Dr Matt Telfer

Dr Matt Telfer

Associate Professor of Physical Geography

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

Dr Matt Telfer can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Climate change
  • Geomorphology
  • Deserts
  • Dune formation
  • Pluto
  • Planetary surface processes


As an Associate Professor in Physical Geography in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, I teach on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. My research interests lie in geomorphology, geochronology and environmental change, especially in drylands.


I have a BSc (Joint Hons.) from the University of Bristol in Geography and Geology, and after narrowly avoiding a career in petroleum geology, I worked for the University of Southampton's palaeoecology laboratory for 3 years. Following this, I started a part-time PhD at the University of Sheffield with Prof David Thomas, studying the late Quaternary development of the southwestern Kalahari desert. I earned my keep at the time with various technical and RA projects, including the development of a GIS database to support a co-IGCP (International Geological Correlation Programme) initiative, and support for the luminescence dating labs in Sheffield. I moved to Oxford University in 2005, working initially as a Technician whilst I finished my PhD (awarded 2007), and then as Research Associate to the Oxford Luminescence Dating laboratory.

I joined the University of Plymouth as a Lecturer in 2010, and have served as the Admissions Tutor and Programme Lead (2017-2021).

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society
Quaternary Research Association (member)
British Society for Geomorphology (member)

Key publications

Telfer MWJ, Parteli E, Radebaugh J, Beyer R, Bertrand T, Forget F, Nimmo F, Grundy W, Moore J & Stern SA (2018) 'Dunes on Pluto' Science , DOI Open access
View all publications


Teaching interests

I am currently module leader for GGP3206 (Desert Environments), GGX2204 (Fieldwork in Geography) and GGP3201 (Advanced Fieldwork in Geography). I also teach on GGX2201 and GGX2202 (Principles and Applications of Geography). I also teach on the Masters courses GEES519 (Environmental Knowledge: From Field to Stakeholder).



Research interests

Quaternary environmental change
Geomorphology, particularly in drylands
Geochronology, particularly luminescence dating

Grants & contracts

2018 - "African Flowers": Plastic Pollution in Deserts £37000 (Co-I: GCRF)

2018 - ProTFC - Professional Training for Fieldtrip Coordinators - Euro 232,000 (PI: Erasmus+)
2010 - "Establishing a multiproxy Quaternary palaeoenvironmental record for low altitude, arid mainland Spain" £2350 (UoP PUP fund)
2010 - Royal Society Conference/Travel fund £1550 (XVIII INQUA Congress, Bern, Switzerland)
2008 - “Determining the extent, timing, and cause of Quaternary uplift along the Atlantic coast of Africa and Iberia”. Collaborator on Royal Society Research grant £50k (fieldwork and OSL dating marine terraces in Portugal, Morocco and Angola with Dr Richard Walker, University of Oxford)
2008 - "Extension of linear dunes", QRA Quaternary Research Fund £475 (fieldwork in Northern Cape, South Africa)
2008 - Nominated for HEFCE Teaching Excellence Award
2007 - Royal Society Conference Fund £1100 (XVII INQUA Congress, Cairns, Australia)
2005 - QRA Conference Fund £205 (2nd Southern Deserts meeting, Arica, Chile)
2005 - BGRG Postgraduate Research grant £250 (ICP analyses for OSL dosimetry)
2004 - NERC ICP Facility £525 (ICP analyses for OSL dosimetry)
2004 - SBS Daresbury Prize joint first for best Student Poster, St Andrews, UKLum meeting.



Key publications

Telfer MWJ, Parteli E, Radebaugh J, Beyer R, Bertrand T, Forget F, Nimmo F, Grundy W, Moore J & Stern SA (2018) 'Dunes on Pluto' Science , DOI Open access

