Emrys Phillips

Prof Emrys Phillips

Quaternary and glacial scientist
BGS Edinburgh

Emrys Phillips’s Biography

  • 1984 Awarded the Prof. Sir William Boyd Dawkins Research Fund, Manchester University
  • 1984 BSc, Manchester University, Geology
  • 1988 MSc, Manchester University, Mineralogy (research) – Selected studies of the mineralogy of granulite facies gneisses, Scourie Bay, Northwest, Scotland
  • 1989 PhD, University of Wales, College Cardiff, Geology – The geology of the Monian Supergroup, Western Anglesey, North Wales
  • 1990 Joined the British Geological Survey, mineralogy and petrology group
  • 1997 short sabbatical at the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Mines and Energy, Geological Survey Division working on the Neoproterozoic Nain Plutonic Suite
  • 1999 Awarded Chartered Geologist status with the Geological Society of London
  • 2000 Editor Scottish Journal of Geology
  • 2000 principal research scientist
  • 2002 geological mapping of Dibba and Hatta zones, and metamorphic rocks of the United Arab Emirates
  • 2011 Individual Merit Promotion to Band 3
  • 2012 – ongoing: President of the Westmorland Geological Society
  • 2012 – ongoing: Associate Member of the Centre for Micromorphology, School of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London
  • 2018 – ongoing: Co-leader of Theme 1: Landscape Form, Use and Change: a Dynamic Earth, Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES)

Research interests

  • 2013 – ongoing:Co-supervision of PhD student, Þorbjörg Sigfúsdóttir, in collaboration with Ívar Örn Benediktsson(University of Lund, Sweden). Project: Bølling-Allerød glacier dynamics in lower Borgarfjörður, W-Iceland: multi-scale analysis of a glaciotectonised sequence of marine sediments
  • macro– and microstructural analysis of polydeformed glacigenic sequences
  • the role of melt water in subglacial to ice marginal deformation
  • deformation and formation of subglacial traction tills
  • the control of subglacial deformation on glacier/ice sheet dynamics
  • micromorphological analysis of glacigenic sediments
  • glacitectonics

Current projects and collaborations

  • Bedrock controls on landform morphology, distribution and subglacial processes beneath the eastern margin of the Irish Sea Ice Stream
  • Deformation of glacially overridden permafrost in ancient glacial environments in collaboration with Dr Richard Waller (Keele University), Julian Murton (University of Sussex) and Dr Colin Whiteman (University of Brighton)
  • Glacitectonic history and depositional setting of the Mid Pleistocene (Anglian) glacigenic sequences of North Norfolk
  • Micromorphological analysis of diamictons in collaboration with Prof Jaap van der Meer (Queen Mary, University of London) and Dr Ewelina Lipka (AMU, Poznan)
  • Supervision of PhD student, Astrid Ruiter, in collaboration with Simon Carr Queen Mary University of London
  • The origin of stratified diamicton sequences in submarginal and subglacial ice sheet settings in collaboration with David Evans, David Roberts and Colm O‘Cofaigh, Durham University
  • 2015 – ongoing : Iceland’s drumlins — investigating the Earth’s most enigmatic glacial landform in collaboration with Dr Ívar Örn Benediktsson, Lund University, Sweden; Dr Anders Schomacker, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway; Prof Ólafur Ingólfsson, UNIS, Svalbard; Dr Mark Johnson, Gothenburg University, Sweden; Prof Neal R. Iverson,Iowa State University, USA
  • 2014 – ongoing : Structural evolution of Kviarjokull, SE Iceland in collaboration with Prof David Evans (Durham University)
  • 2013 –2018 : “Bølling-Allerød glacier dynamics in lower Borgarfjörður, western Iceland: multiple-scale and multi-proxy analysis of glaciotectonics” in collaboration with Dr Ívar Örn Benediktsson (Lund University, Sweden), Dr Ólafur Ingólfsson (University of Iceland, UNIS Svalbard), Dr Anders Schomacker (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim), Dr Hreggviður Norðdahl (University of Iceland) and Ms Þorbjörg Sigfúsdóttir (Lund, Sweden)


