Nick Clifford

Professor Nicholas Clifford

MA, PhD (Cantab)

  • Professor of Geography

Nick graduated with first class honours and the Philip Lake Prize for physical geography from the University of Cambridge and went on to complete both a PGCE (with distinction) and a PhD there in 1990.

Over the last decade, he has focused on deploying his wide academic experience in leadership and management roles, with a focus on performance, strategic investment and transition.

He is an alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he gained Executive Core Qualifications in Leading Change and Leading People, and between 2010-2016, he served as both Head of Department of Geography and Acting Director of the School of Global Affairs at King’s College London.

Academic Career

Professor of Geography and Dean, Social, Political and Geographical Sciences, University of Loughborough

Previous positions

  • Lecturer in Physical Geography, Portsmouth Polytechnic (1988-89)
  • Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Portsmouth Polytechnic (1989-91)
  • Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Hull (1991-1995)
  • Occasional Visiting Lecturer, University of Cambridge (1992 and 2007)
  • Lecturer in Physical Geography, Department of Geography, University College London (1995-2000)
  • Reader in Physical Geography, University of Nottingham (2001-2002)
  • Professor of River Science, University of Nottingham (2003 - 2010)
  • Professor of Physical Geography, King’s College London (2010 – 2016)

Professional Responsibilities

  • Managing Editor until 2019 of a leading physical geography journal, Progress in Physical Geography.
  • Director, UK River Restoration Centre (2013 – 2017).
  • 2006-10 Deputy International Programme Director for the Universitas 21 research initiative, Water Futures for Sustainable Cities.
  • 2011 – 15 King’s Scientific Committee Representative for iCUBE (international Consortium for Biodiversity and Ecology.
  • Nick has worked internationally for NERC in the UK and India; as one of two UK representatives to the Belmont Forum G8 Research Councils in the UK and Washington and most recently, on two rounds of the British Council Global Innovation Initiative.

Nick has three principal research interests:

  • River processes and management
  • Sustainable use of natural systems (especially water)
  • Geographical and environmental methods, techniques and philosophy

Within these, emphasis is focused on developing simulation modelling and field protocols for improved habitat design in managed rivers; promoting improved water resource evaluation and participant resource evaluation for water resources; and fostering multi-disciplinary fluvial science.

Nick is an editor of two leading undergraduate texts:

Over a period of about 20 years, a considerable stock of teaching experience and expertise has been built, reflecting early interest (and a PGCE) in geographical education. This experience can briefly be summarised and characterised under the following themes and headings:

a strong exposure to the development and delivery of techniques-based modules, particularly statistics and numerical methods, with examples drawn from the fields of environmental monitoring and modelling (e.g. exploratory data analysis, regression methods, time series, serial decomposition techniques); design and delivery of laboratory practicals, principally concerned with flow and sediment dynamics, and principles of physical sedimentology; formalisation of the principles of research design (e.g. intensive and extensive approaches; structuring experiments)

foundational knowledge for Physical Geography and Earth Systems Science, exploring opportunities posed by greater scientific integration across the environmental sciences;  from new forms of environmental monitoring and modelling; and from changing public and policy-related paradigms, particularly ‘sustainability science’ and ‘citizen science’

basic geomorphology in addition to fluvial geomorphology – principally dealing with concepts in geomorphology encompassing time scales of change; rates and mechanisms of process; models of landscape evolution; hydrology and slope processes; and introductory hydrodynamics

river channel management and restoration - introducing all major strands of river science relating to form and process in river channels, and placing this substantive scientific knowledge into the context of the wider field of river management and the competing paradigms of management (engineering, geomorphological, ecological and social). 

critical thinking in the analysis of the history, production, development and future deployment of geographical and geomorphological knowledge, introducing and discussing major 19th and 20th century drivers and approaches to the subjects, and looking ahead to challenges and changes in the context of globalisation, and the rise of less formal forms of knowledge production and exchange. 

