Professor David J. LOWE

David LOWE

Professor in Earth sciences

Qualifications: BSc MSc PhD Waikato FRSNZ FNZSSS Hon Life Fellow INQUA

Personal Website:

About David

Research themes

In undertaking his research, David has published widely in a range of disciplines, mainly centred on tephra and its derivatives (such as weathered tephra sequences with buried soils and paleosols), including tephrochronology, pedology and paleopedology, Quaternary paleoenvironmental science, soil stratigraphy, soil and clay mineralogy, geochronology, paleolimnology, geoarchaeology, landsliding, geohazards, and aspects of the history of geosciences. He has more than 212 refereed publications in scientific journals or proceedings or books (including 25 book chapters) to his name, and has recently co-written a text book entitled "The Soils of Aotearoa New Zealand" (published by Springer in 2021).

The book has been described as "a wonderfully useful book that provides a benchmark and stimulus for understanding, exploring, utilising, and sustaining the remarkable soils of Aotearoa". Reviews are available at:

As well, David has published more than 206 non- refereed articles (reports, articles in journals or newsletters, obituaries,  historical articles, book reviews, etc), and more than 276 conference abstracts.

A feature of David's research is his inclusivity, and many of his articles comprise multiple international co-authors as well as his own students and also a number of postdoctoral research fellows.

Many of David's publications since the mid-2000s are listed in the file 'Further research information', which is accessible via a link near the end of this document under 'Research Interests'.

David has undertaken collaborative research, much with international colleagues, in New Zealand, Antarctica (Darwin Mountains, Britannia Range, Churchill Mountains), South Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.K. He also has field experience in Taiwan, Ireland, France, Germany, Romania, Santorini (Greece), Switzerland, western U.S.A. (eight states including Alaska and Hawaii), and Fiji.

Contributions to research environment

Editing, refereeing/reviewing

Currently David is on the editorial boards of six international journals: Journal of Quaternary Science, Quaternary Geochronology, Quaternary International, Quaternary, Frontiers in Earth Science (Volcanology), and Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies, and is an academic editor for the journal Quaternary. He has also served as an associate editor for Soil Science Society of America (6 years) and editorial advisor for New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics (6 years), and has been a referee for numerous journal articles, funding proposals, awards, academic appointments or advancements, student support, etc. David has had editorial responsibility for 127 articles in total in six different journals and a book, and he has been an editor or co-editor for five special thematic issues mainly on tephrochronology: three volumes of Quaternary International (1996, 2008, 2011), one volume of Quaternary Geochronology (2017), and one volume of Journal of Quaternary Science (2020). He has refereed more than 285 articles in total, including more than 245 articles for 69 different journals (60 journals published overseas, 9 in New Zealand) and 35 chapters or encyclopaedia entries.

Reviewing funding applications, David has refereed 63 applications in total, 80% for 21 different European, Scandinavian, and North American funding agencies including National Science Foundation (NSF) (USA), European Science Foundation (ESF) (France), National Environmental Research Council (NERC) (UK), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Medical Research Council (MRC) (UK), The Leverhulme Trust (UK), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) within DFG-Priority Program “International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP)", and the Swedish Research Council, Stockholm. He has been an invited member of the international peer-review pool for the College of Expert Reviewers for ESF and for NSERC. David continues to referee articles and funding applications, and to examine theses, including most recently in 2022.

Leadership roles at Waikato University and in national and international science societies

As as well as being a former Chair of the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences (2012-2014), Academic Team Leader (2019-2020), and Convenor of Postgraduate Studies (2004-05, 2010-12, 2014-15), and undertaking various other administrative roles including Acting Dean of the School of Science for several months at a time from 2016 to 2019, David is a member or fellow of several international and a number of national societies, his memberships spanning more than four decades. He is an elected Fellow of three societies (Royal Society of New Zealand, New Zealand Society of Soil Science, International Union for Quaternary Research or INQUA) and formal member of seven other societies: Australasian Quaternary Association (AQUA) (foundation member); International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI), including the Commission on Tephrochronology (COT) (formally known as INTAV under the aegis of INQUA); Association Internationale pour l’Étude des Argiles AIPEA (International Association for the Study of Clays) (through membership of the Australian Clay Minerals Society); New Zealand Studies Association; Geoscience Society of New Zealand (foundation member of Waikato branch); and Soil Science Australia.