NERC Open Research Archive — Emrys Phillips


Key papers

  • 2019 : 1. Mellett, C L, Phillips, E, Lee, J R, Cotterill, C J, Tjelta, T I, James, L, and Duffy, C. 2019. Elsterian ice sheet retreat in the southern North Sea: antecedent controls on large-scale glacitectonics and subglacial bed conditions. Boreas.
  • 2019 : 2. Sigfusdottir, T, Phillips, E, and Benediktsson, I O. 2019. The role of pressurised water in large-scale glaciotectonic thrusting: Evidence from submarine, ice-marginal thrust-block moraines in Melasveit, W-Iceland. Quaternary Research.
  • 2019 : 3. Le Heron, D P, Hogan, K A, Phillips, E R, Huuse, M, Busfield, M E, and Graham, A G C. 2019. An introduction to glaciated margins: the sedimentary and geophysical archive. In D.P. Le Heron, K A, Hogan, E R, Phillips, M, Huuse, M E, and Busfield, A G C. (eds) Graham Glaciated margins: the sedimentary and geophysical archive” Geological Society, London, Special Publications. Vol. 475, 2019.
  • 2019 : Dell, R, Carr, R, Phillips, E, and Russell, A J. 2019. Response of glacier flow and structure to proglacial lake development and climate at Fjallsjökull, south-east Iceland. Journal of Glaciology. DOI: 10.1017/jog.2019.18.
  • 2019 : Sigfusdottir, T, Benediktsson, I O, and Phillips, E. 2018. Active retreat of a Late Weichselian marine-terminating glacier: an example from Melasveit, western Iceland. Boreas. DOI 10.1111/bor.12306.
  • 2018 : 1. Finlayson, A, Phillips, E, Benediktsson, Í Ö, Zoet, L K, Iverson, N R and Everest, J. 2018. Subglacial drumlins and englacial fractures at the surge-type glacier, Múlajökull, Iceland. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.
  • 2018 : 2. Phillips, E, Evans, D J A, van der Meer, J J M and Lee, J R. 2018. Microscale evidence of liquefaction and its potential triggers during soft-bed deformation within subglacial traction tills. Quaternary Science Reviews 181, 123-143.
  • 2018 : 3. Phillips, E, Spagnolo, M, Alasdair, C J, Pilmer, A C J, Rea, B R, Piotrowski, J A, Ely, J C and Carr, S. 2018. Progressive ductile shearing during till accretion within the deforming bed of a palaeo-ice stream. Quaternary Science Reviews 193, 1-23
  • 2017 : 3. Cotterill, C, Phillips, E, James, L, Forsberg, C-F and Tjelta, T I. 2017. How understanding past landscapes might inform present-day site investigations: a case study from Dogger Bank, southern central North Sea. Near Surface Geophysics, 15, 403-413.
  • 2017 : Phillips, E, Cotterill, C, Johnson, K, Crombie, K, James, L, Carr, S and Ruiter, A. 2017. Large-scale glacitectonic deformation in response to active ice sheet retreat across Dogger Bank (southern central North Sea) during the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 179, 24-47.
  • 2017 : Phillips, E, Evans, D J A, Atkinson, N and Kendall, A. 2017. Structural architecture and glacitectonic evolution of the Mud Buttes cupola hill complex, southern Alberta, Canada. Quaternary Science Reviews, 164, 110-139.
  • 2017 : Phillips, E, Everest, J, Evans, D J A, Finlayson, A, Ewertowski, M, Guild, A and Jones, L. 2017. Concentrated, “pulsed” axial glacier flow: structural glaciological evidence from Kvíárjökull in SE Iceland. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4145.
  • 2017 : Phillips, E, Hodgson, D M and Emery, A R. 2017. The Quaternary geology of the North Sea Basin. Journal of Quaternary Geology 32, 117-126. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2932.
  • 2016 : Gehrmann, A, Hüneke, H, Meschede, M and Phillips, E. 2016. 3D microstructural architecture of deformed glacigenic sediments associated with large-scale glacitectonism, Jasmund Peninsula (NE Rügen), Germany. Journal of Quaternary Science DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2843.
  • 2016 : Lee, J R, Phillips, E, Rose, J and Vaughan-Hirsch, D. 2016. The Middle Pleistocene glacial evolution of northern East Anglia, UK: a dynamic tectonostratigraphic–parasequence approach. Journal of Quaternary Science DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2838.
  • 2016 : Spagnolo, M, Phillips, E, Piotrowski, J A, Rea, B R, Clark, C D, Stokes, C R, Carr, S J, Ely, J C, Adriano Ribolini, A, Wysota, W and Izabela Szuman, I. 2016. Ice stream motion facilitated by a shallow-deforming and accreting bed. Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10723.
  • 2016 : Vaughan-Hirsch, D P and Phillips, E R. 2016. Mid-Pleistocene thin-skinned glaciotectonic thrusting of the Aberdeen Ground Formation, Central Graben region, central North Sea. Journal of Quaternary Science DOI: 10.1002/jqs.2836.
