Professor Christopher Soulsby

Professor Christopher Soulsby
Professor Christopher Soulsby
Professor Christopher Soulsby

DSc, PhD, Fellow American Geophysical Union

Chair in Hydrology

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 272344
School of Geosciences


  • Fellow of the American Geophysical Union; since 2013
  • 2010-2014: Head of School of Geosciences
  • 2008: Founding member and Director of the Northern Rivers Institute, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen
  • 2005 DSc, University of Aberdeen, School of Geosciences “Hydrological pathways, biogeochemical interactions and ecological responses in catchment systems: towards a scientific basis for sustainable management”
  • 1999 Professor of Hydrology, School of Geoscience, University of Aberdeen.
  • 1997-99 Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen.
  • 1993-97 Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Aberdeen.
  • 1991-93 Hydrologist, Environment Agency, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
  • 1991 Research Fellow in Hydrology, University of Wales, (Bangor).
  • 1990-91 Lecturer, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth.
  • 1987-90 PhD, University of Wales, University College, Swansea: PhD in Hydrology, Thesis (1991) "Hydrological pathways, aluminium mobilization and streamwater acidity in an afforested catchment in upland Wales." 380pp. 

External Memberships


  • Associate Editor, Hydrological Processes
  • Editorial Board of Journal of Hydrology
  • Editorial Board of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
  • Theme leader in Process Conceptualization – International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) Initiative in Prediction in Ungauged Basins (PUB).
  • Vice President, International Commission on Tracers, International Association of Hydrological Sciences (2003).
  • Member of Water Operations Technical Support advisory group for the US Army Corps of Engineers (2003).
  • Member of FRIEND 5 international working group on Hydrological and biogeochemical processes in a changing environment (2001).
  • Science Review Panel of Aquatic Habitat Matrix, US National Marine Fisheries Service (2000)


  • International Association of Hydrological Sciences Prediction in Ungauged Basins Initiative - UK Working Group.
  • Hydromorphology Working Group, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (2004-)
  • Advisory Board, River Restoration Centre, Cranfield (2000-02 )
  • Committee Member of the British Hydrological Society (1996-99)
  • Member of Scottish Environment Protection Agency Task Group on Habitat Enhancement Initiative (1998-99)
  • Member of SNH Advisory Group on the Re-introduction of Beavers (1999)
  • Member of St Fergus Dunes Management Committee (1994-97)

Membership of Professional Bodies

  • International Association of Hydrological Sciences
  • European Geophysical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • British Hydrological Society
  • Fisheries Society of the British Isles
  • Royal Geographical Society
  • British Geomorphological Research Group

Research Overview

Runoff processes, streamflow generation and catchment biogeochemistry

  • Use of isotopic and geochemical tracers in identifying hydrological pathways, water sources, residence times and biogeochemical controls on stream chemistry.
  • Linkages between hillslope hydrology and streamflow generation.
  • Integrating the results of tracer studies in hydrological models.
  • Upscaling flow path understanding and landscape controls in mesoscale catchments

Groundwater – surface water interactions

  • Groundwater-surface water interactions in upland environments.
  • Linkages between hillslope hydrology and groundwater – surface water exchange.
  • Hyporheic studies: influence of groundwater on the chemistry and ecology of the hyporheic zone.
  • Groundwater-surface water interactions in alluvial floodplains.

Hydroecology of rivers and wetlands

  • Interactions between flow variability, channel morphology, instream hydraulics and freshwater ecosystems; particularly with respect to salmonids and macroinvertebrates.
  • Impacts of river regulation on aquatic ecosystems and the development of environmental flow regimes.
  • Hydrology and conservation management of wetlands.

Current Research

Research Projects (Include)

  • Streamflow generation in catchment systems

    Examination of mechanisms of streamflow generation in different types of catchments at contrasting scales is an ongoing research theme. Our particular interests are the flow paths that water takes through catchments, the length of time taken to reach river channels and the biogeochemical processes that it is subjected to. We integrate insights from field experiments and modelling studies in our work. A key theme is the use of environmental tracers, including stable isotopes, in understanding patterns of water movement. A main thrust of recent research has been based on the Catchment Hydrology And Sustainable Management (CHASM) initiative funded by NERC/JIF and based in the 225km2 river Feshie catchment in the Cairngorms. This prompted comparative studies in the 31km2 Girnock catchment and the 230km2 in the Feugh catchment, in collaboration with Dr Susan Waldron of the University of Glasgow. This work had the objective of identifying landscape controls on catchment behaviour at the regional scale and involved Dr Doerthe Tetzlaff in extensive use of GIS analysis.

