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Professor of Geography, University of Oxford

David Thomas is a geomorphologist and physical geographer specialising in contemporary drylands and the Quaternary Period. Much of his research has been carried out in Africa, but he also conducts research in Arabia, Asia, India, North America and other dryland contexts.

His research has often been multi- and interdisciplinary. On the one hand he has led interdisciplinary projects on desertification, land degradation, sustainable land use and climate change impacts; on the other he works on projects focussed on geomorphological processes, Late Quaternary environmental change, climate change science and environmental-climate interactions, with archaeologists, biologists, climate scientists and other physical geographers.

He has authored or edited 13 books, including The Dictionary of Physical Geography (4th edition 2016), Arid Zone Geomorphology (3rd edition 2011), The World Atlas of Desertification (2nd edition 1998), Desertification: exploding the myth (1995) and The Kalahari Environment (1991) and over 230 peer-reviewed journal papers and contributions to edited volumes including IPCC assessment reports.

In 2011 David was awarded the Geological Society of America Farouk El-Baz Award, for a body of work that has significantly enhanced desert science, and in 2019 the Royal Geographical Society's Victoria Medal, for world leading research into dryland environments and societies.


  • –present
    Professor of Geography, University of Oxford


  • 1984 
    University of Oxford, D.Phil