  • 2014 : Phillips, E and Hughes, L. 2014. Hydrofracturing in response to the development of an overpressurised subglacial meltwater system during drumlin formation: an example from Anglesey, NW Wales. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 125, 296–311.
  • 2014 : Phillips, E, Finlayson, A, Bradwell, T, Everest, J and Jones, J. 2014. Structural evolution triggers a dynamic reduction in active glacier length during rapid retreat: evidence from Falljökull, SE Iceland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.
  • 2013 : 4. Phillips, E R, Finlayson, A and Jones, L. 2013. Fracturing, block-faulting and moulin development associated with progressive collapse and retreat of a polar maritime glacier: Virkisjökull-Falljökull, SE Iceland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. 118, 1-17.
  • 2013 : Lee, J R and Phillips, E. 2013. Glacitectonics – a key to examining ice dynamics, substrate rheology and ice-bed coupling. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 124. 731-737.
  • 2013 : Lee, J R, Phillips, E, Booth, S J, Rose, J, Jordan, H M, Pawley, S M, Warren, M and Lawley, R S. 2013. A polyphase glacitectonic model for ice-marginal retreat and terminal moraine development: the Middle Pleistocene British Ice Sheet, northern Norfolk, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 124. 753-777.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E R, Finlayson, A and Jones, L. 2013. Fracturing, block-faulting and moulin development associated with progressive collapse and retreat of a polar maritime glacier: Virkisjökull-Falljökull, SE Iceland. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. 118, 1-17.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E R, Lipka, E and van der Meer, J J M. 2013. Micromorphological evidence of liquefaction and sediment deposition during basal sliding of glaciers. Quaternary Science Reviews 81, 114-137.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E R, Waters, C N and Ellison, R A. 2013. The Jurassic-Cretaceous depositional and tectonic evolution of the south-western margin of the Neotethys Ocean, Northern Oman and United Arab Emirates. In Al Hosani, K, Roure, F, Ellison, R A and Lokier, S (eds). Lithosphere Dynamics and Sedimentary Basins: The Arabian Plate and Analogues, Frontiers in Earth Sciences. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. pp 61-100.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E and Lee, J R. 2013. Development of a subglacial drainage system and its effect on glacitectonism within the Middle Pleistocene (Anglian) of North Norfolk. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 124. 855-875.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E, Everest, J and Reeves, H. 2013 (April). Micromorphological evidence for subglacial multiphase sedimentation and deformation during overpressurized fluid flow associated with hydrofracturing. Boreas, Vol. 42, pp. 395–427. 10.1111/j.1502-3885.2012.00261.x. ISSN 0300-9483.
  • 2013 : Phillips, E, Lee, J R, Riding, J B, Kendall, R and Hughes, L. 2013. Periglacial disruption and subsequent glacitectonic deformation of bedrock: an example from Anglesey, North Wales, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 124. 802-817.
  • 2011 : Lee, J R, Rose, J, Hamblin, R J O, Moorlock, B S P, Riding, J B, Phillips, E, Barendregt, R W and Candy, I. 2011. The Glacial History of the British Isles during the Early and Middle Pleistocene: Implications for the long-term development of the British Ice Sheet. In Ehlers, J, Gibbard, P L and Hughes, P D. (editors) Developments in Quaternary Science, 15, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Elsevier.
  • 2011 : Phillips, E, Lee, J R and Evans, H M. (eds). 2011. Glacitectonics – Field Guide. Quaternary Research Association.
  • 2011 : Phillips, E, van der Meer, J J M and Ferguson, A. 2011. A new ‘microstructural mapping’ methidology for the identification, analysis and interpretation of polyphse deformation within subglacial sediemnts. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 2570-2596.
  • 2011 : Waller, R, Phillips, E R, Murton, J, Lee, J R and Whiteman, C. 2011. Sand intraclasts as evidence of subglacial deformation of Middle Pleistocene permafrost, north Norfolk, UK. Quaternary Science Reviews.
  • 2010 : Phillips, E R, Everest, J and Diaz-Doce, D. 2010. Bedrock controls on subglacial landform distribution and geomorphological processes: Evidence from the Late Devensian Irish Sea Ice Stream. Sedimentary Geology. 232, 98-118.
