Professor Jim Griffiths

Professor Jim Griffiths

Emeritus Professor

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (NC) (Faculty of Science and Engineering (NC))


    Professor of Engineering Geology and Geomorphology in the Centre for Research in Earth Sciences (CRES);
    UK Registered Ground Engineering Professional Adviser


    2014 - Awarded Glossop Medal by the Geological Society of London for Services to Engineering Geology

    1973 BSc Geography with Geology; upper second class honours; Bedford College, University of London

    1983 PhD Geomorphology; King's College University of London

    1973 to 1976 - Secondary school teacher of geology and geography in Dagenham, Essex.

    1976 to 1979 - Research student at King's College, London

    1979 to 1985 - Engineering Geologist/geomorphologist with Rendel, Palmer & Tritton (Consulting Engineers). Promoted to Senior Engineer in 1983.

    1985 to 1990 - Engineering Geologist/Geomorphologist with Geomorphological Services Ltd. Appointed Technical Director and main project manager in 1988.

    1990 to 1993 - Associate responsible for the engineering geology and geomorphology division of Engineering Geology Ltd

    1993 to 1995 Senior lecturer in engineering geology at the University of Plymouth

    1995 to 2002 Head of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Plymouth

    2002 to 2006 Faculty of Science Enterprise Co-ordinator, University of Plymouth

    Sept. 2005 Appointed Professor of Engineering Geology and Geomorphology 

    2006 to 2009 Head of the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Science

    2009-2013  Head of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

    2013: Appointed Dean of Research and Innovation

    Professional membership

    Chartered Geologist - CGeol
    European Geologist - EurGeol
    Chartered Engineer - CEng 
    Registered Ground Engineering Professional Advisor (RoGEP)
    Fellow of the Geological Society  - FGS
    Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society  - FRGS
    Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy - PFHEA
    Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining - FIMMM
    Member of the British Geotechnical Society
    Member of the British Hydrological Society
    Member of the International Association of Engineering Geologists
    Member of the British Geomorphological Society

    Roles on external bodies

    • Validated scrutineer appointed by the Geological Society Professional Committee for the assessment of chartership applications, from January 2009.
    • Chair of the International Association of Engineering Geology for the Environment Commission C22 on Landscape Evolution and Engineering Geomorphology, appointed January 2007. Reported at the 11th IAEG Congress in Auckland, September 2010, and the 34th IGC in Brisbane, August 2012. 
    • Member of the Technical Planning Committe for the Geological Society Bicentennial Conference, 2005-2007
    • Chair of the Congress of the 10th International Association of Engineering Geology & the Environment , held in Nottingham, UK, in 2006 
    • Expert evaluator for research projects on natural hazards submitted under the EU Frameworks VI & VII (appointed December 2004)
    • Member of the Editorial Board for the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology & Hydrogeology (2001 - present)
    • Geological Society Publications - one of the Special Publications Editors (2000- present)
    • Member of the Books Editorial Committee of the Geological Society (2000 – present)
    • Chair of the Engineering Group of the Geological Society (2006-8); Vice-Chairman 2004-6, member of the Committee 1997-2008 
    • Member of the Science Committee of the Geological Society (2006-2008)
    • Referee for the following journals: Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology & Hydrogeology; Geomorphology; Earth Surface Processes and Landforms; Natural Hazards; Geoscience in South West England; Environmental Modelling & Software; Mathematical Geology; International Journal of Remote Sensing; Landslides.
    • Chair of the Working Party on Land Surface Evaluation in Engineering Practice, under the auspices of the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, 1997-2001.
    • Member of the Geological Society Working Party on Engineering Geology in Relict Glacial and Periglacial Areas (established 2011)
    • Member of the Geological Society Working Party on Geohazards (established 2009)
    • Member of the Geological Society Working Party on Engineering Geology and Geomorphology in Hot Deserts, 2003-10.
    • Member of the Committee of Heads of University Geology Departments (1995 – 2002)
    • Member of the Committee of the South-west Regional Group of the Geological Society (1994- 2005)
    • Member of the Executive Committee of British Geomorphological Research Group – membership secretary (1992 - 95)

    Teaching interests

    • Engineering Geology
    • Engineering Geomorphology
    • Physical Geology
    • Geohazards
    • Fieldwork skills
    • IT for Earth Scientists
    • Professional development skills

