Geography Website Header Montage of departmental staff conducting teaching and research

Our Staff

Our Staff Arrow Academic Staff

portrait photoProfessor Stephen Rice

B.A. (Oxford), M.Sc., Ph.D (University of British Columbia)

Professor of River Science


Tel : +44 (0)1509 222748
Fax: +44 (0)1509 223930


Room NN.1.08, Martin Hall building, East Park


Research Interests

I am a fluvial geomorphologist and sedimentologist with established research interests in lotic ecology. My research combines field data collection, laboratory-based experimentation and numerical modelling at scales that range from the fluvial network to individual textural patches. There are two primary themes:

  • The physical processes at work in gravel-bed rivers and the sediments and landforms that they produce;

  • The role of fluvial processes in the provision, maintenance and functioning of freshwater ecosystems.

In addition to my work in the fluvial arena (sedimentary links, punctuated downstream fining, tributary significance and modelling) and on sediment sampling problems (automated photographic methods, hybrid subsurface sampling, bootstrap sampling criteria), I have developed innovative work at the interface of geomorphology and ecology (hydrodynamics of the benthiscape, the Link Discontinuity Concept, geomorphological habitat genesis).


Recent publications


Toone JA, Rice SP and Piegay H. (2012) “Spatial discontinuity and temporal evolution of channel morphology along a mixed bedrock-alluvial river: contingent responses to external and internal controls”, Geomorphology. DOI:10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.05.033 (Accepted Article)

Graham DJ, Rollet AJ, Rice SP, Piegay H. (2012) “Conversions of surface grain-size samples collected and recorded using different procedures” Journal of Hydraulic Engineering. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0000595 (Preview Manuscript)

Rice SP, Johnson MF and Reid I. (2012) “Animals and the Geomorphology of Gravel-bed Rivers” in Church M, Biron P and Roy AG (Eds), Gravel-bed rivers: processes, tools, environments, 225-241. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester [ISBN 978-0-470-68890-8]

Johnson MF, Rice SP and Reid I. (2011) “Increase in coarse sediment transport associated with disturbance of gravel river beds by signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)”, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 36, 1680-1692. DOI: 10.1002/esp.2192

Toone JA, Wilby RL and Rice SP. (2011) “Surface water temperature variations and river corridor properties”, in Peters NE, Krysanova V, Lepisto A, Prasad R, Thoms M, Wilby R and Zandaryaa S (Eds) Water quality: Current trends and expected climate change. IAHS Publication 348, pp.129-134.


Harvey GL, Moorhouse TP, Clifford NJ, Henshaw AJ, Johnson MF, Macdonald DW, Reid I and Rice SP. (2011) “Evaluating the role of invasive aquatic species as drivers of fine sediment-related river management problems: the case of the signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)”, Progress in Physical Geography 35, 517-533.


Rice SP and Church M. (2010) “Grain-size sorting within river bars in relation to downstream fining along a wandering channel”, Sedimentology 57, 232-251.


Johnson MF, Rice SP and Reid I. (2010) “Topographic disturbance of subaqeous gravel substrates by signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)” Geomorphology 123, 269-278.


Rice SP, Little S, Wood PJ, Moir HJ and Vericat D. (2010) “The relative contributions of ecology and hydraulics to ecohydraulics” River Research and Applications 26, 363-366.


Oldmeadow DF, Lancaster J and Rice SP. (2010) “Drift and settlement of stream insects in a complex hydraulic environment”, Freshwater Biology 55, 1020-1035.


Graham DJ, Rollet A-J, Piegay H, Rice SP. (2010) “Maximising the accuracy of image-based surface sediment sampling techniques”, Water Resources Research 46, W02508, doi:10.1029/2008WR006940.


Rice SP, Lancaster J and Kemp P. (2010) “Experimentation at the interface of fluvial geomorphology, stream ecology and hydraulic engineering and the development of an effective, interdisciplinary river science”, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35, 64-77.


Reid I, Graham D, Laronne JB, and Rice, SP. (2010) Essential Ancillary Data Requirements for the Validation of Surrogate Measurements of Bedload: Non-Invasive Bed material Grain Size and Definitive Measurements of Bedload Flux, in Gray JR, Laronne JB, and Marr JDG, Bedload-surrogate monitoring technologies: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5091, p. 387-399, available online at


Rice SP, Church M, Wooldridge CL and Hickin, EJ. (2009) “Morphology and evolution of bars in a wandering gravel-bed river; lower Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada”, Sedimentology 56, 709-736.


Church M and Rice SP. (2009) “Form and growth of bars in a wandering gravel-bed river”, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34, 1422–1432.


Johnson MF, Reid I, Rice SP and Wood, PJ. (2009) “The influence of net-spinning caddisfly larvae on the incipient motion of fine gravels: an experimental field and laboratory flume investigation”, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34, 413-423.


Rice SP and Macklin MG (2008) Geomorphology and Earth System Science: A reflection”, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 33, 2118-2120.

Rice SP, Roy A and Rhoads BL (Eds). (2008) River Confluences, Tributaries and the Fluvial Network. John Wiley & Sons.

Rice SP, Buffin-Bélanger T, Lancaster J and Reid I. (2008) “Movements of a macroinvertebrate (Potamophylax latipennis) across a gravel-bed substrate: effects of local hydraulics and micro-topography under increasing discharge”, in Habersack H, Piegay H and Rinaldi M (Eds), Gravel-bed rivers VI: From Process Understanding to River Restoration, Elsevier B.V. 637-660.


