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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

David Nash is Professor of Physical Geography in the School of Environment and Technology. He has over 30 years' research experience, with interests in geomorphology and Holocene to recent environmental change in dryland regions of the world.

Professor Nash has authored more than 100 publications, including two edited books, Geochemical Sediments and Landscapes (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007) with Sue McLaren (University of Leicester), and Quaternary Environmental Change in the Tropics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) with Sarah Metcalfe (University of Nottingham).

His research has been funded by The Leverhulme Trust, Natural Environment Research Council, British Academy, British Society for Geomorphology and The Gilchrist Educational Trust (amongst others). He has successfully supervised eight Doctorate (PhD) research degrees and is currently supervising a further three PhD candidates.

Professor Nash holds an Honorary Research Fellowship  at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He was presented with the Gordon Warwick Award in 2003 by the British Geomorphological Research Group (now the British Society for Geomorphology) for "excellence in geomorphological research as recorded in a named publication or set of publications".

Approach to teaching

My teaching is underpinned by contemporary case study material drawn from the latest published research as well as from my own projects. I try to encourage students to read extensively and take a critical approach to the published and grey literature. This is exemplified in the module 'Climate Change', where students consider the views of climate change sceptics, a really useful approach for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of current climate change arguments. I am strongly committed to fieldwork, as I believe it helps students contextualise the material they study in lecture sessions. In addition to UK and overseas field courses, I like to make use of the local area for teaching. For example, we visit the cliffs at Peacehaven as part of the module 'Ice Age Earth', where students have the opportunity to examine the impacts of past periglacial processes on chalk landscapes.

Research interests

My research interests fall into two main areas, spanning geomorphology, climatology, history and archaeology - (1) analyses of duricrusts in landscape and archaeological contexts, and (2) reconstructing historical climate.

Duricrusts in landscape and archaeological contexts

My primary area of research concerns the development and environmental significance of silcrete and calcrete duricrusts. The primary goals of this research are to (a) characterise the micromorphology and geochemistry of duricrusts developed in different landscape settings, (b) assess the extent to which duricrusts may be used as indicators of past environments, and (c) apply this fundamental knowledge for use in archaeological contexts. To date, my research has focused mainly upon non-pedogenic silcretes and calcretes in the Kalahari Desert, central Australia, southeast Spain and the UK, with archaeology-related work in southern Africa and the UK.

Reconstructing historical climatic change using documentary sources

My second research focus is the reconstruction of past climate variability through analyses of historical documents, particularly missionary and other colonial sources. Working with collaborators in Europe and southern Africa, I have developed novel methodologies to establish chronologies of hydroclimatic variability in the Kalahari Desert, Lesotho, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Madagascar and western India using these materials.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: reconstructing historical climate change; arid zone geomorphology; environmental change in southern Africa; silcrete provenancing in archaeology.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Sheffield

Award Date: 13 Nov 1992

Bachelor, University of Sheffield

Award Date: 1 Jul 1988

External positions

Member, PAGES CRIAS (Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies) Working Group, PAGES (PAst Global ChangES)

2018 → …

Chair, PAGES Africa 2k Working Group, PAGES (PAst Global ChangES)


Honorary Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand

2009 → …


  • DT Africa
  • Climate history
  • Historical climatology
  • Documentary evidence
  • Drought histories
  • Rainfall variability
  • Climate and society
  • GB Physical geography
  • Duricrusts
  • Silcrete
  • Calcrete
  • Aeolianite
  • Geomorphology
  • Kalahari Desert
  • Geochemistry
  • Geochemical provenancing
  • Middle Stone Age

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Research Output

Origins of the sarsen megaliths at Stonehenge

Nash, D., Ciborowski, J., Ullyott, S., Parker Pearson, M., Darvill, T., Greaney, S., Maniatis, G. & Whitaker, K., 29 Jul 2020, In : Science Advances. 6, 31, p. eabc0133 8 p., eabc0133.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • Geomorphic and hydrological controls on groundwater dolocrete formation in the semi‐arid Hamersley Basin, northwest Australia

    Mather, C., Nash, D., Skrzypek, G., Dogramaci, S. & Grierson, P., 20 Jul 2019, In : Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 44, 14, p. 2752-2770 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Heat treatment of Kalahari and Cape silcretes: impacts upon silcrete chemistry and implications for geochemical provenancing

    Nash, D., Coulson, S. & Schmidt, P., 29 Oct 2019, In : Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 11, 12, p. 6865-6874 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle