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Sean Fitzsimons

Sean Fitzsimons imageProfessor
Senior Science Adviser

BSc(Hons)(Cant)
PhD(Tas)

 

 

Richardson Building room 4C13
Office Hours: email to make an appointment
Tel +64 3 479 8786
Email sean.fitzsimons@otago.ac.nz

Inaugural Professorial Lecture

Sean's Inaugural Professorial Lecture is available as a podcast:

Is the present the key to the past? Lessons from Antarctica and the Southern Alps

Teaching

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Research interests

  • Alpine landscape development
  • Reconstructing landscape change from lake sediments
  • Glacial geomorphology

Lake Sediments Provide a Natural Seismometer for Earthquakes on a Plate Boundary Fault

Nature’s Seismometers blog post

View recent Research Grants

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Potential postgraduate projects

Projects suitable for students include:

Landscape development in South Westland
This research programme is focused on understanding how landscape development is driven by high magnitude storm events and co-seismic landsliding. The main approaches used in this work are analysis of the impacts of landsliding from aerial photographs and satellite images, using lake sediments and proxy records of catchment disturbance and monitoring the impacts of landsliding on alluvial fans and rivers by conventional survey techniques.

Determining sediment yields associated with disturbance events
In the 1980s the Waitangi-Toana River experienced a major avulsion and developed a new course which resulted in the river draining into Lake Wahapo. As a result of this avulsion Lake Wahapo changed from an organic-dominated lake to a turbid water body as millions of tons of sediment accumulated in the basin. We propose to use this event as a way of under-standing how lakes record catchment disturbance events. The research will involve calculating a post-disturbance sediment budget for the lake using an echosounder to map the 3D geometry of the sediment and a Mackereth corer to retrieve samples of the lake sediment. This project would suit an MSc student interested in understanding landscape evolution processes.

see more

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Recent research students

  • Jono Conway: Distributed energy balance modelling of New Zealand glaciers (PhD 2013: co-supervised by Dr Nicolas Cullen, Geography)
  • Jamie Howarth: Reconstructing the landscape response to high magnitude disturbance in active mountain belts (PhD 2012: co-supervised by Professor Richard Norris, Geology)
  • Alex Simms: Shallow fluid movement in the hanging wall of the Alpine Fault (MSc 2013: co-supervised by Simon Cox, GNS Science)
  • Sebastian Vivero Andrade: Recent ice wastage on the Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand obtained from geodetic elevation changes (MSc 2011: co-supervised by Dr Pascal Sirguey, Surveying)
  • Bronwyn van Valkengoed: Pollen evidence for Holocene climate change in the Eglinton Valley, western Southland (MSc 2011)
  • Rosanne Simes: Decision-making for living in flood-prone areas (MPlan 2011)
  • Todd Redpath: Utilising optical satellite imagery to derive multi-temporal flow fields for the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand (MSc 2011: co-supervised by Dr Pascal Sirguey, Surveying)
  • Abigail Lovett: Origin, formation and deformation of mirabilite deposits: Hobbs Glacier region, Antarctica (MSc 2011)
  • Erin Harvie: An integrated approach to landform genesis: case study of the Mueller Glacier (MSc 2011)

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Publications

Howarth, J. D., Barth, N. C., Fitzsimons, S. J., Richards-Dinger, K., Clark, K. J., Biasi, G. P., … Sutherland, R. (2021). Spatiotemporal clustering of great earthquakes on a transform fault controlled by geometry. Nature Geoscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1038/s41561-021-00721-4

Wang, J., Howarth, J. D., McClymont, E. L., Densmore, A. L., Fitzsimons, S. J., Croissant, T., … Hilton, R. G. (2020). Long-term patterns of hillslope erosion by earthquake-induced landslides shape mountain landscapes. Science Advances, 6(23), eaaz6446. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz6446

Fitzsimons, S., & Howarth, J. (2020). Development of push moraines in deeply frozen sediment adjacent to a cold-based glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms, 45, 622-637. doi: 10.1002/esp.4759

Howarth, J., Barth, N. C., Fitzsimons, S., Richards-Dinger, K. B., Biasi, G. P., Clark, K., … Sutherland, R. (2019). Paleoseismology and simulations reveal geometry controls the temporal clustering of great earthquakes on the Alpine Fault, New Zealand. Proceedings of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. T12B-05. Retrieved from https://agu.confex.com/

Grima, C., Koch, I., Greenbaum, J. S., Soderlund, K. M., Blankenship, D. D., Young, D. A., … Fitzsimons, S. (2019). Surface and basal boundary conditions at the Southern McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 65(252), 675-688. doi: 10.1017/jog.2019.44

Fitzsimons, S., & Howarth, J. (2018). Glaciolacustrine processes. In J. Menzies & J. J. M. van der Meer (Eds.), Past glacial environments. (2nd ed.) (pp. 309-334). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-100524-8.00009-9