Recent Funding


NERC (2010-2013) “The development of structure in coarse-grained river bed sediments”, with Prof. Ian Reid (Loughborough), Dr Mark Powell (Leicester), Dr Nick Tate (Leicester), Dr Joe Wood (City), Dr Annie Ockleford (Loughborough) and Dr Theo Nguyen (Leicester).


European Commission (2011-2015) “Hydralab IV: More than water; dealing with the complex interaction of water with environmental elements, sediment, structures and ice”, partner amongst 22 European institutions, with Dr Matthew Johnson at Loughborough


Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (2011) “Peer Review – Biological Responses to Geomorphological Pressures in Rivers”


National Trust/Natural England (2010) “Upper Dove condition assessments”, with Dr Julia Toone (Loughborough)


Natural England (2010) “Fluvial Audit of the Upper Dove”, with Dr Julia Toone (Loughborough).


Other funding since 2000 includes two standard NERC grants, one small NERC grant, one NERC facilities grant, one Leverhulme Trust research grant and a Gatsby Foundation innovation fellowship with collaborators including Ian Reid, Tom Buffin-Belanger, David Graham, Jill Lancaster, Rob Ferguson, Trevor Hoey and Mike Church.


Current projects




Impact of freshwater fauna on grain structures and sediment transport in gravel-bed rivers


This work is ongoing and mainly has been carried out with Matthew Johnson and Andrew Pledger. To date we have examined the role of net-spinning caddis fly larvae (hydropsychidae) in stabilising fine-grained sediment patches and the role of signal crayfish in destabilising gravelly sediments.  Andy is currently using a large outdoor flume to examine the impact of barbel on gravel transport. Matt is Post-doc RA on an EC-funded grant to develop protocols for incorporating ecological elements in physical hydraulic modelling.


Structural development of coarse-grained fluvial sediments


This NERC-funded work is based in Loughborough, Leicester and City Universities. Dr Annie Ockleford is the RA working on a series of flume experiments at Loughborough to examine how sediment grade, sediment supply characteristics and hydrograph shape affect the development of surface structures in gravel-bed rivers. The work incorporates unusual laser scanning technologies to capture 3d surface DEMs and colleagues from Leicester and City are developing novel elevation modelling and pattern recognition algorithms to establish sensitive, quantitative measures of structural development.


Fluvial geomorphology and controls on water temperature variations in the Dove Catchment, UK


The funded part of this research (a Fluvial Audit of the upper Dove catchment as part of DEFRAs Catchment Sensitive Farming Initiative) is complete. With RA Dr Julia Toone and Prof. Rob Wilby, we are continuing to work on sediment characteristics, suspended sediment mobility and the catchment-scale controls on water temperature variations along the Rivers Dove and Manifold. We are currently monitoring water and air temperatures at approximately 100 sites along the two rivers.


Sedimentology, ecology and geomorphology of compound gravel bars, Fraser River, B.C. (Royal Society, NSERC)

The genesis and development of compound bars in gravel-bed rivers is of significant sedimentological interest. The bars under examination here are additionally important because they are the local expression of anthropogenically accelerated paraglacial aggradation, with implications for the provision of salmonid habitat and flood hazard management on a river of global ecological significance.

Hydrodynamics and macroinvertebrate use of river-bed sediment patches

Experimental investigation of the relations between the texture of sediment patches, benthic hydraulic habitat and the provision of refugia for macroinvertebrates during disturbances.

Modelling the impacts of sediment inputs and their ecological implications along gravel-bed rivers

Many river attributes are disrupted at tributary junctions and other lateral sediment sources (e.g. landslides) but our ability to predict those impacts is, at best, rudimentary. This project has developed and is testing 1-D sediment routing models that will, for the first time, provide quantitative predictions of how lateral sediment sources affect recipient channels. Two papers have been published and two papers are in preparation.

Recent PhD completions

  • Natasha R. Todd-Burley (2007) An experimental study of the transport pathways of individual bedload clasts over a gravel-bed substrate

  • John R. Dudley (2007) Channel form, flow and sediment transport in a step-pool stream

  • Julia A. Toone (2009) Ecological implications of geomorphological discontinuities in a mixed bedrock-alluvial channel, River Drôme, France

  • Matthew F. Johnson(2010) The disturbance of fluvial substrates by signal crayfish and implications for course sediment transport in gravel bed rivers


Current PhD students

  • Andrew Pledger Impact of barbel on sedimentary sructures and sediment transport in gravel bed rivers


Undergraduate Teaching (C: convener)

  • GYA106 Tutorials

  • GYA001/101 Physical Geography

  • GYA008 Global Environmental Change at Local Scale (C)

  • GYB230 Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

  • GYC300 River Dynamics and the Environment (C)

  • GYC401 Independent Geographical Essay

  • GYC500 Dissertation

  • GYC903 Alpine Studies Fieldcourse (C)


Postgraduate Teaching

  • GYP037 Professional Practice in Environmental Management (C)

  • GYP021 Tools for River Management (C)

  • Dept coordinator for Midlands Consortium of Postgraduate Training in Physical Geography


Departmental Administration

  • Resources Officer


Key External Responsibilities


Digital solutions for environmental granulometry

Along with Dr David Graham and Prof. Ian Reid I am available to consult on sediment sampling techniques and strategies. More information about our software for determining grain size distributions from photographs (the Digital Gravelometer) is available at the Sedimetrics web site. Income from Sedimetrics is used to support my research.

University Homepage