Key publications are highlighted

Barnett R, Austermann J, Dyer B, Telfer M, Barlow N, Boulton S, Carr A & Creel R (2023) 'Constraining the contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to Last Interglacial sea-level' Science Advances 9, (27) , DOI Open access
Wen X, Telfer MW, Li B, Wang W, Daley T, Wang C, Tian M & Qiu M (2023) 'Holocene variations in the Asian Summer and Winter Monsoons reconstructed from extensive lacustrine sediments in the Mu Us Desert, northern China' Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 623, , DOI Open access
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Telfer MW, Boulton SJ, Mather AE, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS & Belfoul MA (2022) 'Constraining a model of punctuated river incision for Quaternary strath terrace formation' Geomorphology 414, , DOI Open access
Eskandari Dameneh H, Gholami H, Telfer MW, Comino JR, Collins AL & Jansen JD (2021) 'Desertification of Iran in the early twenty-first century: assessment using climate and vegetation indices' Scientific Reports 11, (1) , DOI Open access
Dahmardeh Behrooz R, Gholami H, Telfer MW, Jansen JD & Fathabadi A (2020) 'Corrigendum to “Using GLUE to pull apart the provenance of atmospheric dust” [Aeolian Res. 37 (2019) 1–13]' Aeolian Research 47, , DOI Open access
Telfer MW, Gholami H, Hesse PP, Fisher A & Hartley R (2020) 'Testing models of linear dune formation by provenance analysis with composite sediment fingerprints' Geomorphology 364, 107208-107208 , DOI Open access
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Telfer MW & Mather AE (2020) 'Rock strength and structural controls on fluvial erodibility: Implications for drainage divide mobility in a collisional mountain belt' Earth and Planetary Science Letters 538, 0-0 , DOI Open access
Gholami H, Dolat Kordestani M, Li J, Telfer MW & Fathabadi A (2019) 'Diverse sources of aeolian sediment revealed in an arid landscape in southeastern Iran using a modified Bayesian un-mixing model' Aeolian Research 41, 100547-100547 , DOI Open access
Telfer MW, Radebaugh J, Cornford B & Lewis C (2019) 'Long‐Wavelength Sinuosity of Linear Dunes on Earth and Titan and the Effect of Underlying Topography' Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 124, (9) 2369-2381 , DOI Open access
Stone A, Bateman MD, Burrough SL, Garzanti E, Limonta M, Radeff G & Telfer MW (2019) 'Using a portable luminescence reader for rapid age assessment of aeolian sediments for reconstructing dunefield landscape evolution in southern Africa' Quaternary Geochronology 49, 57-64 , DOI Open access
Behrooz RD, Gholami H, Telfer MW, Jansen JD & Fathabadi A (2018) 'Using GLUE to pull apart the provenance of atmospheric dust' Aeolian Research 37, 1-13 , DOI Open access
Telfer MWJ, Parteli E, Radebaugh J, Beyer R, Bertrand T, Forget F, Nimmo F, Grundy W, Moore J & Stern SA (2018) 'Dunes on Pluto' Science , DOI Open access
Chappell A, Lee JA, Baddock M, Gill TE, Herrick JE, Leys JF, Marticorena B, Petherick L, Schepanski K & Tatarko J (2018) 'A clarion call for aeolian research to engage with global land degradation and climate change' Aeolian Research 32, A1-A3 , DOI
Gholami H, Telfer MW, Blake WH & Fathabadi A (2017) 'Aeolian sediment fingerprinting using a Bayesian mixing model' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms , DOI Open access
Chojnacki M & Telfer MW (2017) 'Editorial Introduction: Fourth Planetary Dunes Workshop Special Issue' Aeolian Research 26, 1-3 , DOI Open access
Telfer MW, Hesse PP, Perez-Fernandez M, Bailey RM, Bajkan S & Lancaster N (2017) 'Morphodynamics, boundary conditions and pattern evolution within a vegetated linear dunefield' Geomorphology 290, 85-100 , DOI Open access
Hesse PP, Telfer MW & Farebrother W (2017) 'Complexity confers stability: Climate variability, vegetation response and sand transport on longitudinal sand dunes in Australia’s deserts' Aeolian Research 25, 45-61 Author Site , DOI Open access
Mills SC, Barrows TT, Telfer MW & Fifield LK (2016) 'The cold climate geomorphology of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg: A reevaluation of past climatic conditions during the last glacial cycle in Southern Africa' Geomorphology 278, 184-194 , DOI Open access
