UCL Department of Geography
Dr Helene Burningham
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Dr Helene Burningham



Coastal & Estuarine Research Unit
UCL Department of Geography
Pearson Building
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT

E: h.burningham@ucl.ac.uk
T: +44 (0) 20 7679 0577
F: +44 (0) 20 7679 0565

Geoscience gallery
Coastal geomorphology of Donegal
Flora of the Alcudia dunes, Mallorca

Sheskinmore news





DPhil Coastal Studies (2000): Morphodynamics of West Donegal Estuaries (DENI Distinction Award), University of Ulster
BSc (1st Class Hons) Combined Science (1994): University of Lancaster/OSU

2013-present: Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, UCL Department of Geography
2001-2013: Lecturer in Physical Geography, UCL Department of Geography
2000: Tay Estuary Forum Project Officer, University of Dundee
1999: Countryside Ranger, East Lothian Council
1995: Countryside Ranger, East Kilbride Council

British Society for Geomorphology
Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
American Geophysical Union





The central focus of my research is to explain coastal behaviour, system dynamics and mechanisms of forcing over decadal to century timescales. In particular, my research explores the relative importance of intrinsic system control versus external climate forcing on the geomorphology and morphodynamics of coastal sedimentary systems. I am also interested in understanding and capturing the geomorphological controls on coastal ecosystems.


Research projects


Broader research interests

  • Late-Holocene climate-forcing and human occupation of coastal dunes in northwest Ireland
  • Coastal GIS and the analysis of historical shoreline and shoreface behaviour
  • Estuary-coast interaction in the vicinity of tidal inlets
  • Meso-tidal, high-wave energy beaches, sediment flux, and storm-driven beach-dune morphodynamics
  • Coastal conservation and sustaining naturally functioning systems