  • 2009 : Burke, H F, Phillips, E R and Lee, J R. 2009. Imbricate thrust stack model for the formation of glaciotectonic rafts: an example from the Middle Pleistocene of north Norfolk, UK. Boreas.
  • 2009 : Phillips, E R, Smith, R A, Stone, P, Pashley, V and Horstwood, M. 2009. Zircon age constraints on the provenance of Llandovery to Wenlock sandstones from the Midland Valley terrane of the Scottish Caledonides. Scottish Journal of Geology.
  • 2009 : Stoker, M S, Golledge, N R, Phillips, E R, Wilkinson, I P and Akhurst, M C. 2009. Latest Glacial–Holocene shoreface progradation offshore Eastern Scotland: a response to climatic and coastal hydrographic change in the western North Sea. Boreas. 38, 292–314
  • 2008 : Golledge, N R and Phillips, E R. 2008. Sedimentology and architecture of De Geer moraines in the western Scottish Highlands, and implications for grounding-line glacier dynamics. Sedimentary Geology. Vol. 208. p 1-14.
  • 2008 : Phillips, E R and Auton, C A. 2008. Microtextual analysis of a glacially ‘deformed’ bedrock: implications for inheritance of preferred clast orientations in diamictons. Journal of Quaternary Science. Vol. 23(3). p 229-240.
  • 2008 : Phillips, E R and Merritt, J. 2008. Evidence for multiphase water-escape during rafting of shelly marine sediments at Clava, Inverness-shire, NE Scotland. Quaternary Science Reviews. Vol. 27. p 988–1011.
  • 2008 : Phillips, E R, Lee, J R and Burke, H F. 2008. Progressive proglacial to subglacial deformation and syntectonic sedimentation at the margins of the Mid-Pleistocene British ice sheet: evidence from north Norfolk, UK. Quaternary Science Reviews. 27, 1848–1871.
  • 2007 : Phillips, E R, Merrett, J W, Auton, C A and Golledge, N R. 2007. Microstructures developed in subglacially and proglacially deformed sediments: faults, folds and fabrics, and the influence of water on the style of deformation. Quaternary Science Reviews. Vol. 26(11–12). p 1499–1528.
  • 2006 : Evans, D J, Phillips, E R, Hiemstra, J F and Auton, C A. 2006. Subglacial till: formation, sedimentary characteristics and classification. Earth-Science Reviews. Vol. 78. p 115–176.
  • 2006 : Phillips, E R. 2006. Micromorphology of a debris flow deposit: evidence of basal shearing, hydrofracturing, liquefaction and rotational deformation during emplacement. Quaternary Science Reviews. Vol. 25(7-8). p 720-738.
  • 2003 : Phillips, E R, Evans, J A, Stone, P, Floyd, J D, Smith, R A, Akhurst, M C and Barron, H F. 2003. Detrital Avalonian zircons in the Laurentian Southern Uplands terrane, Scotland. Geology. Vol. 31(7). p 625-628.
  • 2002 : Phillips, E R, Evans, D J A and Auton, C A. 2002. Polyphase deformation at an oscillating ice margin following the Loch Lomond readvance, central Scotland, UK. Sedimentary Geology. Vol. 149(1-3). p 157-182.
  • 2001 : Smith, R A, Phillips, E R, Floyd, J D, Barron, H F and Pickett, E A. 2001. The Northern Belt 100 years on: a revised model of the Ordovician tracts near Leadhills, Scotland. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences. Vol. 91(3/4). p 421-434.
  • 2000 : Phillips, E R & Auton, C A. 2000. Micromorphological evidence for polyphase deformation of glaciolacustrine sediments from Strathspey, Scotland. In Maltman, A J, Hubbard, B and Hambrey, M J (eds.) Deformation of glacial materials. The Geological Society of London. Special Publication No. 176. p 279-291.


  • Igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary petrology
  • Mapping of lowland glaciated terranes
  • Mapping of polydeformed metamorphic and sedimentary terranes
  • Micromorphology and microstructural analysis of deformed glacial sediments
  • Structural analysis of proglacial to subglacial deformation



  • 2015 – ongoing:Honorary Professor, Department of Geography, Queen Mary University of London

Professional associations

  • Chartered Geologist and Fellow of the Geological Society of London
  • Fellow of the Edinburgh Geological Society
  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG
  • Member of the Quaternary Research Association
  • Member of the Westmorland Geological Society
  • Member of the Yorkshire Geological Society

Boards and committees

  • 2018 – ongoing : • Co-leader of Theme 1: Landscape Form, Use and Change: a Dynamic Earth, Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES)
  • 2016 – ongoing : Vice President of the Edinburgh Geological Society
  • 2012 – ongoing : Ordinary Member of the Quaternary Reseach Association Exec Committee
  • 2012 –2017 : President of the Westmorland Geological Society

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