My work focuses on interactions between physical, chemical, and biological processes on the Earth’s surface. The Earth’s surface is the interface of multiple Earth systems: the lithosphere, the biosphere, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere. I’m interested in how these spheres interact to shape the environment in which we live.
I have started working on understanding the role of microbes in the environment, how they could help reverse desertification and increase the resilience of dryland environments. This is sometimes referred to as “terraforming” Earth. I approach this aim using integrated fieldwork and digital analysis, including DNA sequencing, geospatial analysis, machine learning and high-performance computing.
I was first trained in geology and surface processes, and I have experience across disciplines such as ecology and archaeology.
Recently, I identified patterns of mountain erosion and landscape reorganisation caused by the geometry of rock strength properties. This has implications for understanding the dynamics of physical and chemical processes, and the evolution of species in the most active regions of the Earth’s surface.
I have also quantified the control of rock strength on the speed at which landscapes respond to active faulting. This allows us to calibrate numerical models aimed at decoding tectonic activity and earthquake risk from topography.
I am now working on modelling global carbon dioxide emissions from the erosion and weathering of organic-rich rock, which is a major component of the geological carbon cycle that has not been properly quantified yet. I am also contributing to modelling studies of human-environment interactions in South America.
Find out more about my research on my personal website.
I am now working on the ROC-CO2 project as a postdoctoral research associate.
I am the content editor for Geology for Global Development.
I am a divisional research staff representative on the Research Staff Hub, which is engaged in delivering the Concordat framework across the University.
In a series of articles about science, I delve into the future of geoscience applications in relation to the rise of globalisation and emerging technologies:
Millennial Scientists in a Segregating World – The Role of Science in Shaping Society
Are we ready to deal with high-impact, complex and uncertain science?
Geoscience as a tool in the twenty-first century
- Synthetic biology approaches against desertification
- Surface processes controlling mountain landscape evolution
- Properties of rock (e.g. lithology, rock strength, chemistry) in relation to surface processes
- Quaternary climate, the carbon cycle and its impact on human evolution and cultures
- Development and application of novel dating approaches
View Selected Publications
Zondervan J.R., Stokes M., Boulton S.J., Telfer M.W., Mather A.E. Rock strength and structural controls on fluvial erodibility: implications for drainage divide mobility in a collisional mountain belt. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2020. [link]
Zondervan J.R., Whittaker A.C., Bell R.E., Watkins S.E., Brooke S.A.S., Hann M.G. New constraints on bedrock erodibility and landscape response times upstream of an active fault. Geomorphology, 2020. [link]
Sales R., McMichael C., Flantua S., Hagemans K., Zondervan J.R., González-Arango C., Church W., Bush M. Head in the clouds: pre-Columbian human occupation of Andean forests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Zondervan J.R., Stokes M., Mather A.E., Telfer M.W., Boulton S.J., Buylaert J.P., Jain M., Murray A.S., Belfoul A. Constraining a punctuated river incision model for Quaternary strath terrace formation. Geology
View Extended Publications
Zondervan J.R., Stokes M., Mather A.E., Boulton S.J., Telfer M.W., Buylaert J.P., Jain M., Murray A.S., Belfoul A. Lithological controls on asynchronous strath terrace formation. In prep Earth & Planetary Science Letters.
Zondervan J.R., Hilton R.G, Dellinger M., Clubb F., Roylands T., Ogric M. Global rates and patterns of CO2 emissions from the oxidation of fossil organic carbon In prep Science.
Zondervan J.R., Stokes M., Mather A.E., Boulton S.J. Conglomerate recycling and lithological controls on buffering overrule signals of downstream gravel transport In prep Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.