  • French, J.R., Burningham, H., Thornhill, G., Whitehouse, R., Nicholls, R.J. (in press). Conceptualising and mapping coupled estuary, coast and inner shelf sediment systems. Geomorphology.
  • van Maanen, B., Nicholls, R.J., Barkwith, A., Bonaldo, D., Burningham, H., French, J.R., Murray, B., Payo, A., Thornhill, G., Townend, I., van der Wegen, M., Walkden, M.J.A. (in press). Simulating mesoscale coastal evolution for decadal coastal management: a hybrid method integrating multiple, complementary modelling approaches. Geomorphology.
  • Iversen, E.C., Burningham, H. (2015). The relationship between the NAO and wind climate over Norway. Climate Research 63, 115-134.
  • Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2014). Travelling forelands: complexities in drift and migration patterns. Journal of Coastal Research SI70, 102-108.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2014). A paraglacial coastal gravel structure: Connell’s Bank, NW Ireland. Journal of Coastal Research SI70, 121-126.
  • Gardner, E.A., Burningham, H. (2013) Ecology and conservation of the rare annual Petrorhagia nanteuilii (Childing Pink) on the vegetated shingle spits of Pagham Harbour, West Sussex. Journal of Coastal Conservation 17, 589-600 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11852-013-0257-0].
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H. (2013). Coasts and climate: insights from geomorphology. Progress in Physical Geography 37(4), 550-561 [doi:10.1177/0309133313494962].
  • Oyedotun, T.D.T, Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2013). Sediment sorting and mixing in the Camel estuary, UK. Journal of Coastal Research SI65, 1563-1568.
  • Burningham, H., French, J. (2012) Is the NAO winter index a reliable proxy for wind climate and storminess in northwest Europe? International Journal of Climatology 33(8), 2036-2049 [doi:10.1002/joc.3571].
  • Richards, E.G., Burningham, H. (2011). Hippophae rhamnoides on a coastal dune system: a thorny issue? Journal of Coastal Conservation 15(1), 73-85 [doi:10.1007/s11852-010-0122-3].
  • Oyedotun, T.D.T., Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2012). Characterisation of estuary and adjacent beach sediments in the Gannel Estuary, South-West England. Geoscience in South-West England 13, 71-76.
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H. (2011). Coastal geomorphology. Progress in Physical Geography 35(4), 535-545 [doi:10.1177/0309133311414606].
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2011). Boulder dynamics on an Atlantic-facing rock coastline, northwest Ireland. Marine Geology 283(1-4), 56-65 [doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2010.07.008].
  • Burningham, H., French, J. (2011). Seabed dynamics in a large coastal embayment: 180 years of morphological change in the outer Thames estuary. Hydrobiologia 672 (1) 105-119 [doi:10.1007/s10750-011-0873-3].
  • Barrett-Mold, C., Burningham, H. (2010). Contrasting ecology of prograding coastal dunes on the northwest coast of Ireland. Journal of Coastal Conservation 14(2), 81-90 [doi:10.1007/s11852-009-0069-4].
  • Burningham, H., French, J. R. (2009). Historical seabed mobility in an outer estuary - sea basin environment. Journal of Coastal Research SI56, 589-593.
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H. (2009). Coastal geomorphology: trends and challenges. Progress in Physical Geography 33(1), 117-129.
  • Barrett-Mold, C., Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2009). Stratigraphic insights from sedimentary peels of littoral estuarine depositional systems. Journal of Coastal Research SI56, 584-588.
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H. (2009). Restoration of an eroded estuarine foreshore using cohesive dredge material, Orwell Estuary, UK. Journal of Coastal Research SI56, 1444-1448.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H., Barrett-Mold, C. (2009). The geomorphology and controls on development of a boulder-strewn rock platform, NW Ireland. Journal of Coastal Research SI56, 1646-1650.
  • Burningham, H. (2008). Contrasting geomorphic response to structural control: The Loughros estuaries, northwest Ireland. Geomorphology 97(3-4), 300-320 doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2007.08.009.
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H., Benson, T. (2008). Tidal and meteorological forcing of suspended sediment flux in a muddy mesotidal estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 31, 843-859 [doi:10.1007/s12237-008-9072-5].
  • Parrott, A., Burningham, H. (2008). Opportunities of, and constraints to, the use of intertidal agri-environment schemes for sustainable coastal defence: A case study of the Blackwater Estuary, southeast England. Ocean and Coastal Management 51(4), 352-367 [doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2007.08.003].
  • Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2007). Morphodynamics and sedimentology of mixed-sediment inlets. Journal of Coastal Research SI50, 710-715.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2007). Coastal morphodynamics and prehistoric human occupation, County Donegal, NW Ireland. Journal of Coastal Research SI50, 104-108.
  • Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2006). Morphodynamic behaviour of a mixed sand-gravel ebb-tidal delta: Deben estuary, Suffolk, UK. Marine Geology 225(1-4), 23-44 [doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2005.09.009].
  • Burningham, H., Cooper, J.A.G. (2004). Morphology and historical evolution of north-east Atlantic coastal deposits: The west Donegal estuaries, north-west Ireland. Journal of Coastal Research SI41, 148-159.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2003). Recent ventifact development on the central Oregon Coast, western Usa. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 28, 87-98 doi:10.1002/esp.432.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2001). Formation of bedrock-cut ventifacts and late Holocene coastal zone evolution, County Donegal, Ireland. Journal of Geology 109(5), 647-660.
  • Burningham, H. (2000). Short-term changes at an inlet margin dune barrier: Dooey Spit, Gweebarra Estuary, north-west Ireland. Periodicum Biologorum 102(1), 505-511.
  • Burningham, H., Duck, R.W., Watt, A.M. (2000). Perspectives from a newly formed Integrated Coastal Zone Management voluntary partnership: the Tay Estuary Forum (Scotland). Periodicum Biologorum 102(1), 101-105.
  • Burningham, H., Cooper, J.A.G. (1998). Mesoscale evolution of a west Donegal estuary. Journal of Coastal Research, SI26, 24-30.



  • Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2009). Seabed mobility in the greater Thames estuary. The Crown Estate, ISBN 978-1-906410-09-4
  • Burningham, H., French, J.R. (2008). Historical changes in the seabed of the greater Thames estuary. The Crown Estate, ISBN 978-1-906410-04-9.