Conferences and contributions

David's work for a number of these societies has included organising and convening conferences, or contributing associated field field trips, making a significant contribution to the teaching and research environments, especially for early career researchers. In summary, David has convened (i) one international conference (Inter-INQUA field conference, Hamilton 1994); (ii) one national conference (Geological Society of New Zealand annual conference, Hamilton 2001); (iii) four regional one-day conferences (New Zealand Society of Soil Science 'Wai-BoP Soils' meetings in 2011, 2013, 2017, 2019); (iv) co-convened a one-day hybrid conference with a national/international audience via webinar for the New Zealand Society of Soil Science (2020); and (v) convened 11 one-day local postgraduate student conferences for the Department of Earth Sciences, Waikato University (2003 to 2014).

In total, David has been convenor (chair), or on the organising committees, of 15 large-scale conferences (seven international, eight national) including catalyzing and helping plan the international tephra meeting “Active Tephra in Kyushu 2010” held by INTAV in Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, May 2010, and the INTAV-led “Tephra Hunt in Transylvania” conference in Moieciu de Sus, Romania, June 2018.

Conference-related field trips

David has prepared and led or co-led 21 field trips (mostly of one to six days’ duration) for 13 international conferences and 8 national conferences, including the following 11 trips undertaken since 2008:

- one-day pedology-focussed field trip “Winter wanderings in wonderful Waikato” as part of the international joint soil science conference of the Australia and New Zealand soil science societies in Cairns and Hamilton, 2021

- three-day field trip on tephra-derived soils and land use in central North Island for University of Wisconsin-Platteville Winterim Education Abroad Programs 2019; three-day field trip as a post-conference tour for University of Wisconsin-Platteville following the international joint soils conference of the Australia and New Zealand soil science societies in Queenstown, 2016; and as a three-day graduate student field trip in Waikato-Bay of Plenty region for Meiji University, 2012

- one-day excursions to Rangitoto Island for the Geoscience Society of New Zealand conference in Auckland, 2017; and for the Australasian Quaternary Association (AQUA) international conference in Auckland, 2016

- one-day field trip “Hot Volcanic Soils” focussed on Pumice Soils, tephrostratigraphy, and land use in central North Island for the national soils conference of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science in Hamilton, 2014

- half-day field trip "Auckland volcanoes" (on behalf of Geological Society of NZ, Royal Society of NZ, NZ Society of Soil Science) for >50 delegates of 31st ICSU General Assembly, International Council for Science, Auckland, 2014

- one-day field trip "Geology meets Pedology" on tephrostratigraphy and paleopedology to Mamaku Plateau-Rotorua-Rerewhakaaitu areas for the Geoscience Society of New Zealand annual conference in Hamilton, 2012

- four-day pre-conference field trip "Volcanoes to Ocean” in North Island as part of the World Soils Congress held in Brisbane, 2010

- three-day pre-conference field trip “Ashes to Issues” for the international joint soils conference of the Australia and New Zealand soil science societies, Palmerston North, 2008

David has given a total of 47 invited presentations at international or national conferences or workshops (20 international, 27 national) from 1981-2019; and a total of 77 invited international or national seminar presentations (32 international,  46 national), from 1981-2021.

Research grants

David has been awarded total grants of ~$6.3M for the 33-year period 1988-2021 - the sum includes an estimated value of in-kind support NSRRC (Taiwan synchrotron). About half the total relates to three Marsden Awards (two as PI, one as Al) and an MBIE Endeavour Fund award (PI), along with several EQC awards and dozens of smaller grants. Total grants including PBRF income are worth ~$7.4M. David was awarded 'A' grades for the past two NZ Government PBRF exercises in 2012 and 2018, the 'A' score reflecting his 'international standing'.

Book about epilepsy

In another completely different role, David has co-written with Maria Lowe an introductory book "Understanding and managing epilepsy - an introductory guide" (published by Epilepsy Waikato Charitable Trust, EWCT) in 2021.