Walker RT, Telfer M, Kahle RL, Dee MW, Kahle B, Schwenninger J-L, Sloan RA & Watts AB (2016) 'Rapid mantle-driven uplift along the Angolan margin in the late Quaternary' Nature Geoscience , DOI Open access
Diniega S, Kreslavsky M, Radebaugh J, Silverstro S, Telfer M & Tirsch D (2016) 'Our evolving understanding of aeolian bedforms, based on observation of dunes on different worlds' Aeolian Research , DOI Open access
Telfer MW, Fyfe RM & Lewin S (2015) 'Automated mapping of linear dunefield morphometric parameters from remotely-sensed data' Aeolian Research 19, 215-224 , DOI
Gallagher C, Telfer MW & Ó Cofaigh C (2015) 'A Marine Isotope Stage 4 age for Pleistocene raised beach deposits near Fethard, southern Ireland' Journal of Quaternary Science 30, (8) 754-763 , DOI
Geach MR, Thomsen KJ, Buylaert J-P, Murray AS, Mather AE, Telfer MW & Stokes M (2015) 'Single-grain and multi-grain OSL dating of river terrace sediments in the Tabernas Basin, SE Spain' Quaternary Geochronology Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Geach MR, Viveen W, Mather AE, Telfer MW, Fletcher WJ, Stokes M & Peyron O (2015) 'An integrated field and numerical modelling study of controls on Late Quaternary fluvial landscape development (Tabernas, SE Spain)' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Publisher Site , DOI
Parton A, Farrant AR, Leng MJ, Telfer MW, Groucutt HS, Petraglia MD & Parker AG (2015) 'Alluvial fan records from southeast Arabia reveal multiple windows for human dispersal' GEOLOGY 43, (4) 295-298 , DOI
Geach MR, Stokes M, Telfer MW, Mather AE, Fyfe RM, Lewin & S (2014) 'The application of geospatial interpolation methods in the reconstruction of Quaternary landform records' Geomorphology 216, 234-246 , DOI
Telfer MW (2014) 'Modelling palaeosol preservation in aeolian dunes' EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS 39, (15) 2016-2026 , DOI
Telfer MW, Mills SC & Mather AE (2014) 'Extensive Quaternary aeolian deposits in the Drakensberg foothills, Rooiberge, South Africa' GEOMORPHOLOGY 219, 161-175 , DOI
Wilson P, Lord TC, Telfer MW, Barrows TT & Vincent PJ (2013) 'Dating in the Craven Dales' Geology Today 29, (1) 16-22 , DOI
Telfer M (2012) 'Optical dating of shallow loess and loessic colluvium deposits on the karst of northwestern England' Quaternary International 279-280, 486-487 , DOI
Ó Cofaigh C, Telfer MW, Bailey RM & Evans DJA (2012) 'Late Pleistocene chronostratigraphy and ice sheet limits, southern Ireland' Quaternary Science Reviews 44, 160-179 Author Site , DOI
Telfer MW, Thomas ZA & Breman E (2012) 'Sand ramps in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa: Evidence of periglacial aeolian activity during the last glacial' PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY 313, 59-69 , DOI
Telfer MW (2011) 'Growth by extension, and reworking, of a south-western Kalahari linear dune' Earth Surf. Process. Landforms 36, (8) 1125-1135 Author Site , DOI
Vincent PJ, Lord TC, Telfer MW & Wilson P (2011) 'Early Holocene loessic colluviation in northwest England: new evidence for the 8.2 ka event in the terrestrial record?' BOREAS 40, (1) 105-115 , DOI
Telfer MW, Bailey RM, Burrough SL, Stone AES, Thomas DSG & Wiggs GSF (2010) 'Understanding linear dune chronologies: Insights from a simple accumulation model' GEOMORPHOLOGY 120, (3-4) 195-208 , DOI
Walker RT, Claisse S, Telfer MWJ, Nissen E, England P, Bryant C & Bailey R (2010) 'Preliminary estimate of Holocene slip rate on active normal faults bounding the southern coast of the Gulf of Evia, central Greece' Geosphere 6, (5) 583-593 , DOI
Telfer MW, Wilson P, Lord TC & Vincent PJ (2009) 'New constraints on the age of the last ice sheet glaciation in NW England using optically stimulated luminescence dating' JOURNAL OF QUATERNARY SCIENCE 24, (8) 906-915 , DOI
Telfer MW, Thomas DSG, Parker AG, Walkington H & Finch AA (2009) 'Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating and palaeoenvironmental studies of pan (playa) sediment from Witpan, South Africa' PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY 273, (1-2) 50-60 , DOI