Book Chapter/Edited Volume

  • Burningham, H. (2015) Gravel spit-inlet dynamics: Orford Spit, UK. In: Randazzo, G., Cooper, J.A.G., Jackson D., Sand and Gravel Spits, Coastal Research Library 12, Springer, 51-65.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2011). Sand dune morphodynamics and prehistoric human occupation in NW Ireland. In Brown, A.G., Basell, L.S., Butzer, A.K.W., Basell, L.S., Butzer, K.W. (Eds.). Geoarchaeology, Climate Change, Sustainability, Geological Society of America, Vol. 476, pp.81-92.
  • Burningham, H. (2005). Morphodynamic Behaviour of a High-Energy Coastal Inlet: Loughros Beg, Donegal, Ireland. In FitzGerald, D.M., Knight, J. (Eds.). High Resolution Morphodynamics and Sedimentary Evolution of Estuaries, Dordrecht: Springer, pp.215-242.
  • French, J. R., Benson, T., Burningham, H. (2005). Morphodynamics and sediment flux in the Blyth estuary, Suffolk, UK: conceptual modelling and high resolution monitoring. In Knight, J., Fitzgerald, D. (Eds.). High resolution morphodynamics and sedimentary evolution of estuaries, New York: Springer, pp.143-171.


Conference Proceedings

  • Nicholls, R., French, J.R., van Maanen, B., Burningham, H. […] 2015. Improving decadal coastal geomorphic predictions. E-proceedings of the 36th IAHR World Congress, 10pp.
  • Burningham, H., French, J. (2015) Large-scale spatial variability in the contemporary coastal sand and gravel resource, Suffolk, eastern UK. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • French, J., Burningham, H. (2015) Wave-driven sediment pathways on the gravel-dominated Suffolk coast, eastern UK. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Horrillo-Caraballo, J.M., Reeve, D., Karunarathna, H., Pan, S., French, J.R., Burningham, H. 2015. Multi-scale statistical analysis of the Suffolk coast, UK. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Nicholls, R., French, J.R., van Maanen, B., Payo, A., Sutherland, J., Walkden, M., Burningham, H. […] 2015. Improving decadal coastal geomorphic predictions: an overview of the iCOASST project. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Reeve, D., Karunarathna, H., Horrillo-Caraballo, J.M., Pan, S., French, J.R., Burningham, H. 2015. Modelling the medium-term morphodynamic response of a coastal plain region using logical networks. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Thornhill, G., French, J.R., Burningham, H. 2015. ESTEEM - a new ‘hybrid complexity’ model for simulating estuary morphological evoluation at decadal to centennial scales. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Walkden, M., Payo, A., Barnes, J., Burningham, H. 2015. Modeling the response of coupled barrier and cliff systems to sea level rise. In: Wang, P., Rosati, J.D., Cheng, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of Coastal Sediments, 15pp.
  • Nicholls, R.J., Bradbury, A., Burningham, H., Dix, J.K., Ellis, M., French, J., Hall, J.W., Karunarathna, H.U., Lawn, J., Pan, S., Reeve, D.E., Rogers, B., Souza, A., Stansby, P.K., Sutherland, J., Tarrant, O., Walkden, M.J.A., Whitehouse, R. (2012). iCOASST - integrating coastal sediment systems. ICCE2012 International Conference on Coastal Engineering, Santander, ES, 01 - 06 Jul 2012, 15pp.
  • Duranel, A., Thompson, J.R., Cubizolle, H., Burningham, H. (2011). Assessing the potential impact of climate change on mire habitats in Central France: a multi-scale eco-hydrological approach. British Ecological Society / Natural England conference: Adapting Conservation to a Changing Climate.
  • Burningham, H., French, J. (2010). GIS analysis of historical marine geomorphology: the outer Thames seabed. Proceedings of GIS Research UK, 14-16 April 2010, 273-276.
  • French, J.R., Burningham, H. (2003). Tidal marsh sedimentation versus sea-level rise: a southeast England estuarine perspective. Proceedings of the International Conference on Coastal Sediments, Clearwater Beach, Florida, USA, 18-23 May 2003, 1-14.
  • Burningham, H. (2002). Meso-scale morphological changes in the Loughros More estuary. Proceedings of Littoral 2002: The Changing Coast 3, 265-270.


Invited Book Reviews

  • Burningham, H. (2004). Coasts: form, process and evolution (Woodroffe, C.D., 2003). Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 29(1), 140-141.
  • Burningham, H. (2006). Introduction to Coastal Processes & Geomorphology (Masselink, G. & Hughes, M.G. 2003). Journal of Coastal Research 22(6), 1589-1590.



