Ian Delaney

Research Statement

My research focuses on understanding changes to sediment dynamics in glacierized regions. I am particularly interested in the seasonal to century-scale response of glacier erosion and subglacial sediment transport to glacier retreat. Understanding drivers that might be responsible for changes to sediment discharge requires describing glacier dynamics, hydrology, sediment transport and glacial erosion processes. To accomplish this, I rely on a diverse array of techniques such as remote sensing, field measurements and numerical modeling.

Century-scale changes to glacier erosion

In addition to changes in regional hydrology and sea-level changes, glacier retreat over the coming centuries will dramatically change the landscape and the quantities of sediment discharged from glacierized regions. These changes pose challenges for ecosystems downsteam of glaciers, as well as stakeholders, such as hydropower operators who must respond to new challenges such as reservoir sedimentation. Additionally, subglacial sediment dynamics can influence glaciological processes such as subglacial hydrology, glacier sliding and tidewater glacier behavior.

My current work aims to collect data that can give us insight into the drivers of subglacial erosion or sediment transport. This data can then be integrated in numerical modeling frameworks to generalize these findings across different timescales and environments. Can glacier sliding be a good approximation for these processes? or do we need to consider the fluvial transport of subglacial sediment? Do sediment discharge measurements align with our model outputs? and if so, under what conditions? Are there differences in glacial erosion and sediment discharge in mountainous regions, such as the Alps, compared to ice sheets, such as Greenland? Once some of these quest ions are evaluated, I hope that we can apply modeling frameworks to estimate landscape changes in the coming centuries following glacier retreat.


I completed a bachelor’s degree in geology at Whitman College in Washington State, USA in 2010. My master’s work at Central Washington University, USA focused on measuring quantities of light-absorbing impurities in the snow, which can accelerate snowmelt.  My Ph.D., at ETH  Zürich, was titled ” Measuring and Modeling Sediment Transport from Glacierized Catchments in the Swiss Alps” . Here, I used remote sensing and field measurements to estimate changes to sediment transport in heavily glacierized catchments. Additionally, I developed a numerical model based on physical processes to describe fluvial  transport of subglacial sediment. I recently completed a Post Doc at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, in the USA modeling basal processes of mountain glaciers and describing how sediment discharge from glaciers may change following glacier retreat. Since 2022, I have been working on an SNF Ambizione project examining changes to glacier erosion and sediment transport from Greenland.

Publications: here


Ian Delaney
University of Lausanne
Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics
Géopolis, Bureau 3120
1015 Lausanne, Switzerland