Publications since 2010


  • Clifford, N. J., Harvey, G., Gurnell, A. M., Harmar, O. P. and Soar, P. J. Numerical modeling of river flow for eco-hydraulic applications: some experiences with velocity characterization in field and simulated data. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 136: 1033-1041.
  • Bradley, C., Clay, A., Clifford, N. J., Gurnell, A. M. and Emery, J. Variations in saturated and unsaturated water movement through an upland floodplain wetland, mid-Wales. Journal of Hydrology 393: 349-361.
  • Harvey, G. L. and Clifford, N. J. Experimental field assessment of suspended sediment pathways for characterising hydraulic habitat. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35: 600-610. [REF reserve output]


  • Clifford, N. J. Rivers and drainage basins. In Agnew, J. and Livingstone, D. (eds.), Handbook of Geographical Knowledge. London, SAGE: 502-527.
  • Harvey, G.L., Moorhouse, T.P., Clifford, N.J., Henshaw, A.J., Johnson, M.F., Macdonald, D.W., Reid, I., and Rice, S.P. 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: 517-53
  • Abrahart, R. J., Mount, N., Ab Ghani, N., Clifford, N. J. and Dawson, C. W. DAMP: A protocol for contextualising goodness-of-fit statistics in sediment-discharge data-driven modellingJournal of Hydrology 409: 596-611.
  • Parker, C., Clifford, N. and Thorne, C. Automatic delineation of functional river reach boundaries for river research and applications. River Research and Applications 28: 1708-1725.
  • Parker, C., Clifford, N. and Thorne, C. Understanding the influence of slope on the threshold of coarse grain motion: Revisiting critical stream power. Geomorphology126: 51-65.
  • Richards, K. S. and Clifford, N. J. The Nature of Explanation in Geomorphology. In Gregory, K. and Goudie, A. (eds.), The Handbook of Geomorphology. London, SAGE: 35-59.


  • Book: Clifford, N. J., French, S. and Valentine, G. (eds.) Key methods in Geography. London, SAGE: 2nd edn.
  • Clifford, N. J. River Restoration: Widening Perspectives. In Church, M., Biron P. and Roy, A. G. (eds.), Gravel Bed Rivers: Processes, Tools, Environments. Wiley-Blackwell: 150-159.



  • Harvey, G. L., Henshaw, A, J., Moorhouse, T. P., Clifford, N. J., Holah, H., Grey, J. and Macdonald, D. Invasive crayfish as drivers of fine sediment dynamics in rivers: field and laboratory evidenceEarth Surface Processes and Landforms 39: 259-271.
  • Smith. B., Clifford N. J. and Mant, J. Analysis of UK River Restoration Using Broad-Scale Datasets. Water and Environment Journal 28: 490-501.
  • Smith. B., Clifford N. J. and Mant, J. The changing nature of river restoration. WIRES Water 1: 249-61.


  • Mulligan, M. and Clifford, N. J. Is managing ecosystem services necessary and sufficient to ensure sustainable development? In: Redclift, M. and Springett, D. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Sustainable Development. Taylor and Francis Inc. 179-195.
  • Parker, C., Thorne, C. R., and Clifford, N. J. Development of ST:REAM: a reach-based stream power balance approach for predicting alluvial river channel adjustment. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 40: 403-413.


  • Clifford, N. J. Geography’s identity as an academic discipline. In: Jones, M. and Lambert, D. (eds.) Debates in Geography Education. Routledge
  • Clifford, N. J. and Standish, A. Preparing to teach: Physical Geography. Handbook of Secondary Geography. Sheffield: GA.
  • Wilby, R. L., Clifford, N. J. et al. The ‘dirty dozen’ of freshwater science: detecting then reconciling hydrological data biases and errors. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Water. DOI 10.1002/wat2.1209.

Accepted in press

  • Gallagher, C., Balme, M. and Clifford, N. J. Discriminating between the roles of Late Pleistocene palaeodischarge and geological-topographic inheritance in fluvial longitudinal profile and channel development. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI 10.1002/esp.4261.