  • Integrating tracers and modelling in catchment hydrology

    Building from work in the Allt a' Mharcaidh catchment in the western Cairngorms, we have strong interests in integrating the findings of tracer studies in catchment modelling. This ranges from simple rainfall runoff models to semi-distrbuted catchments. Tracers can provide independent means of testing such models. A current theme, involving Dr Doerthe Tetzlaff and Dr Sarah Dunn at the Macaulay Institute, is applying such approaches at larger spatial scales in the Feshie, Feugh and Girnock catchments in the Cairngorms.

  • Groundwater - surface water interactions in upland catchments

    We have a long standing interest in the role of groundwater in influencing the hydrology, chemistry and ecology of upland streams and rivers. This mostly involves the examination of shallow groundwater systems in drifts and fractured bedrock and has used both tracers and hydrometric approaches to increase insights into the complex processes involved. Recent initiatives have involved collaboration with Dr Iain Malcolm at the Freshwater Laboratory in Pitlochry to identify the locations of groundwater discharge in the Girnock catchment in the Cairngoms. Further a field we are working with Atul Haria (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) and Paul Shand (British Geological Survey) on their dense borehole arrays on their hillslope at the CEH Plynlimon catchments in Mid-Wales.

  • Hydroecology of the hyporheic zone

    The physical, chemical and ecological significance of the hyporheic zone is being investigated in a number of streams to ascertain; (a) spatial variation in groundwater inputs into stream channels, (b) the effects on streamwater chemistry and (c) the consequences for aquatic organisms. The dynamic nature of the hyporheic zone is also being examined, particularly with respect to the impact on salmonid embryo mortalities and macroinvertebrate communities. This work is collaborative with Dr Iain Malcolm and Alan Youngson of the FRS-Freshwater Laboratory in Pitlochry.

  • Habitat hydraulics and thermal regimes in salmon spawning rivers

    The influence of in-stream hydraulics on salmon habitats is being investigated in relation to spawning activities and the provision of food to juvenile fish. This work also heavily involves Dr’s Chris Gibbins and Doerthe Tetzlaff . In addition to hydraulic characterization of different habitats by field monitoring, advanced numerical modelling techniques are being explored in conjunction with Dr’s Iain McEwan and Dubravka Pokrajac in the Department of Engineering at the University of Aberdeen. The importance of stream temperature as a physical aspect of ecological habitats in salmon rivers is also a research topic, currently undertaken collaboratively with Dr David Hannah of the University of Birmingham. We are also interested how such hydraulic conditions and thermal regimes are affected by river regulation and have recently carried out projects on the heavily regulated River Lyon in Perthshire and the River Ehen in Cumbria. The influence that management has on other groups of species in salmon rivers – such as macroinvertebrates and freshwater pearl mussels – has also been a focus of research.

  • Management of wetlands

    Conservation objectives in wetlands ranging from lowland raised bogs in Scotland to seasonal flood plain wetlands in Africa, often involve hydrological assessment for rehabilitation. This reflects the impact of activities such as drainage and deforestation which have affected former hydrological regimes. We have carried out extensive research in Scotland on lowland raised bogs such as Moine Mhor in Argyll. Our major current initiative focuses on the wetlands of Kasanka National Park in Zambia. With funding from the Darwin Initiative, and in collaboration with Professor Paul Racey (School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen), Dr Glenn Iason (Macaulay Institute) and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Mike Kennedy we are examining the hydrological functioning of a range of wetlands – which support high levels of biodiversity – with a view to developing plans for their sustainable management.



Research Students (PhD)


  • B. Scheliga (Start 2015) Surface water and groundwater interactions in northern landscapes. (with Profs D. Tetzlaff and G. Nuetzmann)
  • B. Buddendorf (start 2014) Multiscale modelling to assess to impacts on flows and ecology in regulated rivers (with Dr Iain Malcolm, Dr J Geris and Dr M Wilkinson). 
  • L. Fabris (start 2014) Modelling the effects of flows and temperatures on Atlantic salmon; opportunities for Atlantic salmon (with Dr Iain Malcolm, D Tetzlaff)
  • C. Tunaley, PhD (start 2013): High frequency processes in upland catchments (with D Tetzlaff)
  • M. Blumstock (start 2013) Connectivity and storage in riparian zones (with Profs D. Tetzlaff and G. Nuetzmann)
  • A. Peralta Tapia Peralta (start 2011) Hydrological transit times in Boreal catchments. (with Profs H. Laudon, J. Seibert and D Tetzlaff)




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