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S., & Lorrain, R. (2011). Subglacial processes. In V. P. Singh, P. Singh & U. K. Haritashya (Eds.), Encyclopedia of snow, ice and glaciers. (pp. 1101-1105). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Chapter in Book - Research

Lorrain, R. D., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2011). Cold-based glaciers. In V. P. Singh, P. Singh & U. K. Haritashya (Eds.), Encyclopedia of snow, ice and glaciers. (pp. 157-161). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. (2007). Glacial geology. In B. Riffenburgh (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Antarctic (Vol. 1). (pp. 461-463). New York: Routledge.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. (2006). Mechanical behaviour and structure of the debris-rich basal ice layer. In P. G. Knight (Ed.), Glacier science and environmental change. (pp. 329-335). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. J. (2005). Ice-marginal terrestrial landsystems: Polar-continental glacier margins. In D. J. A. Evans (Ed.), Glacial landsystems. (pp. 89-142). London: Hodder Arnold.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. J. (2001). Glaciers. In E. J. Waterhouse (Ed.), Ross Sea Region - A State of the Environment Report for the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica. (pp. 4.1-4.15). Christchurch: New Zealand Antarctic Institute.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. J. (2001). Weathering and mass movement. In A. Sturman & R. Spronken-Smith (Eds.), Introduction to the Physical Environment - A New Zealand Perspective. (pp. 240-251). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Lawson, W., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2001). Glaciers and landscape. In A. Sturman & R. Spronken-Smith (Eds.), Introduction to the Physical Environment - A New Zealand Perspective. (pp. 269-289). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzsimons, S. J., Lorrain, R., & Vandergoes, M. J. (1999). Behaviour of subglacial sediment and basal ice in a cold glacier. In A. J. Maltman, B. Hubbard & M. J. Hambrey (Eds.), The Deformation of Glacial Material. Geological Society of London Special Publication No 176. (pp. 181-190). London: Geological Society of London.

Chapter in Book - Research

Howarth, J. D., Barth, N. C., Fitzsimons, S. J., Richards-Dinger, K., Clark, K. J., Biasi, G. P., … Sutherland, R. (2021). Spatiotemporal clustering of great earthquakes on a transform fault controlled by geometry. Nature Geoscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1038/s41561-021-00721-4

Journal - Research Article

Fitzsimons, S., & Howarth, J. (2020). Development of push moraines in deeply frozen sediment adjacent to a cold-based glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms, 45, 622-637. doi: 10.1002/esp.4759

Journal - Research Article

Wang, J., Howarth, J. D., McClymont, E. L., Densmore, A. L., Fitzsimons, S. J., Croissant, T., … Hilton, R. G. (2020). Long-term patterns of hillslope erosion by earthquake-induced landslides shape mountain landscapes. Science Advances, 6(23), eaaz6446. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz6446

Journal - Research Article

Grima, C., Koch, I., Greenbaum, J. S., Soderlund, K. M., Blankenship, D. D., Young, D. A., … Fitzsimons, S. (2019). Surface and basal boundary conditions at the Southern McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 65(252), 675-688. doi: 10.1017/jog.2019.44

Journal - Research Article

Filep, C. V., Turner, S., Eidse, N., Thompson-Fawcett, M., & Fitzsimons, S. (2018). Advancing rigour in solicited diary research. Qualitative Research, 18(4), 451-470. doi: 10.1177/1468794117728411

Journal - Research Article

Frith, N. V., Hilton, R. G., Howarth, J. D., Gröcke, D. R., Fitzsimons, S. J., Croissant, T., … Densmore, A. L. (2018). Carbon export from mountain forests enhanced by earthquake-triggered landslides over millennia. Nature Geoscience, 11, 772-776. doi: 10.1038/s41561-018-0216-3

Journal - Research Article

Howarth, J. D., Cochran, U. A., Langridge, R. M., Clark, K., Fitzsimons, S. J., Berryman, K., … Strong, D. T. (2018). Past large earthquakes on the Alpine Fault: Paleoseismological progress and future directions. New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics, 61(3), 309-328. doi: 10.1080/00288306.2018.1464658

Journal - Research Article

Levy, R. H., Dunbar, G. B., Vandergoes, M. J., Howarth, J. D., Kingan, T., Pyne, A. R., … Dagg, B., … Kenton, E., Little, S., … Moy, C., … Fitzsimons, S., … Gorman, A. R., … Nelson, F., Purdie, J., … Wilson, G. S. (2018). A high-resolution climate record spanning the past 17 000 years recovered from Lake Ohau, South Island, New Zealand. Scientific Drilling, 24, 41-50. doi: 10.5194/sd-24-41-2018

