Dr Martin Borthwick

Dr Martin Borthwick

Deputy Head of School

School of Engineering (Faculty of Science & Engineering)


BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering (First Class), Polytechnic South West, 1990
Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, University of Plymouth, 1994
PhD Engineering Hydrology, University of Plymouth, 2010

Professional membership


Member of the British Hydrological Society

Roles on external bodies

Member of the ICE SW Regional Committee (past Chairman 2012-14)
Member of the Plymouth City Club of the ICE (past Chair)

Teaching interests

Engineering hydrology

River Engineering


Computational Modelling

Research interests

I am interested in how complex systems can be modelled using novel mathematical and computer tools based on memory and artificial intelligence. In particular I have been developing computational rainfall-streamflow models using a fractional-order systems approach to represent the mixing effect of "old" and "new" water observed in streamflow chemistry. I have derived a generalised unit hydrograph (UH) theory to represent the mixing of water within the surface/subsurface storage component of the river catchment which overcomes the baseflow separation issue of the widely-used classical UH approach. Dooge’s 1959 classical general theory of the Instantaneous UH is found to be a special case of the new theory, and Chow and Kulandaiswamy’s 1971 general storage equation fits within it too. The new theory also corrects Nash’s 1960 interpretation of a cascade of a non-integer number of linear reservoirs.
I am interested in the application of evolutionary algorithms (e.g. genetic algorithms and genetic programming) for the identification and calibration of improved rainfall-streamflow models, including the use of slope-based fitness functions to measure the shape of streamflow time series.   These functions have been successfully applied to interactive rainfall-runoff model calibration using the genetic algorithm-based model visualisation toolkit developed by Ian Packham (Lightwave Technologies Ltd, Ireland).

I am also interested in modelling the effects of agricultural land-use changes on river flows (with Dr Andrew Williams, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth).

Grants & contracts

Developing professional skills though short term engineering placements - Royal Academy of Engineering, May 2011-March 2012, £10k

Research groups

  • Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport

Key publications are highlighted

Borthwick MF, Packham IS & Rafiq MY 2008 'Interactive visualization for evolutionary optimization of conceptual rainfall-streamflow models' Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering 22, (1) 40-49 , DOI
Packham L, Rafiq MY, Borthwick MF & Denham SL 2005 'Interactive visualisation for decision support and evaluation of robustness - in theory and in practice' Advanced Engineering Informatics 19, (4) 263-280 , DOI
Chadwick AJ, Morfett JC & Borthwick M 2013 Hydraulics in Civil and Environmental Engineering (5th ed). CRC Press
Conference Papers
Borthwick MF, Rafiq MY & Williams AG 2010 'A novel application of a fractional order lag and route model to rainfall-streamflow modelling' Walsh C BHS Third International Symposium - Role of Hydrology in Managing Consequences of a Changing Global Environment Newcastle, UK 19/07/2010 23/07/2010 Newcastle upon Tyne, UK British Hydrological Society
Rigden T & Borthwick M 2008 'Evolutionary computing approach to instantaneous unit hydrograph identification' Rafiq Y; de Wilde P; Borthwick M Intelligent Computing in Engineering (ICE08) - 15th International Workshop of EG-ICE Plymouth, UK 02/07/2008 04/07/2008 Plymouth, UK 157-166
Kizhisseri AS, Simmonds D, Rafiq Y & Borthwick M 2005 'An evolutionary computation approach to sediment transport modelling' CD05 5th International Conference on Coastal Dynamics, Barcelona, Spain, ASCE. 04/04/2005 08/04/2005
Packham ISJ, Borthwick MF, Rafiq MY & Denham SL 2004 '“Improved Understanding of Rainfall Runoff Modelling using Interactive Visualisation and Evolutionary Computing”' Next generation-intelligent systems in engineering, Proc. 11 EG-ICE Workshop, Weimar, Germany, //0 //0 96-99
Packham ISJ, Rafiq MY, Borthwick MF & Denham SL 2004 'Interactive Visualisation for Decision Support and Evaluation of Robustness using Evolutionary Computing' Next generation-intelligent systems in engineering, Proc. 11 EG-ICE Workshop, Weimar, Germany //0 //0 86-95
Williams AG, Borthwick M, Mtika E, Ternan JL & Sullivan A 2004 'The influence of changes in farming patterns on the runoff characteristics of the River Camel, Cornwall, UK' BHS International Conference, Hydrology Science and Practice for the 21st Century, London. //0 //0