Alastair is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen (BSc), Louisiana State University (MSc) and the University of Edinburgh (PhD). He was appointed to Coventry University in 1980 and was made Professor in 1998. He joined Aberdeen University in 2005 as Assistant Director of the Institute for Coastal Science and Management. He later came to Dundee University in 2013 as Honorary Professor in Physical Geography.
Alastair has a range of research interests in geomorphology, coastal change, palaeoclimatology and weather history. He has published widely on aspects of Holocene landscape change with particular focus on cold climate coastal processes, shore platform development and relative sea level changes. An enduring research interest has focused on tsunami geoscience with a particular focus on tsunami stratigraphy and sedimentology. More recently he undertaken research on Scotland's weather and climate history making use of documentary archives and instrumental weather records to reconstruct patterns of weather and climate change for the last circa 400 years. Alastair has undertaken climate change research for many years, the most notable publications being his books, So Foul and Fair a Day: A history of Scotland’s Weather and Climate (2010) which was nominated for a Saltire award, and Introducing Sea Level Change (2019) as well as over 100 published scientific papers.