Journal - Research Article

Vandergoes, M. J., Howarth, J. D., Dunbar, G. B., Turnbull, J. C., Roop, H. A., Levy, R. H., … Fitzsimons, S. J., & Bronk Ramsey, C. (2018). Integrating chronological uncertainties for annually laminated lake sediments using layer counting, independent chronologies and Bayesian age modelling (Lake Ohau, South Island, New Zealand). Quaternary Science Reviews, 188, 104-120. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.03.015

Journal - Research Article

Cullen, N. J., Anderson, B., Sirguey, P., Stumm, D., Mackintosh, A., Conway, J. P., … Fitzsimons, S. J., & Lorrey, A. (2017). An 11-year record of mass balance of Brewster Glacier, New Zealand, determined using a geostatistical approach. Journal of Glaciology, 63(238), 199-217. doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.128

Journal - Research Article

Dubnick, A., Wadham, J., Tranter, M., Sharp, M., Orwin, J., Barker, J., … Fitzsimons, S. (2017). Trickle or treat: The dynamics of nutrient export from polar glaciers. Hydrological Processes, 31(9), 1776-1789. doi: 10.1002/hyp.11149

Journal - Research Article

Bagshaw, E. A., Wadham, J. L., Tranter, M., Perkins, R., Morgan, A., Williamson, C. J., … Fitzsimons, S., & Dubnick, A. (2016). Response of Antarctic cryoconite microbial communities to light. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 92, fiw076. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiw076

Journal - Research Article

Howarth, J. D., Fitzsimons, S. J., Norris, R. J., Langridge, R., & Vandergoes, M. J. (2016). A 2000 yr rupture history for the Alpine fault derived from Lake Ellery, South Island, New Zealand. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 128(3/4), 627-643. doi: 10.1130/B31300.1

Journal - Research Article

MacDonell, S. A., Sharp, M., & Fitzsimons, S. (2016). Cryoconite hole connectivity on the Wright Lower Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 62(234), 714-724. doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.62

Journal - Research Article

Roop, H. A., Levy, R., Dunbar, G. B., Vandergoes, M. J., Howarth, J., Fitzsimons, S., … Yoon, H. I. (2016). A hydroclimate-proxy model based on sedimentary facies in an annually laminated sequence from Lake Ohau, South Island, New Zealand. Journal of Paleolimnology, 55(1), 1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10933-015-9853-3

Journal - Research Article

Conway, J. P., Cullen, N. J., Spronken-Smith, R. A., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2015). All-sky radiation over a glacier surface in the Southern Alps of New Zealand: Characterizing cloud effects on incoming shortwave, longwave and net radiation. International Journal of Climatology, 35(5), 699-713. doi: 10.1002/joc.4014

Journal - Research Article

Filep, C. V., Thompson-Fawcett, M., Fitzsimons, S., & Turner, S. (2015). Reaching revelatory places: The role of solicited diaries in extending research on emotional geographies into the unfamiliar. Area, 47(4), 459-465. doi: 10.1111/area.12217

Journal - Research Article

Koch, I., Fitzsimons, S., Samyn, D., & Tison, J.-L. (2015). Marine ice recycling at the southern McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 61(228), 689-701. doi: 10.3189/2015JoG14J095

Journal - Research Article

Sims, A., Cox, S. C., Fitzsimons, S., & Holland, P. (2015). Seasonal infiltration and groundwater movement in schist bedrock, Southern Alps, New Zealand. Journal of Hydrology (New Zealand), 54(1), 33-52.

Journal - Research Article

Turner, G. M., Howarth, J. D., de Gelder, G. I. N. O., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2015). A new high-resolution record of Holocene geomagnetic secular variation from New Zealand. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 430, 296-307. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2015.08.021

Journal - Research Article

Howarth, J. D., Fitzsimons, S. J., Norris, R. J., & Jacobsen, G. E. (2014). Lake sediments record high intensity shaking that provides insight into the location and rupture length of large earthquakes on the Alpine Fault, New Zealand. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 403, 340-351. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.07.008

Journal - Research Article

Montross, S., Skidmore, M., Christner, B., Samyn, D., Tison, J.-L., Lorrain, R., … Fitzsimons, S. (2014). Debris-rich basal ice as a microbial habitat, Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Geomicrobiology Journal, 31(1), 76-81. doi: 10.1080/01490451.2013.811316

Journal - Research Article

Cullen, N. J., Sirguey, P., Mölg, T., Kaser, G., Winkler, M., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2013). A century of ice retreat on Kilimanjaro: The mapping reloaded. Cryosphere, 7(2), 419-431. doi: 10.5194/tc-7-419-2013

Journal - Research Article

Howarth, J. D., Fitzsimons, S. J., Jacobsen, G. E., Vandergoes, M. J., & Norris, R. J. (2013). Identifying a reliable target fraction for radiocarbon dating sedimentary records from lakes. Quaternary Geochronology, 17, 68-80. doi: 10.1016/j.quageo.2013.02.001

