Dr Mark Smith

Dr Mark Smith


I joined the University of Leeds as a Lecturer in 2012 before being promoted to Associate Professor in 2016. I obtained my PhD from Durham University in 2009 before undertaking a Lectuership at Aberystwyth University (2008-2012).

My research interests lie in the fields of hydrology, hydraulics and process geomorphology. I am especially interested in the interaction of near-surface flows with the Earth’s surface. Specifically, my current research is focussed on two main areas: (i) parameterisation of the surface roughness of complex topographies across a wide range of process environments and (ii) coupling hydrological and hydraulic models with models of malaria transmission. Underlining both these research threads is an appreciation of the structural and functional connectivity of patterns and processes within hydrology and geomorphology at various scales with the aim of invoking this analytical concept to understand nonlinearities and thresholds within water and sediment transfer systems.

I am currently involved with the NERC FLOODMAL project, investigating hydrological and geomorphological drivers of malaria transmission in the Barotse wetlands of the Zambezi River in Zambia (NE/P013481/1 ) (Co-I).

Research Students

  • Joshua Chambers (Ph.D) (2017 - )
  • Owen Lo (Ph.D.) (2017 -)
  • Duncan Livesey (Ph.D.) (2017 -) 
  • Thomas Smith (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Joshua Wolstenholme (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Matthew Buchan (MbR) (2017 -)
  • Andrew Carr (Ph.D) (2016 -)
  • Zora van Leeuwen (Ph.D.) (2016 -)
  • Manel Llena (Ph.D) (Universidad de Lleida) (2016 - )
  • Eleanor Pearson (MbR) (2015-2016) The estimation of grain size from surface roughness using SfM within a river restoration context.
  • Scott Watson (Ph.D) (2014 –2017) 'Himalayan glacier lakes and outburst floods'. Funded by Uni. Of Leeds scholarship
  • Joanna Matthews (Ph.D.) (2011-2015). KEES funded (with Welsh Water and Aberystwyth University) ‘Geomorphological and meteorological controls of suspended sediment dynamics in upland Wales.
  • Richard Williams (Ph.D.) (2010-2014) (with Aberystwyth University) ‘Multiscale monitoring and modelling of braided river dynamics’
  • Zöe Kershaw (MPhil) (2009-11) (Aberystwyth University) ‘Local policy and practice in flood risk management’.

 Employment History

  • 2008-12 Lecturer in Physical Geography, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University

Research interests

My research interests can be divided into two main themes:

(i) Parameterising the surface roughness of complex topographies. Specific areas of research include:

  • quantifying the influence of glacier ice surface roughness on turbulent fluxes and the surface energy balance 
  • the use of high resolution topographic data as part of gravelometry and automated grain size measurement
  • examination of interactions between flow resistance, turbulence intensity, surface form, sediment transport and the dynamics of in-stream invertebrate refugia (both low and high flows) at plot and reach scales in marginally-inundated gravel-bed rivers;
  • incorporation of flow resistance−surface roughness relationships into hillslope hydrological models capable of analysing the interactions between overland flow resistance, infiltration and rainfall patterns on flood generation. This enables a quantitative representation of functional hydrological connectivity, regarded as a fundamental concept in semi-arid hydrology;
  • monitoring the fine-scale transformation of surface form over eroding surfaces, including peatlands and semi-arid badlands. 
  • investigfating the influence of Natural Flood Management techniques on fluvial hydraulics and geomorphology

(ii)    Understanding the dynamic hydrological drivers of malaria transmission. Specific areas of research include:

  • understanding the hydrological processes driving malaria transmission, especially focussing on the maintenance of dry-season refugia for mosquito larvae;
  • developing a hydrological and geomorphological context for observed mosquito dry-season refugia. This unique environmental approach aims to provide a dynamic malaria hazard map for the valley, but also offers the potential to target remediation activities to the greatest effect;
  • monitoring and modelling hydrological processes in large tropical catchments. Such areas are often ungauged and we know very little about the specific hydrological processes operating.
  • coupling hydraulic models with agent-based mosquito dispersal models to estimate malaria transmission patterns
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 2009 Ph.D. Overland flow resistance and flood generation in semi-arid environments. Uni of Durham
  • 2005 MSc.R. Department of Geography, University of Durham
  • 2004 BSc Geography, University of Durham

Professional memberships

  • British Society for Geomorphology

Student education

I teach on the geomorphology-theme within the BSc  Geography degree, covering modules across all three years. In addition, I co-ordinate and lead the Portugal Fieldclass.

I also act as Year in Industry tutor.

Research groups and institutes

  • River Basin Processes and Management

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>