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Professor Martyn Tranter

Professor Martyn Tranter

Professor Martyn Tranter

Professor of Polar Biogeochemistry

Office B1, 12 Berkeley Square
University Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1SS
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 3314119


I have a long term research interest in the biogeochemical processes that impact on the compsoition of melt waters flowing on, in and under glaciers and ice sheets, and the chemical changes the water induces in the aerosol and debris it encounters. I was involved in the discovery of microbial life in subglacial environments, and leading the research consequences that this paradigm shift for the discipline has entailed. These include: (1) the production of labile forms of nutrients, such as Fe, from glacially crushed rock, which makes an important contribution ot the fertilisation of the Southern Ocean via ice berg rafting of debris; (2) the prediction of life in sub-ice sheet environments, sustained by REDOX processes resulting from the comminution of bedrock; and (3) the greater liklihood that life may be sustained in wet sub-icesheet environments in other ice-covered parts of the Universe.

A current area of great interest, championed by Jon Telling, is that some of the thermomechanical energy generated by the glacial erosion of silicate bedrock is converted in free radicals on the seared silicate and sulphide surfaces, which in turn generate a spectrum of oxidising and reducing agents when wetted, so potentially providing energy sources for a spectrum of subglacial microbes. A recent paper in Nature Geosciences (8, 851-855) provides evidence for the inorganic production of hydrogen gas in subglacial environments, and is the next potential paradigm shift in the study of subglacial biogeochemistry.   

My work has also demonstrated that a spectrum of microorganisms actively grow and change the geocehmistry of waters on the surfaces of glaciers and ice sheets. The work has ultimately lead to the funding of the Black and Bloom project, which is about to test the hypothesis that pigmented algae growing on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet are causing darkening, which results in enhanced melting of the south west sector of the Ice Sheet.   


Fellowships and Awards

2015-16  University of Bristol Research Fellow

2011-      Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

2010-11  Senior Leverhulme Research Fellow.

2010       Awarded the Polar Medal.

1996-99  Visiting Professor, INRS-Eau, Université du Quebec.

1996-97  University of Bristol Research Fellow.




2013-      NERC Panel C Core Member

2010-     Chair, IGS (International Glaciological Society), Nominations Committee

2008-13  NERC Peer Review College

2007-10  IGS Nominations Committee


Editorial Boards


2015-     Chief Co-Editor, Frontiers in Geochemistry

2013-     Associate Editor, Journal of Glaciology


Previous Appointments

1993-99  Reader in Physical Geography, Geography, UoB.

1992-93  Lecturer in Physical Geography, Geography, UoB.

1986‑92  Lecturer in Geochemistry, Oceanography, University of Southampton.

1985‑6    Lecturer in Sedimentary Geochemistry, ENV, UEA.

1984-5    PDRF, ENV, UEA. 




1982  Ph. D., Environmental Sciences, UEA.

1978  B. Sc. (Hons.) in Environmental Sciences, UEA.







School of Geographical Sciences

Research groups


Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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