Journal - Research Article

MacDonell, S. A., Fitzsimons, S. J., & Mölg, T. (2013). Seasonal sediment fluxes forcing supraglacial melting on the Wright Lower Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Hydrological Processes, 27(22), 3192-3207. doi: 10.1002/hyp.9444

Journal - Research Article

Redpath, T. A. N., Sirguey, P., Fitzsimons, S. J., & Kääb, A. (2013). Accuracy assessment for mapping glacier flow velocity and detecting flow dynamics from ASTER satellite imagery: Tasman Glacier, New Zealand. Remote Sensing of Environment, 133, 90-101. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2013.02.008

Journal - Research Article

Fitzsimons, S., Mager, S., Frew, R., Clifford, A., & Wilson, G. (2012). Formation of ice-shelf moraines by accretion of sea water and marine sediment at the southern margin of the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, 53(60), 211-220. doi: 10.3189/2012AoG60A155

Journal - Research Article

Howarth, J. D., Fitzsimons, S. J., Norris, R. J., & Jacobsen, G. E. (2012). Lake sediments record cycles of sediment flux driven by large earthquakes on the Alpine fault, New Zealand. Geology, 40(12), 1091-1094. doi: 10.1130/g33486.1

Journal - Research Article

MacDonell, S. A., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2012). Observations of cryoconite hole system processes on an Antarctic glacier. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 85(4), 393-407.

Journal - Research Article

Pautler, B. G., Woods, G. C., Dubnick, A., Simpson, A. J., Sharp, M. J., Fitzsimons, S. J., & Simpson, M. J. (2012). Molecular characterization of dissolved organic matter in glacial ice: Coupling natural abundance ¹H NMR and fluorescence spectroscopy. Environmental Science & Technology, 46(7), 3753-3761. doi: 10.1021/es203942y

Journal - Research Article

Pautler, B. G., Simpson, A. J., Simpson, M. J., Tseng, L.-H., Spraul, M., Dubnick, A., … Fitzsimons, S. J. (2011). Detection and structural identification of dissolved organic matter in Antarctic glacial ice at natural abundance by SPR-W5-WATERGATE 1H NMR spectroscopy. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(11), 4710-4717. doi: 10.1021/es200697c

Journal - Research Article

Anderson, B., Mackintosh, A., Stumm, D., George, L., Kerr, T., Winter-Billington, A., & Fitzsimons, S. (2010). Climate sensitivity of a high-precipitation glacier in New Zealand. Journal of Glaciology, 56(195), 114-128. doi: 10.3189/002214310791190929

Journal - Research Article

Barker, J. D., Klassen, J. L., Sharp, M. J., Fitzsimons, S. J., & Turner, R. J. (2010). Detecting biogeochemical activity in basal ice using fluorescence spectroscopy. Annals of Glaciology, 51(56), 47-55.

Journal - Research Article

Dubnick, A., Barker, J., Sharp, M., Wadham, J., Lis, G., Telling, J., Fitzsimons, S., & Jackson, M. (2010). Characterization of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from glacial environments using total fluorescence spectroscopy and parallel factor analysis. Annals of Glaciology, 51(56), 111-122.

Journal - Research Article

Hambrey, M. J., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2010). Development of sediment-landform associations at cold glacier margins, Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Sedimentology, 57(3), 857-882. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3091.2009.01123.x

Journal - Research Article

Samyn, D., Fitzsimons, S. J., & Lorrain, R. D. (2010). Rotating micro-structures in Antarctic cold basal ice: Implications for glacier flow and its interpretation. International Journal of Earth Sciences, 99, 1849-1857. doi: 10.1007/s00531-009-0478-5

Journal - Research Article

Mager, S., Fitzsimons, S., Frew, R., Samyn, D., & Lorrain, R. (2009). Composition and origin of amber ice and its influence on the behaviour of cold glaciers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, 55(190), 363-372. doi: 10.3189/002214309788608688

Journal - Research Article

Fitzsimons, S., Webb, N., Mager, S., MacDonell, S., Lorrain, R., & Samyn, D. (2008). Mechanisms of basal ice formation in polar glaciers: An evaluation of the apron entrainment model. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, F02010. doi: 10.1029/2006JF000698

Journal - Research Article

MacDonell, S., & Fitzsimons, S. (2008). The formation and hydrological significance of cryoconite holes. Progress in Physical Geography, 32(6), 595-610. doi: 10.1177/0309133308101382

Journal - Research Article

Samyn, D., Svensson, A., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2008). Dynamic implications of discontinuous recrystallization in cold basal ice: Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, F03S90. doi: 10.1029/2006JF000600

Journal - Research Article

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