  • Burningham, H., Satchell, J., Grøn, O., Hunniche, T. (2010). Identifying coastal archaeology using multispectral satellite imagery of the intertidal zone: A pilot study. Final Report, English Heritage, 41pp.
  • Whitehouse, R., Balson, P., Beech, N., Brampton, A., Blott, S., Burningham, H., Cooper, N., French, J., Guthrie, G., Hanson, S., Nicholls, R., Pearson, S., Pye, K., Rossington, K., Sutherland, J., Walkden, M. (2009). Characterisation and prediction of large-scale, long-term change of coastal geomorphological behaviours: Final Science Report. Science Report - SC060074/SR2. Bristol, Environment Agency, 281pp.
  • French, J., Burningham, H. (2009). Mapping the connectivity of large-scale coastal geomorphological systems. Coastal system mapping with the Cmap Tools tutorial. Environment Agency Project Record – SC060074/PR.
  • Burningham, H., French, J.R., Karunarathna, H., Morris, K., Reeve, D. E., Townend, I., Williams, A. (2007). Development and demonstration of systems-based estuary simulators. Report FD2117/TR. Defra.



Magheramore dunes, Sheskinmore lough

Friends of Sheskinmore ProjectFriends of Sheskinmore

With the help of Beacon Bursary funding from UCL Public Engagement Unit, we have launched the Friends of Sheskinmore - a natural history interest group in northwest Ireland comprising local people, environmental/conservation managers, visitors and research scientists, supported by the sheskinmore.wordpress.com website where all those interested in natural and environmental change on the west Donegal coast can share knowledge, understanding and enquiry.

The project aims are:

  • to draw together local knowledge of, interest in and enthusiasm for the natural history of a site of national and international importance on the northwest coast of Ireland
  • to foster a unique collaboration between natural and social scientists through public engagement.




Postgraduate [course materials available on moodle]

  • G065: Environmental GIS
  • G100: Coastal change
  • G120: Models in environmental science
  • Research students
  • PhD research opportunities projects

[course materials available on moodle]

  • 2002: Methods in physical geography
  • 2005: Geomorphology
  • 3004: Coastal & estuarine environments


Office hours: please check here each week before coming

Term I

Week beginning
5-Oct Tue 1130-1230; 1330-1430 Thu 11-12
12-Oct Wed 1130-1230 Thu 2-4
19-Oct Thu 2-4
26-Oct Thu 2-4
9-Nov Away on field class - - -
16-Nov Wed 1130-1230 Thu 2-4
23-Nov Mon 1130-1230 Thu 2-4
30-Nov Thu 2-4
7-Dec Thu 2-4
14-Dec Thu 2-4

Term II





Research Students


Completed PhD students

Duranel A (2015) Wetlands in a changing environment: an assessment of the environmental factors driving biodiversity in soligenous acidic mires in Limousin, Central France (NERC) [supervised also by Dr J Thompson]

Pylarinou A (2015) Impacts of climate change on UK coastal and estuarine habitats: a critical evaluation of the sea level affecting marches model (SLAMM) [supervised also by Prof J French]

Oyedotun T (2015) Estuary-coast interaction and morphodynamic evolution: a comparative analysis of three estuaries in southwest England (Adekunle Ajasin University Education Trust Fund) [supervised also by Prof J French]

Barrett-Mold C (2013) Morphostratigraphy of marginal coastal environments (NERC) [supervised also by Prof J French]

Morales-Marin L (2013) Numerical modelling of hydrodynamics and sedimentation in upland lakes: a tes of the sediment focusing hypothesis (UCL) [supervised also by Prof J French]


Current PhD students
Primary supervisor to:
- Varandas Martins S: Ecohydrology of temporary ponds (NERC 2015-)
- Fernandez Nunez M: Spatial and temporal response of saltmarsh ecosystems to sea level change: a case study from southwest Andalucia (Talentia 2011-)
- Gardner E: Hydrogeomorphology and ecology in a sedimentary coastal lake and wetland system: Sheskinmore Lough (UCL 2011-)
- Schembri M: Maltese Beaches : A source to sink approach (Malta Government Scholarship Scheme 2010-)

Secondary supervisor to:
- Mitchell L: Hydrogeomorphic succession and ecological processes affecting sea trout spawning on remedial gravels (EA/Cefas 2010-)
- Price D: Processes in a managed realignment site (2010-)