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Dr Mary Bourke

Dr Mary Bourke

BA.MA. (UCD), Ph.D. Australian National University

Tel: + 353 1 896 1888
Postal Address:
Department of Geography
Museum Building
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2

Research Area

I am a geomorphologist. My research interests lie in the area of extremes. My goal is to better understand geomorphic processes in extreme environments (deserts on Earth and on Mars) and during extreme events (floods, mass wasting). I currently have several NASA funded projects which are outlined below.

Rock breakdown in extreme environments

There remain two gaps in our scientific understanding of individual rock breakdown processes. First, despite the common use of form as a proxy for process on Earth and on other planetary surfaces process-form links still require clarification to identify unique signatures (feature uniqueness). Second, there is a need to continue to investigate the combined effects of processes operating on a rock surface over time (feature persistence). This work is undertaken in collaboration with Professor Viles at the Oxford Rock Breakdown Laboratory . There are opportunities to undertake graduate and undergraduate research projects associated with this research theme.

The role of volatiles (ice and water) in aeolian dune systems

Aeolian dunes on Mars may contain significant volatile reservoirs of ice, snow, or chemically bound hydrogen. Understanding the origin, age and process dynamics of these deposits is important for determining volatile reservoir location, magnitude and stability on Mars. This project uses field data from Earth analogues (Antarctica, Wyoming, Namibia and Arizona) to determine the cycling and sequestration of volatiles in aeolian dune systems. There are opportunities to undertake graduate and undergraduate research projects associated with this research theme.

Geomorphic signatures of paleofloods

Flooding from storms, hurricanes and cyclones is a natural and sometimes catastrophic environmental hazard. Climatic models predict an increase in the size and frequency of floods in many regions around the world. However, the climate data are mostly derived from short instrumental records. These records are often too short to include the infrequently occurring extreme events that cause such devastation. There are a suite of geomorphological signatures that preserve evidence of catastrophic floods beyond the instrumental record. A paleoflood record can be derived by applying geomorphological techniques to map flood deposits and state of the art geochronological tool to estimate the timing of events. This will enable a better understanding of the nature of past climate variability, the timing of extreme floods and their effect on the landscape. There are opportunities to undertake graduate and undergraduate research projects associated with this research theme.

Research Opportunities

I have the following graduate research opportunities. Click here for available projects


Conference Presentations


Junior Freshman:

  • Natural Hazards (GG1022)
  • Geomorphology (GG1021)

Senior Freshman:

  • Arid zone geomorphology (GG2024)


  • Deserts of our Solar System (GG3053)
  • Field course in geomorphology (GG3025)
  • Dissertation supervision in Earth and Planetary Geomorphology (GG4030)

Masters in Environmental Science:

  • Dissertation supervision

College and Scientific Service:

Associate Editor for Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf)

Associate Editor for Aeolian Research

Editorial Advisory Board for Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

Coordinator of the International Association of Geomorphology working group on Planetary Geomorphology.

President of the Irish Geomorphology Group (IGGy)


School of Natural Science INTEGER Committee

School of Natural Science Philanthropy Committee

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