School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Stephen Birkinshaw

Researcher in Water Resources



Steve has been a Research Associate at Newcastle University since 1997. He is a hydrologist with particular expertise in the computer modelling of river basins.

He has successfully carried out research in the following areas: nitrate transport and nitrogen transformation processes, cold region processes, wetlands, sediment transport, surface/groundwater interactions. More recently he has researched water flow pathways using temperature as a tracer, forestry effects on flooding, the use of satellite altimetry data to augment flow estimation techniques and surface water flooding.

He has published more than 30 ISI-cited articles with 15 as the first author.

Steve is in charge of maintaining and developing the code and providing support for users of the Shetran model. This is a physically-based spatially-distributed model for water flow, sediment and solute transport in river catchments.

Roles and Responsibilities

Responsible for developing and maintaining SHETRAN catchment modelling system. SHETRAN has been at the forefront of hydrological modelling research for the past 20 years. Steve has been instrumental is making the model more accessible and user friendly leading to a large increase in the number of users.


1990 BSc - Mathematics - Nottingham University
1993 MSc - Hydrology - Newcastle University
1997 PhD - Nitrate Transport Component for SHETRAN Catchment modelling System, Newcastle University

Area of expertise: Hydrological modelling

Google scholar: Click here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


Research Interests

Physically based hydrological modelling of river basins. This includes nitrate transport and nitrogen transformation processes, cold region processes, wetlands, sediment yield and the impact of groundwater abstraction on surface waters.
In charge of SHETRAN model development and its website (

Current Work

1) Using remote sensing to estimate discharge in poorly or ungauged rivers

2) Using stream and soil temperatures as a tracer to understand flow pathways 

3) Flooding from intense rainfall as part of the SINATRA project (

4) Surface water flooding using CityCat (

5) The effect of forests on flooding, focusing on the Coalburn catchment

6) Urban flood resilience (

7) Creative experiments for building resilience to future drought in Africa (

Research Roles

Principal Researcher

Esteem Indicators

30 publications in top quartile journals, 15 as a first author and an h index of 16.

In-charge of the Shetran hydrological model for the last ten years. This includes maintaining the code, website and user group.  The model has 150 publications in peer reviewed journals. Over the last 12 months Shetran has been downloaded by over 200 users from over 20 different countries.

Regular speaker at conferences and invited to give two research talks in the past 12 months

Reviewer for over 12 hydrological/earth systems journals

Supervision of three successful PhDs plus provided technical support for an additional 10 successful PhDs

External PhD examiner at University College London


Co-I on the £164,000 NERC funded “ Creative Drought” project

Industrial Relevance

Work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Meteorological office, SKB, BGS and Newcastle City Council


Lead practical sessions on modelling as part of MSc modules