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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  People  /  Academic Staff  /  Helene Burningham

Dr Helene Burningham




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 Education and Research Foundation
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. (2016). Conceptualising and mapping coupled estuary, coast and inner shelf sediment systems. Geomorphology 256, 17-35.
  • 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. (2016). Simulating mesoscale coastal evolution for decadal coastal management: a hybrid method integrating multiple, complementary modelling approaches. Geomorphology 256, 68-80.
  • Knight, J., Burningham, H. (2015). The geomorphology of Gola, northwest Ireland. Irish Journal of Earth Sciences 33, 55-70.
  • 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 [].
  • 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.


Published Reports/Books


Book Chapter/Edited Volume

  • French, J.R., Burningham, H., Thornhill, G., Nicholls, R.J. (2016) Integrating estuarine, coastal and inner shelf sediment systems in a common conceptual framework as a basis for participatory shoreline management. In: Meadows, M., Lin, J.-C. (Eds.) Geomorphology and society. Springer.
  • 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., French, J. (2016) Historical morphodynamics of the Haisborough Sand bank system. CERU Report No. 162-1, Final Report, Crown Estate, 37pp.
  • 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. Debra.

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 and research group in northwest Ireland comprising local people, environmental/conservation managers, visitors and research scientists, supported by the 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 III

Term II

Term I

Week beginning
3-Oct Tue 4-5 Thu 3-5
10-Oct Wed 1130-1230 Thu 3-5
17-Oct Mon 1130-1230 Thu 3-5
24-Oct Mon 1130-1300 Wed 1130-1300
31-Oct Mon 1130-1230 Thu 3-5
7-Nov Away on field class - - -







Current PhD students

Sara Varandas Martins - Ecohydrology of temporary ponds (NERC 2015-)

Michael Schembri - Maltese Beaches : A source to sink approach (Malta Government Scholarship Scheme 2010-)


Completed PhD students

Fernandez Nunez M (2016) Fusion of airborne LiDAR, multispectral imagery and spatial modelling for understanding saltmarsh respond to sea-level rise (Talent) [supervised also by Prof J Ojeda (Sevilla) and Prof J French]

Price D (2016) Influence of vegetation on sediment accumulation in tidal saltmarshes: an integrated field and modelling study [supervised also by Prof J French]

Gardner E (2016) Hydrogeomorphology and ecology in a sedimentary coastal lake and wetland system: Sheskinmore Lough (UCL) [supervised also by Dr J Thompson]

Mitchell L (2015) An assessment of rehabilitation gravels for Salmo trutta spawning: a case study from a small chalk stream, the River Stiffkey, North Norfolk (EA/Cefas) [supervised also by Dr C Sayer]

Duranel A (2015) Hydrology and hydrological modelling of acidic mires in 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 marshes 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 (Nigerian Government 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 test of the sediment focusing hypothesis (UCL) [supervised also by Prof J French]


