The Vadose Zone Workshop’.  An event for European Early Stage Researchers convened between Newcastle University and Durham University, July 2015 (15,000EUR)
  • ‘Short Term Scientific Mission’ travel grant to École des Ponts ParisTech, February 2015 - COST Action TU1202 (Report) (2,500EUR)
  • CEGS Newcastle internal conference - Oral Presentation Prize 2011
  • CEGS Newcastle internal conference - Poster Prize 2010

Journal Reviewer

  • Canadian Geotechnical Journal
  • Journal of Geotechnical and Geological Engineering
  • International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
  • Engineering Geology
  • Geotechnique Letters
  • Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology
  • Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment
  • Applied Clay Science
  • Computers and Geotechnics
  • Transportation Geotechnics 
  • Geosciences
  • Geotechnical Testing Journal

Figshare (publically available publication data): Click here.

Researcher Profile: Click here.

Google Scholar: Click here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


PhD Studentships

I supervise PhD candidates in the fields of Geotechnical Engineering and Hydrology with a particular focus on environmental geotechnics (soil-plant-atmosphere interaction, hydro-thermal energy and climate change impacts), slope and buried infrastructure, sensing and monitoring, Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). 

PhD Supervision:

  • Narryn Thaman - Investigating moisture dynamics in vegetated soil using novel geophysical tools (2020 – present)
  • Elena Mugarza - Infrastructure slope drainage design (2020 – present)
  • Emma McConnel – Desiccation cracking on Infrastructure slopes (2020 – present)
  • Alethea Walker - Understanding connectivity, maintenance and vegetation specification in Green Infrastructure (2019 – present)
  • Inga Sirbu - Medical imaging of soil-water processes (2019 – present)
  • Sam Hall - Digital Twins for Resilient Geo-Infrastructure (2019 – present)
  • Rixia Zan - Activated carbon amended materials for permeable pavements (2018 – present)
  • Oboho Eminue - Environmental and Material Controls on Desiccation Cracking in Engineered Clay Embankments (Completed 2018)

Undergraduate Teaching

  • CEG1201 Geotechnical Properties of Soils and Rock
  • CEG3004 Sustainable Engineering Systems Design Project
  • CEG3099 Individual Design Project

Project supervision:

  • CEG3099 Individual Design Project (BEng)
  • CEG8099 Investigative Research Project (MEng)

Postgraduate Teaching

  • CEG8207 Field Class (Alpes de Haute Provence - France)
  • CEG8211 Ground Engineering Practice and Professional Skills

Project supervision:

  • CEG8296 Project and Dissertation in Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology (MSc)