David is a founding member of EWCT since it was formed in 2011 ( and has been chair since 2015

Awards and honours

  • Longest-serving elected executive officer of the Commission on Tephrochronology (COT) in its >60-year history: involved as formal officer for 16 years (1991-1995; 2007-2019); currently emeritus advisor (active role) for two years (since 2019); led the writing of the first review of the history and development of COT as an international tephra research group, and its impact on the discipline of tephrochronology (
  • Articles have high impact based on citations and downloads
    • h-index 56 (Google Scholar, GS)
    • >10,500 citations (GS)
    • >108,000 downloads  of articles from Research Commons, University of Waikato
    • 26 papers cited >100 times (three cited >500 times)
  • Published a comprehensive text "The Soils of Aotearoa New Zealand" (332 pp) with Drs Allan Hewitt and Megan Balks in February 2021 (published by Springer, Cham, Switzerland), the first such text for more than 30 years in New Zealand. Part of Springer's World Soils Book Series:\
  • Co-authored the first formal tephra characterisation database ("TephraNZ") for New Zealand based on analyses of rhyolitic glass shards from 23 proximal and 27 distal tephra samples that characterise 45 eruptive episodes since Ma (2021)
  • Co-authored a substantial review of tephrochronology in Aotearoa New Zealand (for a special issue on 'Volcanism in New Zealand' for forthcoming international volcanology conference in New Zealand planned for Jan-Feb 2023), 2021
  • Elected a Life Member of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science, December 2020
  • Co-editor of “Tephrochronology as a global geoscientific research tool”, Journal of Quaternary Science 35 (1/2), 1-379, 2020
  • On the editorial boards of six international journals, some since mid-2000s: Journal of Quaternary Science, Quaternary Geochronology, Quaternary International, Quaternary (Lowe has provided the editor with pre-peer-review approval since 2021), Frontiers in Earth Science (Volcanology), and Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies
  • Awarded Earthquake Commission (EQC) funding for project “Paleoseismology of the newly discovered Te Puninga Fault, Hauraki Plains”, 2019 (BIG-012-2020) (AI)
  • Awarded (i) MBIE Endeavour Fund (Smart Ideas) (UOWX1903) (as principal investigator, PI) and (ii) Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden Grant (UOW1902) funding (as principal investigator) for complementary projects "Evaluating earthquake risk using liquefied ash-layers in lakes’’ and "Earth-shaking insight from liquefied volcanic-ash layers in lakes: using geotechnical experiments, CT-scanned lake sediment cores, and tephrochronology to map and date prehistoric earthquakes", respectively, relating to newly-discovered hidden faults in the Hamilton lowlands, 2019/2020
  • Received University of Waikato Excellence in Research award, 2019
  • Ranked in top 1% most influential scientists worldwide based on six measures of impact, both long-term and in 2018 (Ioannidis, J.P.A., Baas, J., Klavans, R., Boyack, K.W. 2019. A standardized citation metrics author database annotated for scientific field. PLOS Biology 17(8): e3000384.
  • Ranked 9th in New Zealand and 1563rd in world rankings by in the field of Earth sciences for 2022 - based on H-index data from Microsoft Academic (2021) that include only prominent scientists with an H-index of at least 30 for scientific papers published in Earth sciences
  • Elected an Honorary Life Member of the International Focus Group on Tephrochronology and Volcanism (INTAV), 2018
  • Co-editor of “Advancing tephrochronology as a global dating tool: applications in volcanology, archaeology, and palaeoclimatic research”, Quaternary Geochronology 40, 1-145, 2017
  • Awarded Earthquake Commission (EQC) (15/U713) funding (as principal investigator) for project “Hidden tephras in Waikato lakes and peats”, 2016
  • Appointed member of "Research Center for Hazard Mitigation in Volcanic Islands and Urban Areas", Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan, 2016-2022, 2022-2025
  • Editor of Chapter 11 “Climate Swings and Roundabouts” of award-winning text “A Continent on the Move: New Zealand geoscience revealed, 2nd edition”, published by the Geoscience Society of New Zealand with GNS Science, and a member of the Revision Committee (Geoscience Society of NZ)for the 2nd edition, 2015
  • Elected an Honorary Life Fellow of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA), 2015 for “prominent internationally recognized Quaternary scientists” and for “meritorious service to Quaternary science and active in INQUA” (only 4th New Zealand scientist to be elected a fellow)
  • Co-editor of “Enhancing tephrochronology and its application (INTREPID project): Hiroshi Machida commemorative volume”, Quaternary International 246, 1-395, 2011
  • Awarded McKay Hammer Award of the Geoscience Society of New Zealand, 2011, for "most meritorious papers in geology in NZ in previous 3 years"; two papers form the basis of the award: (i) Lowe 2011 Quat Geochron, 659 citations Google Scholar; (ii) Lowe et al. 2008 Quat Sci Rev, 259 citations Google Scholar
  • Awarded "Editor's Citation of Excellence for Associate Editors", Soil Science Society of America Journal, 2011
  • Elected Fellow of Royal Society of New Zealand (FRSNZ), 2010
  • Awarded Marsden Fund grant (as principal investigator) for 3-year project "New views from old soils" on ancient DNA and carbon sequestration in buried volcanic-ash soils and paleosols in the North Island, 2010 (10-UOW-056)
  • Ron McDonald Memorial Lecture Award, Australian Society of Soil Science (Queensland Branch), 2009
  • Scientific/technical co-editor of “A Continent on the Move”, Geoscience Society of NZ with GNS Science, 2008 (winner of best book award ‘Environment Category’, Montana NZ Book Awards, 2009)
  • Co-editor of “Global Tephra Studies: John Westgate and Andrei Sarna-Wojcicki Commemorative Volume”, Quaternary International 178, 1-320, 2008
  • Elected representative for Quaternary research in New Zealand and delegate for the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) on behalf of Royal Society of New Zealand, 2007-2019
  • Associate editor for Soil Science Society of America Journal, 2006-2011, and editorial advisor for NZ Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 2004-2009
  • Awarded Marsden Fund grant (as associate investigator) “Radiocarbon calibration and palaeoclimate during OIS3” (03-UOW-302), 2003
  • Elected Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science (FNZSSS), 2002
  • Norman Taylor Memorial Lecture Award, New Zealand Society of Soil Science, 2002
  • Awarded Fellowships of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science for lecture tours of Japan in 2010 and in 2000 (PI)
  • Distinguished Scholar Award, Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K., 1998 (PI)
  • British Council Wellington Higher Education Link awards (Waikato-Plymouth universities), 1995-1997 (PI)
  • Norward Cup award, New Zealand National Fieldays, for best display “Soils: Extreme Close-Up”, 1996
  • University of Waikato Academic Merit Award “for a very significant contribution of excellence and high distinction in scholarship, research and teaching”, 1992
  • Visiting Scientist Award, CSIRO Division of Soils, Adelaide, 1991-1992
  • Dr W.A. Pullar Prize for best publications in tephrochronology in the New Zealand region 1984-1986, Geological Society of New Zealand (inaugural prizewinner), 1986
  • Sir Theodore Rigg Award for best masterate thesis, New Zealand Society of Soil Science (first prizewinner from Waikato University), 1982
  • Member Waikato Antarctic Research Unit Darwin Mountains-Britannia Range Antarctic trip, 1978-79 field season

