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Department of Geography



Dr Alison Banwell, B.Sc., Ph.D.

Institute Associate



  • May 2021 - Present: Research Scientist II, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado Boulder, USA (and SPRI Associate).
  • May 2020 - April 2021: Research Scientist I, CIRES, University of Colorado Boulder, USA (and SPRI Associate).
  • May 2018 - April 2020: CIRES Visiting Research Fellow, University of Colorado Boulder, USA (and SPRI Associate).
  • May 2015 - April 2018: Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, SPRI, Cambridge.
  • Oct 2013 - Sept 2016: Junior Research Fellow at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and SPRI Associate.
  • Jan 2013 - Sept 2013: Postdoctoral Research Scholar with Professor Douglas MacAyeal, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago (and SPRI Associate).


  • Ph.D. Scott Polar Research Institute (St. Catharine's College), University of Cambridge, UK (2008-2012). Thesis: "The hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet". Funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.
  • B.Sc. (Hons.) (First class) in Geology and Physical Geography, University of Edinburgh, UK (2004-2008).

Awards and grants

  • 2023 - 2026: Lead PI, NASA ROSES Cryosphere grant #21-07-0113 "Ice-Shelf Hydrological Evolution and Impacts on Future Ice-Shelf Stability" (~$627k, ~$200k to CU Boulder), in collaboration with Co-PI Roger Buck (Columbia) and Co-PI Smith (Brown).
  • 2023 - 2026: Lead PI, NSF Antarctic Glaciology grant #2213702: "Collaborative Research: Improving model representations of Antarctic ice-shelf instability due to surface meltwater processes" (~$363k to CU Boulder out of ~$1M total) in collaboration with Co-PIs Lipovsky (U. Washington), Cuzzone and Schlegel (UCLA) and MacAyeal (U. Chicago).
  • 2021 - 2022: Lead PI, CIRES Innovative Research Program (IRP): "Antarctic-wide analysis of surface/near- surface melt on ice-shelves from 1979 to 2021 using microwave radiometer and scatterometer data" ($30k, PI).
  • 2020 - 2022: PI, NSF Antarctic Instrumentation & Facilities grant #1940473: "EAGER: Collaborative Research: Mapping Melting glacial surfaces with GNSS reflectometry", in collaboration with Lead PI Seebany Datta-Barua (Illinois Institute of Technology) ($168k to CU Boulder out of $500 total).
  • 2019 - 2024: Lead PI on US NSF Antarctic Glaciology grant #1841607: "NSFGEO-NERC: Ice-shelf instability caused by active surface meltwater production, movement, ponding and hydrofracture", in collaboration with Co-PIs Doug MacAyeal (Chicago), Laura Stevens (Columbia), and NERC Co-PI Ian Willis (SPRI, Cambridge) ($617k to CU Boulder).
  • 2019 - 2022: Co-I on NASA FINESST proposal: 'Subsurface lake formation, drainage, and impacts on the stability of Antarctic ice shelves' in collaboration with PI Lenaerts and PhD student Devon Dunmire (both CU Boulder) ($135k to CU Boulder).
  • 2017: CIRES Postdoctoral Visiting Fellowship, University of Colorado, Boulder (1 May 2018 - 30 April 2020).
  • 2014: Leverhulme/Newton Trust Early Career Fellowship (1st May 2015 - 30th April 2018).
  • 2014: Antarctic Science Ltd. Bursary (£3,700)
  • 2013: 'Bowring' Junior Research Fellowship (stipendiary), St Catharine's College, Cambridge (1st October 2013 - 30th September 2016)
  • 2011: St Catharine's College (Cambridge), Graduate Prize for Distinction in Research.
  • 2011: Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge. Overall Winner at the University of Cambridge (£6,000).
  • 2011: Royal Geographical Society, Dudley Stamp Memorial Trust Grant (£500).
  • 2010: National Geographic Society (Committee for Research and Exploration), Young Explorer Grant (£3,000).
  • 2010: Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) Arctic Field Grant (£4,200).
  • 2010: International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) Network on Arctic Glaciology award for conference attendance/presentation (~£500).
  • 2010: Beatrice Shaw Fund, University of Cambridge (£900)
  • 2009: University of Cambridge Roberts Fund. To support attendance of the AG-325 Glaciology course at UNIS, Svalbard.


- Antarctic ice-shelf instability and break-up

- The influence of hydrology on the dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet

PhD supervision

  • Emily Glen (Lancaster University), 2020 - present.
  • Devon Dunmire (University of Colorado, Boulder), "Subsurface lake formation, drainage and impacts on Antarctic ice shelf stability", 2018 - 2022.
  • Rebecca Dell (University of Cambridge), "Hydrology, stability & break up of Antarctic Ice Shelves", 2017 - 2021.
  • Grant Macdonald (University of Chicago), "Evaluating the surface hydrology of ice shelves", 2014 - 2019.
  • Andrew Williamson (University of Cambridge), "Supraglacial hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet", 2014 - 2018.


[Publications will appear automatically from the University's research database.]


Undergraduate teaching (University of Cambridge only):

  • College Teaching Associate, St Catharine's College, Cambridge (October 2013 - April 2018).
  • Part IB supervisor: Physical and Environmental Geography II: Glacial Processes (2009 - 2018), and staff member on the Department of Geography field trip to Arolla, Switzerland (2010, 2013 and 2015) and Loetschental, Switzerland (2017).
  • Part II supervisor: Glacial Environments (2011 - 2018).

External activities

  • Glaciologist for the Protect our Winters (POW) Science Alliance (2022 - Present).
  • AGU Fall Meeting 2023 session convener, 'Understanding Ice-Shelf Processes'.
  • AGU Fall Meeting 2021 session convener, 'Understanding Ice-Shelf Processes'.
  • AGU Fall Meeting 2020 session convener, 'Understanding Ice-Shelf Processes'.
  • Organising Committee member for the NSF-funded workshop on 'Antarctic Surface Hydrology and Future Ice-Shelf Stability', Lamont Doherty, New York, 21 - 23 Feb 2018.
  • AGU Fall Meeting 2017 session convener, 'Antarctic Ice Shelves: surface and basal processes, instability and breakup'.
  • AGU Fall Meeting 2013 session convener, 'Glacier, Ice Cap, & Ice Sheet Hydrology'.
  • ​Regular reviewer for peer-reviewed journals (Nature, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Glaciology, Annals of Glaciology) and funding bodies (NSF, NERC, NZ Antarctic Research Institute, and NL Polar Programme)
  • Fellow, Cambridge Philosophical Society (2015 - 2018)
  • Committee member, UK Polar Network (2009 - 2012)