    Staff serving as external examiners

      2015-2020: Subject and Award Board Examiner for the MSc programmes Engineering Geology and Environmental Geology & Contaminated Land at Portsmouth University
    • 2012-2015: Award Board Examiner for the MSc in Applied Geomorphology at Sussex University
    • 2004 to 2006: Subject and Award Board Examiner for the MSc in Applied Environmental Geology at Cardiff University
    • 1999 to 2004 - Subject and Award Board Examiner for the undergraduate Applied Geosciences degrees at the University of Portsmouth
    • PhD Examiner: 2007, University of Exeter; 2005 and 2004 Portsmouth University; 2001 and 2000 Salford University; 1996 Aston University
    • External validation of undergraduate programmes at Camborne School of Mines (1999), Staffordshire University (2002), Bournemouth University (2003).
    • External validation of masters degree programmes at Bournemouth University (2003) and Portsmouth University (2010)
    • Subject specialist for the QAA Academic Review of the undergraduate geography degree at the University of Hertfordshire, April 2004

    Research interests

    Geohazard Risk Assessment:

    • Development of landslide hazard and risk assessment techniques for planning and engineering feasibility studies based on work undertaken in Spain, Syria, Chile, Georgia, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador and the UK;
    • Member of the ‘Engineering Geology of Hot Deserts’ Working Party 2003-11; co-author of the sections on: desert geomorphology; engineering geological models and geohazards; soil and rock classification.
    • Member of Geological Society Working Party on 'Engineering Geology of Relict Glacial and Periglacial Environments' established in 2012.

    Terrain Evaluation and Mapping for Engineering:

    • Chair of the Geological Society Working Party on ‘Land Surface Evaluation in Engineering Practice,’ established by the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, 1997-2001;
    • Member of the International Association of Geomorphologists Working Party set up in December  2006 to develop a state of the art guide to geomorphological mapping.
    • Chair of Commission 22 set up in 2007 by the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment to assess engineering geological issues relating to long term landscape development
    • Member of the Geological Society Working Party on Engineering Geology in Relict Glacial and Periglacial Areas (2010-2014)
    • Member of the Geological Society Working Party on Geohazards (2009-2103) 
    • Joint research studentship with the Institute of Marine Studies, partly supported by Britannia Royal Naval College, on methods of nearshore investigation using ROV technology and Geographical Information Systems (2001-2005);
    • Re-evaluation of the engineering geological characteristics of Quaternary deposits and landforms in SW England; Assessment of the use of Devon cob as a natural construction material

    Core Values in Engineering Geology:

    • Defining the nature and scope of engineering geology as an academic and applied discipline.

    Research degrees awarded to supervised students

    • Ms Claire Foster - Director of studies. The distribution, nature and causes of natural landslides in Devon and Cornwall. Joint project with the British Geological Survey (PhD awarded July 2007)
    • A B Hart – Director of studies. Landslide hazard and risk assessment in South-east Spain. Joint project with the Department of Geographical Sciences (PhD awarded in March 2004)
    • Mrs Kathryn Coventry – Director of studies 2000-2003. Specification development for the use of Devon cob in earthen construction (PhD awarded in December 2003)
    • Ms R Gillon – Second supervisor 1999-2002. Development of an ROV for geotechnical investigations in near-shore areas. Joint project with the Institute of Marine Studies & part sponsored by Britannia Royal Naval College (PhD awarded December 2002)
    • Ms A Hopper - Director of studies 1995-1999. Landfill design & monitoring. Joint project with the Department of Environmental Science (PhD awarded December 1999)
    • J Rogers – Second supervisor 1993-1997. Discontinuity distribution analysis in SW England from remote sensing data (PhD awarded November 1997)

