Imperial College London

Dr Alex Whittaker

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Reader in Landscape Dynamics



+44 (0)20 7594 7491a.whittaker Website




3.51Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus





 I have a number of active research areas which focus on the links between tectonics, climate, erosion and sedimentation.  I am involved in field projects in the Central and Southern Apennines, Italy; the Gulfs of Corinth and Evia, Greece; the Spanish Pyrenees; and the Antakya region of Turkey.  Funding for our research into the dynamics of sediment routing systems comes from NERC and EU Horizon 2020 programme.

Dynamics of transient landscapes

The earth's landscape represents the time-integrated product of the interplay between tectonics, which creates relief, and climate, which promotes erosion.    Understanding how landscapes respond to perturbations in these two boundary conditions is therefore a key challenge within the Geosciences.    In particular I have been working on:

  • Understanding the links between active normal faulting and landscape response in Italy and Greece
  • Quantifying the response timescale of fluvially mediated landscapes to tectonic perturbation
  • Assessing the extent to which transient landscapes can be used as a tectonic archive
  • Modelling geomorphic response to perturbation to develop predictions of how landscapes evolve through time. 

Quantifying the behaviour of terrestrial sediment routing systems

 Sediment routing systems represent the integrated system of sediment export, from its production in upland catchments, to its transport downstream and its final deposition in sedimentary basins.   In principle, this means that changes in either the characteristics of the sediment supplied from upland catchments, or the transport dynamics of the fluvial system should be recorded in basin stratigraphy.  

Currently I am focussed on

  •  Quantifying how sediment production in catchments is forced by tectonics
  • Assessing how the probability density function (pdf) of grain-sizes exported from mountain catchments evolves downstream
  • Measuring the length-scale over which perturbations to sediment grain-size distributions is retained in the fluvial system.
  • Evaluating impact that sediment flux and calibre variations have on depositional stratigraphy


Sarah Boulton, University of Plymouth


Professor Philip Allen

Patience Cowie, University of Edinburgh

Mikael Attal, University of Edinburgh