Ian Watkinson


  • TW20 0EX

Personal profile

Research interests

Earthquake history and geologic evolution of strike-slip shear zones, particularly their expression at different crustal levels, from deeply exhumed mylonites to coseismic surface ruptures. Major faults of special interest include the Sagaing Fault and Kyaukkyan Fault of Myanmar, the Palu-Koro, Matano and Lawanopo faults of Sulawesi, the Sorong Fault and related structures of West Papua and Maluku, and the Khlong Marui, Ranong, Three Pagodas and Mae Ping faults of Thailand. 

Neotectonics and natural hazards, including understanding modern earthquakes by direct field observation (e.g. 2012 Thabeikkyin), historic earthquakes by paleoseismology and tectonic geomorphology (e.g. 1912 Maymyo) and related processes including landslides (e.g. 2018 Palu). 

Metamorphic core complexes, exhumation processes and thermochronology, using techniques such as field mapping, microtectonic analysis, Ar-Ar and Rb-Sr dating of mineral separates. Processes of gravitational collapse and low-angle normal fault development studied in Sulawesi, Seram, southern Thailand, central Myanmar, Arizona and Italy.

Seismic vulnerability of reinforced concrete buildings, including a field survey in Mandalay in collaboration with local engineering students. Analysis of urban development and seismic vulnerability through remote-sensing-based studies of urban growth and landslide development.

Research collaborations: Recent/ongoing collaborations with the Myanmar Earthquake Committee, Myanmar Engineering Society, Earth Observatory of Singapore, Brown University Rhode Island, University of Bergen, Purdue University, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia Rome, plus numerous industry and government agencies in the UK and abroad.

Research student supervision: Lead supervisor of two completed (2017 & 2018) and one ongoing PhD student, co-supervisor to 5 PhD students; lead advisor to one ongoing MRes student; advisor to >15 PhD and MRes students.

PhD examining: Internal examiner in 8 PhD exams (2013-2020), external examiner in one (2018) and independent chair in one (2017).


GL1600 Earth Structures (structural fabrics, stereographic projection, structural mapping)

GL2600 Structural Analysis and Remote Sensing (stress analysis, structural and dynamic interpretation, GIS and remote sensing techniques)

GL2901/2930 West Scotland Field Course (metamorphic and igneous mineralogy and fabrics, polyphase deformation, regional tectonics, field mapping)

GL3901 Independent Mapping Project (in-field mapping training, map and cross-section supervision)

GL4012 Independent Geoscience Project (supervision of MSci projects on geomorphic indices, seismic vulnerability, surface rupture forward modelling, landslide susceptibility etc.)

GL4930 Field and Research Skills (scientific photography)

GL5101 Tectonics and Lithosphere Dynamics (ArcGIS training)

GL5301 Structural Analysis (strike-slip and compressional settings)

GL5401 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (Spanish Pyrenees field course focused on interactions between sedimentation and deformation)

GL5601 Petroleum Systems (support, supervision and marking of Integrated Alaska Projects)

GL5011 Independent Geoscience Project (supervision of MSc research projects on active faults using LiDAR and remote sensing, passive margin petroleum systems using seismic data, exhumation and sediment provenance using thermochronology and geochronology data etc.)

Historic (last 5-years) involvement in GL1900, GL5801, Distance Learning courses PGM051 and PGM351.

Other work

Chair of the Undergraduate Exam Sub-Board (2019-)

Chair of the Petroleum Geoscience MSc Exam Sub-Board, University of London International Programmes (2017-2020)

Chair of the MSc Exam Sub-Board (2016-2019)

Director of the Petroleum Geoscience MSc programme (2016-2019)

Academic initiatives: Involved with initiatives such as new UG programme development (2019-), undergraduate GIS skills programme (2018), creative ways of learning (2017), undergraduate teaching reform (2016), new ways of working (2015) etc. 

Peer reviewer for: Geology, Tectonophysics, Journal of Structural Geology, Gondwana Research, Solid Earth Discussions, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Tectonics, Terra Nova, Basin Research, Science Asia, Island Arc, De Nationale Geologiske Undersøgelser for Danmark og Grønland, Geological Society of London, Blackwell, Cambridge University Press 

Engagement with national/international communications (e.g. Al-Jazeera News, NY Times, BBC Radio, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction)

Outreach activities (talks at local schools, colleges, geologic societies, science festivals and geoscience WWW activities)


Geophysical consultancy work for PTTEP (Myanmar) on the structural evolution of a sedimentary basin in SE Asia.

Personal profile

MSci: Geology, 2005, University of Birmingham (UK). Dave Johnston Mapping Prize. PhD: 2009, Royal Holloway University of London (UK) 'The Kinematic History of the Khlong Marui and Ranong Faults, Southern Thailand', published in Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Structural Geology and the GSL Memoir on the Geology of Thailand. Post-doctoral project with SEARG (2009-2011) on major faults of eastern Indonesia. Teaching fellow (2011-2014), lecturer (2014-2019) and senior lecturer (2019-) with the Department of Earth Sciences at RHUL.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or