Professor Tom Spencer

Professor of Coastal Dynamics at Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Professor of Coastal Dynamics, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Tom Spencer is Professor of Coastal Dynamics in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. His research interests focus on hydrodynamics, sedimentation and ecological processes in natural and re-created tidal wetlands; estuarine hydro- and morpho-dynamics; coastal zone management with particular reference to global environmental change. He has published of over 100 research and conference papers (20 single-authored); 4 edited volumes of research papers in book format; 6 edited special issues of international journals; 2 University level texts.

He was awarded Royal Geographical Society’s Murchison Award in 2004 ‘in recognition of a body of publications on coastal geomorphology’ [the most senior award after the two Royal Medals].

He has been Director of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit (CCRU) since 1997. The Unit provides the vehicle for employing and training PDRAs and RAs on research projects; supervising PhD students and providing a base for visiting academics. As well as UK Met Office, Environment Agency and extensive European linkages, he has put in place strong research collaborations with wetland scientists in the USA, Australasia and South America. Recently, he helped secure Cambridge involvement with The Nippon Foundation’s Nereus Program, a US$13million research programme to study the future of the world’s oceans; this will now extend to 2018.

The CCRU is a recognised world leader in the study of physical processes in intertidal saltmarsh environments. Dr Spencer initiated the first field measurements of wave energy dissipation across macro-tidal European saltmarshes, writing the Environment Agency guidelines on how to assess the natural energy buffering ability of marshes. The importance of this research from a policy perspective has been recognised in the Lawton Review (2010) ‘Making Space for Nature’, in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011), and in the UK Government Natural Environment White Paper (2011).

He has recently published on the east coast storm surge of 5 December 2013 in Nature, EOS and Earth-Science Reviews and made presentations to environmental and nature conservation agencies.

Currently he is co-chair of a Working Group of the British Society for Geomorphology on ‘Stormy geomorphology: geomorphic contributions in a time of extremes’ and chair of the Organizing Committee for an International Discussion meeting on this theme at the Royal Geographical Society which will bring experts from the USA, Australia and Europe in May 2015.

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