Masters students

Chen Y (2016) Relationship between ENSO and wind climate over the western North Pacific MSc EMap
Thorpe J (2016) Impact Southern Oscillation on embayment beach rotation, NSW, Australia MSc CC
Zhang G (2016) Vegetation evolution on coastal dunes, northwest Ireland MSc EMap
Heller S (2015) Substrate history of southeast England seabed MSc AqSci
Johncock C (2015) Re-evaluation of river restoration on the River Darent MSc EMod
Wang X (2015) Saltmarsh change analysis of Alde-Ore estuary (2006-2011) MSc EMap
Champion H (2013) Sea level change: exploring evidence for a late-Holocene highstand MSc CC
Goodrich S (2013) The extent and cause of unwelcome species on sand dunes MSc CONS
Iversen E (2013) The relationship between the NAO and wind climate over Norway MSc CC
Maher-McWilliams D (2013) Geomorphic and hydrological mapping of Sheskinmore Lough MSc EMap
Bolles K (2012) Ecogeomorphic feedbacks in coastal dune blowouts MSc EMap
Giannakou E (2012) Reconstructing the geographical history of watersheds MSc EMap
Soubies H (2012) Modelling the influence of offshore banks on nearshore waves MSc EMap
Blande F (2011) Public perceptions and values of ecosystem services MSc CONS
Eremin B (2011) Landscape connectivity of local food and energy production MSc CONS
Hearn S (2011) Mitigation strategies for the new high-speed rail route MSc CONS
Gardner E (2010) The altitudinal ecology of Apteryx australis MSc CONS
Smart E (2010) Oviposition and habitat requirements of the Small Blue (Cupido minimus) MSc CONS
Caine J (2010) Evaluating Natura 2000; a case study of Sheskinmore Lough SPA in Ireland MSc CONS
Kempson R (2010) Dune heath habitats of northwest Ireland MSc CONS
Velasquez L (2010) User of LiDAR elevation data to assess the potential for managed realignment MSc EMap
Edwards C (2009) The impact of artificial lighting on the commuting and foraging behaviour of bats MSc CONS
Kesel R (2009) Control of invasive species in San Francisco natural areas MSc CONS
MacDonald J (2009) The effect of Common Standards Monitoring on Lepidoptera MSc CONS
Robertson C (2009) Naturally regenerated calcareous grasslands on former arable land MSc CONS
Doeser A (2008) Physical characterisation and differentiation of visually identified flow biotopes MSc FACS
McNee S (2008) Developing a wider countryside common insects monitoring method for volunteers MSc CONS
Nathan C (2008) Ecological impacts of deer browsing on ground flora MSc CONS
Needham C (2008) The potential to restore a plantation on ancient woodland at Roudsea NNR MSc CONS
Richards E (2008) Invasion and clearance of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) on dunes MSc CONS
Richardson R (2008) Changes in ecohydraulics with restoration: the River Glaven, Norfolk MSc FACS
Archer S (2007) Bats in Greater London: A revisit to London's bat feeding area survey MSc CONS
Barrett-Mold C (2007) Geomorphological control on coastal dune plant species MSc CONS
Gear A (2007) A rapid assessment of the avifauna of Isla Del Rey, Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama MSc CONS
Ung C (2007) Evaluation of Shotley foreshore recharge MSc FACS
Wade L (2007) The morphosedimentary character of Orford Haven, Suffolk MSc FACS
Amphlett C (2006) Spatiotemporal movement of wildlife through the Bow Valley Wildlife Corridors MSc CONS
Balaga A-R (2006) Grain size trend analysis in a gravel-dominated ebb-tidal delta MSc FACS
Brunsendorf A (2006) Long-term changes in flora and structure of Monks Wood MSc CONS
Wilson T (2006) River Thames intertidal substrate habitat management and conservation MSc CONS
Allen E (2005) Bat mitigation: a preliminary investigation into the success of replacement bat roosts MSc CONS
Isden J (2005) Factors affecting the distribution of Hypericum linariifolium MSc CONS
Macmillan S (2005) Biological / anthropogenic determinants of spatial variation in primate abundance MSc CONS
Parrott P (2005) Uptake and implementation of coastal habitat creation agri-environment schemes MSc CONS
Watts P (2005) Bird foraging preferences in response to arable field management strategies MSc CONS
Alam T (2004) The implications of climate change for the conservation of native pine woodland MSc CONS
Harding D (2004) The response of ground flora to changes in silvicultural systems MSc CONS
Reeves J (2004) Common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) populations on the Isle of Man MSc CONS
Roberts F (2004) Impact of litter management strategies on strandline eco-morphodynamics MSc CONS
Starkey R (2004) Habitat requirements and oviposition of the Small Heath butterfly MSc CONS
Cox L (2003) Abundance and extinction rates amongst the Lemurs of Madgascar MSc CONS
Crouch N (2003) Habitat use by Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) on a lowland arable farm MSc CONS
Horton C (2003) Black Grouse breeding success and habitat management MSc CONS
King G (2003) Habitat requirements of the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) MSc CONS
Martin T (2003) Vocal individuality of the Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) MSc CONS
Tweets from @hburningham