Brncic TM, Willis KJ, Harris DJ, Telfer MW & Bailey RM (2009) 'Fire and climate change impacts on lowland forest composition in northern Congo during the last 2580 years from palaeoecological analyses of a seasonally flooded swamp' HOLOCENE 19, (1) 79-89 , DOI
Telfer MW, Bateman MD, Carr AS & Chase BM (2008) 'Testing the applicability of a standardized growth curve (SGC) for quartz OSL dating: Kalahari dunes, South African coastal dunes and Florida dune cordons' QUATERNARY GEOCHRONOLOGY 3, (1-2) 137-142 Author Site , DOI
Holmes PJ, Bateman MD, Thomas DSG, Telfer MW, Barker CH & Lawson MP (2008) 'A Holocene-late Pleistocene aeolian record from lunette dunes of the western Free State panfield, South Africa' HOLOCENE 18, (8) 1193-1205 , DOI
Wilson P, Vincent PJ, Telfer MW & Lord TC (2008) 'Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of loessic sediments and cemented scree in northwest England' HOLOCENE 18, (7) 1101-1112 , DOI
Telfer MW & Thomas DSG (2007) 'Late Quaternary linear dune accumulation and chronostratigraphy of the southwestern Kalahari: implications for aeolian palaeoclimatic reconstructions and predictions of future dynamics' QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS 26, (19-21) 2617-2630 , DOI
Telfer MW & Thomas DSG (2006) 'Complex Holocene lunette dune development, South Africa: Implications for paleoclimate and models of pan development in arid regions' GEOLOGY 34, (10) 853-856 , DOI
Telfer MW & Hesse PP (2013) 'Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions from linear dunefields: recent progress, current challenges and future directions' QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS 78, 1-21 , DOI
Telfer M (2022) 'Vegetated Dune Systems' Treatise on Geomorphology Elsevier 496-519 , DOI
Telfer M (2015) 'Luminescence, Desert Dunes' Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods Springer Netherlands 452-456 , DOI
Telfer M (2014) 'Luminescence, Desert Dunes' Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods Springer Netherlands 1-7 , DOI
Telfer MW (2013) '11.10 Clay Deposits' Treatise on Geomorphology Elsevier 184-200 , DOI
Conference Papers
Zondervan J, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Telfer MW & Mather AE (2022) 'LITHOLOGY, ROCK STRENGTH AND FRACTURE CONTROLS ON FLUVIAL ERODIBILITY' PRF2022—Progressive Failure of Brittle Rocks Geological Society of America Publisher Site , DOI
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW (2018) 'Catchment changes in response to tectonics and climate: using river terraces and DEM data in the southern High Atlas Mountains (Morocco)' WGSG 2018 4th Meeting of the Working Group on Sediment Generation, Dublin Open access
Presentations and posters
Zondervan J, Stokes M, Boulton S, Mather A, Telfer M, Buylaert J-P, Jain M, Murray A, Belfoul A & Hann M Zondervan J, Stokes M, Boulton S, Mather A, Telfer M, Buylaert J-P, Jain M, Murray A, Belfoul A & Hann M 'Changes in mountain valley widening, river incision and sediment transport in North-West Africa during the last 180 ka of Saharan climate' Author Site , DOI
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Jain M, Buylaert J-P, Telfer MW & Murray AS Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Jain M, Buylaert J-P, Telfer MW & Murray AS 'Chronology for mountainous river terraces: OSL/IRSL and rock dating techniques applied to carbonate-rich terraces in the Atlas Mountains' Author Site Open access
Lancaster N, Hesse P & Telfer M Lancaster N, Hesse P & Telfer M 'MAPPING THE WORLD’S INLAND SAND DUNES – A PROGRESS REPORT' , DOI
Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW 'Palaeo river long profile reconstruction in a fold-and-thrust belt: river terraces as archives of Quaternary incision and aggradation in the Atlas Mountains' Author Site Open access
Radebaugh J, Telfer M, Lorenz R, Barnes JW, Rodriguez S & Christiansen EH Radebaugh J, Telfer M, Lorenz R, Barnes JW, Rodriguez S & Christiansen EH 'SAND DUNES ON TITAN AND PLUTO AS REVEALED BY REMOTE SENSING MORPHOLOGICAL AND FIELD ANALOGUES' , DOI