Contact Dr Robert Grabowski

Areas of expertise

  • Natural Capital
  • Sustainable Land Systems
  • Water Science and Engineering


Dr Robert (Bob) Grabowski is an interdisciplinary scientist specialising in the interactions between physical processes, ecological communities and humans within river-floodplain systems. Bob leads a variety of pure and applied research projects in fluvial geomorphology, aquatic ecology, and integrated land and water management.

A core area of his research is fine sediment erosion and transport. He uses a broad range of tools and approaches to quantify erosion from land surfaces, transport fluxes and dynamics through river networks, and ecological impacts in rivers and floodplains, including remote sensing data, field surveys and monitoring, laboratory experiments, and hydrological and hydraulic modelling. This work includes fundamental research on cohesion to develop transferable predictive models of erosion thresholds and rates for cohesive sediment (EPSRC).

More recently, Bob has begun to link geomorphology processes in river/floodplains with social and economic issues to support the attainment of sustainable development goals (NERC) and the development of new participatory models of governance (AHRC).

Bob received a BSc in Biology (Illinois Wesleyan University), an MSc in Marine Biology (University of Maine – Orono), and a PhD in Physical Geography (Queen Mary, University of London). He was a Research Fellow on the EU-funded project REFORM (Restoring rivers FOR effective catchment Management). He joined Cranfield as Lecturer in Catchment Science in 2014, and has since contributed actively to teaching in the Water MSc programme (course director, module convenors, lecturing) and research through funding from UKRI (NERC, EPSRC, & AHRC), European Commission, government agencies, and industry. For more details, see the Current Activities section.

Research opportunities

For funded research opportunities, please see the University's current listing ( Self-funded students or those with funding from their home country are invited to contact Bob to discuss their PhD or MRes research plans

The Water Science Institute welcomes visiting students and academics. If you are interested in a short internship or secondment and have funding to cover your travel and living expenses, please get in touch by email.

Current activities

Bob and researchers in his group are working on a range of topics in fluvial geomorphology, aquatic ecology and catchment science. 

Current and recent projects include:

Defragmenting the fragmented urban landscape (DEFRAG) (Natural Environment Research Council - UKRI, NE/W003031/1, 2021-2025, Co-Investigator)

The future of Rights of Nature: an interdisciplinary scoping analysis (Arts and Humanities Research Council - UKRI, AH/V00574X/1, 2020-2021, Co-Investigator)

Improved prediction of cohesive sediment erosion based on inter-particle forces (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - UKRI, EP/T001100/1, 2020-2022, Primary Investigator)

Social, economic and environmental trade-offs in managing the land-river-interface (Natural Environment Research Council - UKRI, NE/S01232X/1, 2019 - 2022, Primary Investigator)

HypoTRAIN: Hyporheic Zone Processes – A training network for enhancing the understanding of complex physical, chemical and biological process interactions (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, European Commission, 2015-2018, Institutional Lead)

Current research students

Lisa Donovan - Improving the functionality and accuracy of a Soil Erosion and Sediment Delivery Decision Support Tool (SESD-DST) and application to priority surface water catchments in England (PhD, 2023 - 2026)

Jae hun Shin - Impacts of climate change of suspended sediment dynamics in rivers (PhD, 2020 - 2023)

Ben Exton - Transport, fate and aquatic ecological impact of airport de-icers (PhD, Heathrow Airport,  CENTA2 DTP, NERC, 2019-2023)

Previous research students

Dr Katy Wiltshire - Tracing the origin of sediments and carbon across the terrestrial-aquatic continuum (PhD, STARS CDT, NERC/BBSRC, 2018-2022). First position: Research Associate, Cranfield University.

Dr Selena Zang - Hydrological and contaminant transport modelling of permeable paving sustainable urban drainage systems (PhD, 2017-2021). First position: Civil Engineer, Arup.

Dr Emily Dowdeswell - Feedback mechanisms on soil susceptibility to erosion processes in a changing climate (PhD, STARS CDT, NERC/BBSRC, 2016-2020). First position: Policy Advisor at the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Dr Charles Mazivanhanga - Near real-time correction of flood forecasting using high-resolution satellite data for multi-hazard risk assessment in lowland tropical regions (PhD, DREAM CDT, NERC/ESRC, 2016 – 2019)

Dr Mickaël Dubois - Eco-hydromorphology applied to fish communities of chalk stream and management perspectives (PhD, Affinity Water and Environment Agency, 2016-2019)

Dr Chiara Magliozzi - Hydroecological investigations on the hyporheic zone to support river management from reaches to catchments (PhD, Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN, 2015-2018). First position: National Research Council of Italy CNR-Pisa

Dr Kim Vercruysse - Processes controlling the sources and transport dynamics of suspended sediment in rivers (PhD, Arup and Leeds City Council, 2014-2017). First position: Postdoctoral researcher, University of Leeds


  • Affinity Water
  • Anglian Water
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC - UKRI)
  • Atkins
  • Canal and River Trust
  • Cefas
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Defra
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC - UKRI)
  • Environment Agency
  • European Commission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN)
  • Heathrow Airport
  • IUCN
  • Leeds City Council / Arup
  • Luton Borough Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC - UKRI)
  • Mott MacDonald


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers