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Personal profile

Personal profile

Varyl Thorndycraft graduated with a BSc. in Geography from the University of Sheffield before undertaking an MSc. in Recent Environmental Change at the University of Liverpool. Varyl then went to the University of Exeter to research his PhD entitled "The archaeology of tin mining on Dartmoor: a sedimentary approach". He finished his PhD in 2000 and moved to Madrid where he was employed for 6 years as a postdoctoral researcher/fellow in the Institute of Natural Resources of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas. Varyl was appointed Lecturer in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway in 2006. 

Research interests

Varyl is a geomorphologist with research expertise in Late Quaternary palaeohydrology. In particular his research focuses on two themes: 1) The palaeohydrology of deglaciating ice sheets, and 2) Holocene palaeoflood records. Varyl's research uses field mapping and stratigraphy alongside GIS analysis of digital terrain data (including LiDAR) and hydraulic flood modelling.

Varyl's current research is focused on the Late Quaternary palaeogeography of central Patagonia, where he is working on a range of projects that include: a) landform records of palaeolake evolution; b) reconstructing megafloods and Holocene outburst flood events; c) varve records of ice sheet dynamics and palaeoclimate (with Palmer, RHUL); and d) early human occupation of Patagonia (with Delaunay and Mendez, CIEP, Chile).

Varyl makes environmental sound recordings at his field research sites. His own field recordings can be heard on bandcamp at https://drvarylthorndycraft.bandcamp.com/


Varyl is currently Teaching Exellence Lead for the Department of Geography and teaches the following courses:

GG1015 Digital Geographies: Remote Sensing and GIS 

I teach the physical geography half of this 0.5 unit module. After introducing the use of remote sensing in physical geography students start to develop practical GIS skills using ArcGIS Pro. Students present a map as part of the course assessment giving them experience of cartography and map design in GIS.

GG2001 Geographical Techniques - Module C - GIS

In this second year GIS module we explore the use of GIS and remote sensing for change detection studies. Students gain practical experience of mapping glacier outlines from satellite imagery to quantify rates of glacier recession.

GG3028 Digital Landscapes

The aim of this course is to examine how remote sensing has led to paradigm shifts in our knowledge of global environmental change. During the course we will see how remote sensing has contributed to improved understanding of environmental change in different environmental settings and over a range of timescales. In particular we focus on: a) digital terrain data and earth surface processes; and b) sateliite observation of the hydro-, cryo- and biospheres. Students are given practical experience of using GIS to handle remotely sensed data, including high resolution LiDAR topographic data, and LANDSAT satellite imagery.

MSc. Quaternary Science GG5293: Techniques in Quaternary Research (1)

Varyl leads TQR1 which focuses on remote sensing and GIS techniques. After an introduction focusing on applications of remote sensing in Quaternary geomorphology we explore the use of high resolution LiDAR data in Quaternary mapping, including a GIS practical using LiDAR data. Bethan Davies covers the use of LANDSAT in glacial mapping on day 2 of the course. Training is also provided in GIS cartography and students undertake their own digital mapping projects.

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 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


  • Geomorphology
  • Palaeohydrology
  • Flooding
  • Glaciofluvial
  • Late Quaternary

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