2021 – Zondervan JR. Lithological and climatic controls on fluvial landscape evolution of a post-orogenic dryland mountain belt. PhD Thesis, University of Plymouth
2018 – Zondervan JR. Landscape response to active faulting, southern Gulf of Corinth, central Greece. MSci Thesis, Imperial College
2016 – Zondervan JR. Palynology of Lake George – A review of palynology, Lake George and regional & global Quaternary comparisons and the start of palynological analysis of a new Lake George core. The Australian National University
2016 – Zondervan JR, 2016. Preserved fossil coral heads as indicators of Holocene high sea level on One Tree Island. The Australian National University
2015 – Zondervan JR. Companion to The Geological Map of The Southern Barrême Basin. Imperial College
2019 – Zondervan JR. Geoscience as a tool in the twenty-first century. Impakter [link]
2018 – Zondervan JR. Dealing with risk – Are we ready to deal with high-impact, complex and uncertain science? Impakter [link]
2018 – Zondervan JR. Millennial Scientists in a Segregating World – The Role of Science in Shaping Society. Impakter [link]
2016 – Zondervan JR. Pollen – Collecting Tiny Pieces of Story. [link]
Zondervan JR (2020) corr_lum_dose_rate, Github [link]
Zondervan JR (2019) Knickretreat, Github [link]
2021 – Zondervan JR, Hilton GH, Dellinger M, Clubb F, Roylands T, Ogrič M. A global model of rock organic carbon weathering and CO2 emissions. AGU Fall Meeting
2021 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Telfer MW, Mather AE. Lithology, rock strength and discontinuity controls on fluvial erodibility. AGU Fall Meeting
2021 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Mather AE, Telfer MW, Boulton SJ, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A. Rates of uplift, incision and base-level fall: a punctuated model for strath terrace formation. Mid-European Geomorphology Meeting
2021 – Zondervan JR, Hilton GH, Dellinger M, Clubb F, Roylands T, Ogrič M. Eroding mountains: a global model of rock organic carbon weathering and CO2 emissions. Mid-European Geomorphology Meeting
2021 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Mather AE, Telfer MW, Boulton SJ, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A. A punctuated river incision model for Quaternary strath terrace formation. Fluvial Archives Group Meeting
2020 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Telfer MW, Boulton SJ, Mather AE, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A, Hann MG, Taleb N. Asynchronous strath terrace formation in a collisional mountain belt. AGU Fall Meeting
2020 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Telfer MW, Boulton SJ, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A, Mather AE, Taleb N, Hann MG. Eccentricity forcing of Saharan climate drives fluvial strath terrace formation in the High Atlas. EGU General Assembly
2019 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE, Telfer M, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A, Hann MG, Taleb N. Changes in mountain valley widening, river incision and sediment transport in North-West Africa during the last 180 ka of Saharan climate. AGU Fall Meeting
2019 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE, Telfer M, Buylaert JP, Jain M, Murray AS, Belfoul A, Hann MG, Taleb N. A North-West African river terrace record spanning 180 ka of Saharan Climate, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Earth Sciences Research Conference, University of Plymouth
2019 – Stokes M, Zondervan JR, Mather AE, Boulton SJ, Telfer MW & Belfoul A. Quaternary river terrace-climate relationships on the NW Sahara Desert margin ((Morocco). Congress of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)
2018 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW. Lithological controls on drainage divide dynamics. Earth Sciences Research Conference, University of Plymouth
2018 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Jain M, Buylaert J-P, Telfer MW & Murray AS. Chronology for mountainous river terraces: OSL/IRSL and rock dating techniques applied to carbonate-rich terraces in the Atlas Mountains. UK Luminescence and ESR Dating Meeting
2018 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW. Palaeo river long profile reconstruction in a fold-and-thrust belt: river terraces as archives of Quaternary incision and aggradation in the Atlas Mountains. Fluvial Archives Group Meeting
2018 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Boulton SJ, Mather AE & Telfer MW. Catchment changes in response to tectonics and climate: using river terraces and DEM data in the southern High Atlas Mountains (Morocco). Meeting of the Working Group on Sediment Generation
2018 – Zondervan JR. Geoscience in a rapidly changing world: what could go wrong? Geologists’ Association Student Symposium
2017 – Zondervan JR, Whittaker AC, Bell RE, Watkins SE & Brooke SAS. Active normal faults and coupled landscape response: bedrock variability in the southern Gulf of Corinth, central Greece. BSRG Annual General Meeting
2017 – Zondervan JR, Stokes M, Mather AE & Boulton SJ. Fluvial archives of NW African climate and tectonic evolution, Atlas Mountains, central Morocco. Earth Sciences Research Conference, University of Plymouth
2017 – Whittaker A, Boulton S, Kent E, Zondervan J, Hann M, Watkins S, Bell R & Brooke S. Evaluating the competing effects of lithology and sediment supply on the erosional dynamics of rivers crossing active faults. EGU General Assembly