Contact Dr Robert Grabowski

Areas of expertise

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


Dr Robert (Bob) Grabowski is an environmental scientist specialized in the interdisciplinary study of rivers. He applies a whole system perspective to tackle fundamental scientific and applied challenges at the interface of geomorphology, ecology, and integrated land-water management.

Bob's research group works on three main topics: 1) fine sediment erosion and transport, 2) geomorphology-ecology interactions in river - floodplain systems, and 3) river rehabilitation and restoration. This research spans spatial and temporal scales (nm - km) and uses a broad range of approaches, such as molecular dynamics simulations of interparticle attractions in sediment (EPSRC), statistical and time series analyses of suspended sediment dynamics in rivers, and ecological responses to river processes (EU). 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). For more details, see the Current Activities section.

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) before joining Cranfield as Lecturer in Catchment Science in 2014. He contributes actively to teaching in the Water & Jiangsu MSc programmes.

He is a member of the NERC Peer Review College (2023-present), the editorial board of River Research and Applications (2017-present), and the Foundation for Water Research Committee (2023-present). He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

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 Sklodowska-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)


Canal and River Trust


Central Bedfordshire Council


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC - UKRI)

Environment Agency

European Commission (Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN)

Heathrow Airport


Leeds City Council / Arup

Luton Borough Council

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC - UKRI)

Mott MacDonald


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers