Dr John Elliott

Dr John Elliott


John is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Senior Academic Fellow in Active Tectonics. He brings expertise in the use of Earth Observation satellite data to understand the deformation of the Earth’s crust. His interests lie in understanding the growth of mountains and the seismic hazard associated with active fault structures. He has led a number of recent projects in this field funded from the Royal Society, NERC and GCRF as well as participating in a number of international collaborations. 

2016-present Royal Society University Research Fellow (URF)
2019-present Senior Academic Fellow
2016-2019 University Academic Fellow (UAF)
Active Tectonics, Earthquakes & Faulting, Seismic Hazard & The Rise of Mountains
Institute of Geophysics & Tectonics, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds

2014-2016 Post-Doctoral Researcher - Geodesy and Geophysics (NERC)
Centre for the Observation & Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tectonics (COMET+) & Earthquakes without Frontiers (EwF) - Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards (IRNH)
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, OX1 3AN

2013 (3 month) Stipendiary Lecturer in Earth Sciences, University College, Oxford

2013-2015 Visiting Researcher, School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol

2009-2014 Post-Doctoral Researcher - Geodesy and Geophysics
National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO/NERC), Earth Sciences, Oxford

2012 (3 month) Post Doctoral Visitor, Tectonics Observatory, Caltech, USA

2006-2011 Undergraduate Tutor - geophysics & seismology for five Oxford University colleges

Postdoctoral Advisor

  • Dr Scott Watson (2019-present) – Research Fellow for Tomorrow’s Cities.
  • Dr Ruth Amey (2018-present) – Research Fellow in Active Tectonics of the Tien Shan.
  • Dr Ekbal Hussain (2017-2018) – Research Fellow for Seismic Cities.

PhD Lead supervisor

  • Victoria Purcell (2020-present) – Fault geomorphology and Seismic Hazard
  • Fei Liu (2019-present) – Measuring earthquakes across the global continents from space & seismology.
  • Jack McGrath (2018-present) – Relationship between short-term tectonics & mountains.
  • Andrew Watson (2018-present) – Co-evolution of Mountain Building & Seismic Hazard.

PhD Students Co-supervised

  • Pedro Espin (2020-present) – Earthquake and Volcanic Hazard in Quito and Ecuador.
  • Jin Fang (2020-present) – Deformation of the Eastern Tibetan Plateau.
  • Pawan Piromthong (2016-present) –  Faulting in South-East Asia and InSAR analysis.
  • Lin Shen (2016-2021) – Altyn Tagh Interseismic Deformation.
  • Eleanor Ainscoe (2014-2018) – Active tectonics in regions of shortening (Oxford).

Research interests

My research addresses where and how the Earth's crust accommodates and releases tectonic stress. I achieve this through measuring the deformation of the crust using satellite geodesy, and integrating these measurements with seismology, remote sensing and field studies of active faulting.

I want to understand the relationship between earthquakes, crustal deformation and landscape evolution. In particular, I am interested in addressing the problems of faults and earthquakes a) as a natural hazard and b) as a key mechanism for the growth of mountains and the role they play in shaping the deformation of the continents over geological time. I use the latest Earth Observation technologies that provide big, high resolution datasets over a large spatial extent to make precise measurements of wide-scale active tectonic processes. I want to change the way seismic hazard and risk associated with distributed deformation is assessed as a critical step towards the goal of improving earthquake forecasting for societies living in tectonically active regions. I also want to relate current observations of active tectonics to what is recorded in the longer term geological record to constrain the evolution of the Earth's crust.


Research Project Collaborations

COMET – (2005-present) – Scientist at the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tectonics.

Tomorrow’s Cities (2019-2024) – Co-I for GCRF Hub Urban Risk in Transistion to bring multi-hazard disaster risk management to the centre of urban policy and practice.

Seismic Cities (2016-2018) – PI for inter-disciplinary research project to address the sustainable cities and communities challenge in urban regions prone to earthquake hazard.

LiCS (2013-2021) – Co-researcher investigator for Looking inside the Continents from Space

EwF (2012-2018) – PDRA for Earthquake without Frontiers

<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>


  • DPhil, Geophysics, University of Oxford
  • MSci, Geological Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • BA, Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Professional memberships

  • 2006-present Member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Student education

Undergraduate Courses Taught

I contribute to the following modules:

  • Module leader for Research Seminars in Geophysics (2017-present).
  • Field instructor for Practical Geophysics in Lanzarote (2017-2019).
  • Lecturer for Global Geophysics - Plate Tectonics (2017).

Undergraduate Final Year Research Projects Supervised

  • 2019 Victoria  Purcell | Lava Field Subsidence Three Hundred Years On, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
  • 2018 Matthew Day | Detecting small shallow continental earthquakes with InSAR
  • 2018 Daniel Roberts | Digital Elevation Models of Lava Flows and Volcanic Craters in Lanzarote
  • 2017 Katherine Woods | How small can we go? - Improving limits to detecting continental earthquakes.
  • 2016 Nadia Duarte da Silva Tavares | Remote Offset Measurements of the Kaikoura Earthquake, NZ.
  • 2016 Scott Smith | Using InSAR & Body Wave Seismology of the 2016 Mw 5.9 Menyuan Earthquake.

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics
  • Geodynamics and Tectonics

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>