Undergraduate projects

The Cairngorms offer many opportunities for excellent research projects. Here are some possible projects.


The deglaciation story of the Cairngorms is only starting to be unravelled. There has been recent and welcome attention to Glean Einich, Gleann Geusachan and the Northern Corries and Christina Bell worked on Strath Nethy in 2003. Many other locations have excellent landform assemblages and a reasonable degree of exposure. My top three locations would be:

  • Braes of Abernethy: ice contact forms, meltwater channels and section

  • Allt Bheadhair: ice marginal forms and ponded and ice-deformed sediments

  • Slochd Mr: unzipping of Strathspey and northern Cairngorm ice?


Several valleys and spurs in and around the Cairngorms show very large granite blocks. What are the sources of these erratics? What happens  to the size and shape of the blocks during transport? Do the blocks have a consistent fabric?

Flooding on the Spey at Aviemore

There is anecdotal evidence of very high water levels at Aviemore, levels that would certainly threaten recent developments on some of the lower terraces. What is the historical and geomorphological evidence of flood magnitude and frequency?

Meltwater channels on the northern flanks of the Cairngorms

A comparison of the form and post-formational modification on channels cut in granite and schist and of varying origins. Is there any evidence that some channels predate the last ice sheet?

Nivation the role of wash

Beinn Bhrotain carries a nivation hollow that shows a dissected debris apron with humic layers. Is this wash and can we quantify the rate of accumulation? Probably snow-covered until early August but recent warming means that this and other sites, like Ciste Mhearaidh, are now exposed for study in the late summer.

Regolith characteristics

Why do we have blocky regolith in one location and sandy regolith in another? Is there evidence of the processes of chemical and physical weathering? How old is the regolith? The regolith is locally enriched in quartz - why is this?

Wind just how important is it in moving debris from the plateau?

We know that wind speeds are high; we see and feel grit blown around but where does it go to? Small areas of sand deposition occur on lee slopes but most must end up in valleys. Do lochans or the peat bogs of the Moine Mhor carry a record of aeolian deposition?

Relative age dating of rock surfaces using the Schmidt Hammer

Recent cosmogenic exposure ages demonstrate that granite surfaces have been first revealed in the Cairngorms over timescales of 0-600 ka. There are qualitative differences in the hardness of these surfaces - would a proper survey show that hardness related to the duration of weathering of the granite?

Sequential development of weathering pits

There are hundreds of weathering pits in the Cairngorms. What processes are responsible for opening these? Can a space-time transformation be used to investigate the sequential development of weathering pits from shallow saucers to deep tubs?