Dr Joseph Cook

Joseph Cook 150x200

Position: Lecturer in Physical Geography

College: College of Life & Natural Sciences

Department: Life Sciences

Subject area: Geoscience

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Observing a supraglacial stream on the Greenland ice sheet

I am a lecturer in geoscience, with specific expertise in the fields of glacier ecology, glaciology and geomorphology. I am especially interested in the interactions between the living and non-living entities on Earth's surface, especially on glaciers where microbial life influences the melt patterns of huge masses of ice. In turn, ice provides a remarkable habitat for a wide range of microbes that are still poorly understood.

I divide my time between teaching undergraduates and postgraduates in topics across the geosciences and engaging with independent research, primarily in the field of glacier ecology. This includes writing grant applications, planning field experiments, considering field work logistics, undertaking laboratory work, analysing data and preparing manuscripts for publication.

I am also involved with outreach and public engagement, including giving open lectures, writing articles for wide audiences, documentary film making and updating my polar-research website.

My recent BUFVC Award-winning short film about microbial life on the Greenland Ice Sheet is available here.‌

Teaching responsibilities

I am module leader for:

  • Geomorphology
  • Terrain Evaluation.

and teach on the following modules:

  • Physical Geography of the Human Realm
  • Earth Surface Processes and Environments
  • Key Skills for Physical and Social Sciences
  • Geomorphology
  • Geographical Methods
  • Research Methods in physical and Social Sciences
  • Terrain Evaluation
  • Mediterranean Environments
  • Research Methods in Physical and Social Sciences
  • Fundamental Skills for Geoscientists
  • Independent Study.

I also supervise independent studies, act as personal tutor for first, second and third year undergraduates and offer projects for the Biosciences MRes course.

Research interests

My research has been focused upon biotic-abiotic interactions on glacier and ice sheet surfaces. Recently, I have examined how microbes shape ice surfaces to form stable habitats where they can thrive in the otherwise hostile glacial environment. There are more cells in the top two metres of the earth's ice than in the top two-hundred metres of the earth's oceans, making glaciers and ice sheets crucial components of the global biosphere that remains weakly understood.

Field camp on the Greenland Ice Sheet, July 2014

Membership of professional bodies

Fellow of the Higher Education Authority

Member of the International Glaciological Society

Member of the British Society for Geomorphology

Member of the Arctic Club

Member of the Geographical Association


  • BSc Physical Geography, University of Sheffield
  • PhD on Microbially mediated carbon fluxes on the surfaces of glaciers...
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education

Recent publications

  • Cook, J.M. 2012. Microbially mediated carbon fluxes in the supraglacial environment. PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, submitted March 2012
  • Cook, J.M., Hodson, A.J., Anesio, A.M., Hanna, E., Yallop, M., Stibal, M., Telling, J., Huybrechts, P. 2012. An improved estimate of microbially mediated carbon fluxes from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Journal of Glaciology, 58 (212)
  • Telling, J., Stibal, M., Anesio, A.M., Tranter, M.L., Nias, I., Cook, J., Lis, G., Wadham, J.L., Sole, A., Nienow, P., Hodson, A.J. 2012. Microbial nitrogen cycling on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Biogeosciences, 9, 2431-2442
  • Yallop, M.L., Anesio, A.M., Perkins, R.G., Cook, J., Telling, J., Fagan, D., MacFarlane, J., Stibal, M., Barker, G., Bellas, C., Hodson, A., Tranter, M., Wadham, J., Roberts, N.W. 2012. Survival strategies of Cryofloral Specialists on the Greenland Ice Sheet: Composition and Photophysiology. ISME Journal, 6 (12)
  • Stibal, M, Telling, J, Cook, J., Mak, K. M., Hodson, A. & Anesio, AM. 2012. Environmental controls on microbial abundance and activity on the Greenland ice sheet: a multivariate approach. Microbial Ecology, 63: 74-84.
  • Cook, J.; Hodson, A.; Telling, J.; Anesio, A.; Irvine-Fynn, T.; Bellas, C. 2010. The mass-area relationship within cryoconite holes and its implications for primary production. Annals of Glaciology, 51 (56): 106-110.
  • Carpentier, A., Martin, C.S., Vaz, S., (Eds) 2009. Channel Habitat Atlas for marine resource management, final report (CHARM II). INTERREG 3a programme, IFREMER, Boulogne-sur-mer, France. 626pp and CD-Rom. (co-author on Chapter 4: "Fish and Cephalopods")

Additional interests and activities

In addition to my academic interests I am a very keen rock climber, having recently made ascents of '8c' grade sport climbs as well as big-wall and alpine style ascents worldwide. I also enjoy surfing and running.

In the media

I have engaged with various media during my career, including presenting material for film and television, providing copy for print and online articles including New Scientist, fact checking and providing expert advice for various projects.

My recent media work has included the production of a short documentary about my research which was nominated for the British Film and Video Council Award 2015. This can be viewed here.

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