Daniel Parsons

Well done Tora and Arthur x

Favourite Thing: I love doing fieldwork. I am surveying the river banks of the Mekong River at the moment. They are over 30 meters high (that’s as high as a 10-floor building) and in some places the bank has eroded over 100 meters during this year’s monsoon flood. Its important to understand what is happening here because these low delta areas of the world, which are sinking with sea-levels rising, are home to over 1 billion people!



University of Sheffield, 1996 to 2003


PhD and BSc degrees

Work History:

University of Leeds, University of Illinois (USA), and lots of places on fieldwork!

Current Job:

Associate Dean of Research in the Science and Engineering Faculty at the University of Hull


University of Hull

Me and my work

I play with mud, sand and water to understand how climate change alters our rivers, coasts and oceans!

I do fieldwork and undertake laboratory experiments in a big laboratory flume (a bit like the log flume rides at theme parks) to better understand how sediments, such as mud, sands and gravel, are moved about across the surface of Earth. By understanding this better we can improve our predictions about how our rivers, coasts and seas will change with climate and also understand how earth has evolved over the geological past.

My Typical Day

Wow…I don’t have one! The best thing about my job is that no two days are the same…but I love doing fieldwork in weird and wonderful places – like Yellowstone Lake in America where I was surveying a year or so ago – its stunning place!

My work is really varied.

Sometimes I am on fieldwork – I can go away for up to a month working on surveys in remote places. I have also spent time on research ships at sea for a few weeks at a time.

Sometimes I have some big experiments going on. We have a big Experimental Tank facility at Hull that is great for doing a range of experiments. Doing these experiments can take up a lot of my time, preparing and planning through to doing the experiments. Last year we did some experiments looking at how large floods may have created the massive outflood channels on Mars – these are valleys that are much bigger than the grand canyon, but we are still not sure how they were made.

When I am in the office I have lots of email to deal with – too many! I also process, analyse and write reports and science articles about the findings from the fieldwork and the experiments. I also have lots of meetings about research and planning research projects. I have a team of Post-Doctoral Researchers (they are research scientists who have finished their PhD and are working with me on specific projects) and also a big team of  Ph.D. students who are all working on projects too – so I meet with them all about once a week to see what progress has been made.


What I'd do with the money

I would build a small portable experimental tank that could be taken to schools just like yours!

I want to construct a mini geoscience laboratory that can be taken to schools (like yours) and build a couple of small tanks (large fish tank size) which shows how mountains are built by convection currents within the earth’s mantle and can also be used to show how flows of water can make patterns in the sediments, such as sand and mud, that are deposited in rivers or the sea and how this can eventually make patterns that are preserved in rocks!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Dynamic, divergent and dedicated

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Charlatans (I guess not many of you know them!)

What's your favourite food?

Rib-eye Steak

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I tried to teach myself how to body board last year on holiday – I was really bad but its great fun!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A fireman

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, lots….

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physical Education

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Flew a yellow submarine at the bottom of the black sea!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Dad, he was an electrician but was always interested in rocks (mainly climbing them however!!)

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A tuktuk driver in Phnom Pehn – looks like great fun

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Win an Olympic gold medal, win a Nobel prize, have three more wishes!

Tell us a joke.

Two aerials meet on a roof – fall in love – get married. The ceremony was rubbish – but the reception was brilliant.

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here are some photos of me working in the field – this is from today on the Mekong River!


Something closer to home – this is some action shots of a survey we did in the Dee Estuary – we had 3 boats all working together….and some scaffold frame with lots of scientific equipment bolted on which was in the muddy inter-tidal areas of the Dee Estuary. We were looking at how mud and sticky biological “goo” effected how sands move in and out of the Estuary with the tides.

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This was some of the best fieldwork I have done. I was on a research cruise in the Black Sea on a large research ship and we flew this yellow submarine across the sea-floor to understand how mud and sand is moved around and through large channels on the bottom of the sea. Yep – that’s right – some of the biggest channels are actually at the bottom of the ocean!!!

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And, finally – these last two images are from our recent experiments. In one we are using a high power laser (strong enough to burn you) to look at turbulence in river flows and in the second one we are cleaning out the flume after some very muddy experiments had finished!

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