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Dr Christopher Unsworth
Associate Research Fellow


Hello! I’m Chris and I research how rivers work. Particularly, how sediment (like sand) moves around, and in turn, changes the shape of rivers.

I arrive in Exeter to work on incorporating the affects’ that dunes have on changing the behaviour and morphology of rivers into Prof. Andrew Nicholas’s river model of as part of a NERC funded project on sediment suspension (NERC Grant)

This work will incorporate fieldwork (to the South Saskatchewan River in Canada) to measure how the state of the river bed, the flow structure and suspended sediment varies across bars, meanders, sours and any straight bits we find. This will be coupled with high resolution simulation of the flow structure over dunes (some artificial, and some using the river bed morphology we find in the South Sask.) using the fluid simulation software openFOAM. With all this, we hope to be able to find common trends in dune and suspended sediment behaviour that can be parameterised into larger scale river models, that don’t explicitly resolve dunes.

In my PhD I investigated river dunes in unsteady, or transient, conditions in both laboratory and fieldwork conditions. I went out to the Mekong River in Cambodia alongside a large NERC funded Project and measured the sediment transport rate of bedload and suspended load across the monsoon-season (Presented at EGU 2015), revealing huge variation in the state of the river bed and sediment transport rates through time, and illustrating the importance of tropical typhoons  to the river.

I undertook novel labwork that questions and simplifies the controls of river dune stability, size and shape ( Presented at the 2014 AGU conference )

And I used Particle Imaging Velocimetry  (my short paper on PIV) to Investigate the turbulent flow structure over dunes in non-equilibrium states Presented at the 2013 AGU conference )

This work has the overall aim of producing a greater understanding of how dunes change themselves and affect the flow around them in periods of unsteadiness (e.g. floods). This work forms part of a larger NERC funded project on dunes in unsteady conditions.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Measurement and analysis of turbulence in geophysical flows
  • Measurement and analysis of sediment transport In rivers
  • Measuring and explaining the effects of dunes on the wider flow and river scale


  • 2007-2010. BSc (Hons) JH in Geology and Geography, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • 2010-2011. Masters by Research (Mres) in Catchment Dynamics and Management, University of Leeds, UK
  • 2011-2015. PhD in Physical Geography, University of Hull, UK.

Contact details

Tel+44 (0) 1392 725892
AddressAmory Building
University of Exeter
Rennes Drive

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