    Grants & contracts

    • URG/Scott Wilson - 2011. Contributor to the geohazard report for the Freida River copper mine development in Papua New Guinea.
    • Arups - 2009/10. Geomorphological input to reports on LPG development site and gaspipeline routes in Algeria
    • White & Case (International Lawyers)– 2006/7. Expert witness appointment for $150 million construction claim for a site in Algeria; case heard at the International Court for Arbitration in Paris in January 2007; UoPEL Contract.
    • DML - 2006: Independent Technical Assessment of rock slope stability on a MoD site in Scotland; UoPEL Contract
    • Aggregates Levy Contract- 2005/6. Consultant geomorphologist on the Geovalue Project led by David Roche Associates to devise a national geodiversity profiling scheme; UoPEL contract.
    • HEFC(E): Member of the 5-person team under Dr Weaver (Griffiths, Anderson, Wigham, & Maskell) that was succesful in £4.5 million bid for a Centre of Excellence in Teaching & Learning on the theme of Experiential Learning in the Natural & Environmental Sciences; January 2005.
    • British Petroleum: Chair of the International Panel of Experts reviewing the alignment of the Azerbaijan- Georgia- Turkey oil and gas pipeline where it crosses the Lower Caucasus – February-March 2003, UoPEL contract worth £10,000
    • NERC ATM flights: Two separate flights awarded to Drs Mather & Griffiths in April 2001 - one in the Rio Aguas catchment, Southest Spain, and the second over East Devon. Purpose is to investigate the sediment input to fluvial systems resulting from landsliding – value c. £28,000.
    • British Geological Survey (an institute of NERC): Mapping Project 2001-2004. Joint PERC/BGS study of the distribution and causes of landsliding in SW England, value £18,000 over three years – project worth £40,000
    • High-Point Rendel- Landsliding at Binnel Bay, Isle of Wight. Mapping consultancy project, January 2001; value £1,400.
    • Britannia Royal Naval College 1999-2002. Support for research into the use of an ROV for investigating the geotechnical properties of nearshore deposits; joint IMS (Dr Pilgrim) and Geology project – value £9,000 over three years
    • Hong Kong Government Research Agreement GEO 1/99. Improved Methodology for Geotechnical Assessment for the Planning of Major Highways. Contract awarded to Atkins China Ltd with Dr Griffiths as specialist advisor in engineering geomorphology, January -July1999; - value HK$100,000.
    • X-CALAR ‘99: Expert Group Meetings on Forecasting, Prevention and Reduction of Landslide and Avalanche Risk. Innsbruck, 1-3 March 1999. Costs for travel, accommodation and report preparation from the European Commission - 1200 Euros.
    • Hong Kong Government Research Contract GEO 19/97. Scoping Study for a Quantitative Risk Assessment of Natural Terrain Landslides in Hong Kong 1998-1999. Dr Griffiths as Principal Investigator for a report to the Geotechnical Engineering Office, Hong Kong, by Atkins China Ltd. - value HK$500,000.
    • Science Education Enhancement & Development. Grants worth c.£4,000 to: assess the role of fieldwork in earth science undergraduate teaching; provide a manual for geology field teaching using discovery techniques; and develop a computer based modelling assessment for engineering geology
    • DfEE Award: Employment partnerships for environmental science and geology graduates from the University of Plymouth 1997/98. award for a 1 year PDRF to Prof. Hill (Env.Sci), Dr Griffiths & Mr Bell (EDS) - value c.£16,000
    • NERC ATM Flights in South Devon,1994 & 1995. Two separate flights awarded to Drs Griffiths, Belt & Ms Hopper – value £2,600
    • Channel Tunnel High Speed Rail Link, UK, 1993-1994. Member of the Steering Committee reviewing desk studies, mapping and site investigation design for Railtrack. PEP Ltd contract – value £2,500.
    • Kwikila-Kupiano-Safia-Barei Road, Papua New Guinea, 1994. Terrain evaluation from remote sensing data to assess alternative route alignments. PEP Ltd contract for Engineering Geology (PNG) Ltd – value £1500.
    • Ventnor Waste Water Study, UK. 1994; Evaluation of the onshore and offshore site investigation data. PEP Ltd contract for Southern Water – value: £1500
    • Department of the Environment Research Contract: St. Helens Applied Geology Mapping, UK. Dr Griffiths nominated Project Director for two-year programme of earth science mapping in the St. Helens area 1989-91; value £125,000.
    • Department of the Environment Research Contract. Ventnor, Isle of Wight, UK: Dr Griffiths nominated Project Manager and engineering geomorphologist for a two-year programme of investigations into landslide hazard and risk at Ventnor 1988-92; value £150,000.
    • Department of the Environment Research Contract. Torbay, UK: Thematic Environmental Geology Mapping. Dr Griffiths as Project Leader for a two-year environmental geology mapping programme around Torbay 1985-87; value £130,000.
    • Department of the Environment Research Contract. Landslides in the UK: Study of the distribution, causes, investigations and treatment of landslides in the United Kingdom. Dr Griffiths as author of a number of the report volumes & involved with all aspects of the statistical analysis of data, and the compilation and management of the database 1984 –89; value £250,000.
    • Department of the Environment Research Contract. Environmental Geology Mapping in the UK. Dr Griffiths as project coordinator and co-author of the review of EGMs in the UK as compared with overseas practice 1985; value £40,000.



      Research groups

      • Geodynamics and Palaeomagnetism