Contributions as brass musician and founder youth orchestra

  • Played Bb cornet and Bb trumpet for 22+ years (1965-85, 1987-1988, 1998)
    • Tauranga City Silver Band (principal cornet 1970-71) (served 1965-1971)
    • Hamilton Citizens’ Band (deputy principal cornet/principal cornet) (served 1972-1987)
    • Hamilton Bavarian Brass (deputy leader/leader) (served 1972-1985)
    • Launceston Town Band (UK) (tutti solo cornet) (served 3 months 1998)
    • Hundreds of public performances including numerous regional (Waikato-BOP, Auckland) and national  contests; featured soloist on tour of Fiji by Hamilton Citizens’ Band (1976); winner of a number of  regional titles for Waikato-Bay of Plenty regional contest as soloist or member of ensembles including winning Air Varie Senior Open Solo (1980), and Open Duet, Open Quartet several times
  • New Zealand representative: member of Junior National Band of New Zealand (Bb cornet, selected by audition), 1967
  • Selected for three Waikato-Bay of Plenty representative brass bands as tutti solo cornet (1972, 1973, 1978)
  • Selected as tutti solo cornet player for representative regional band conducting workshop with Geoffrey  Brand (MD for Black Dyke Band, UK; chief adjudicator for NZ National Championships in 1977)
  • Foundation member Tauranga Youth Orchestra (1967-1971) (principal trumpet and brass section leader)
  • Waikato Symphony Orchestra (principal trumpet and brass section leader) (performances in 1982, 1984)
  • Principal trumpet and brass section leader for the second-ever production of “Earth and Sky”, a large work for choir and orchestra, mainly of children, by acclaimed composer Jenny McLeod, conductor Dobbs Franks, Tauranga (1969 or 1970)
  • Co-developed a new youth orchestra from scratch and managed youth orchestras for 10 years in Hamilton
    • Co-founded United Youth Orchestra (Hamilton) 2003, foundation manager from 2003-2011 (9 years)
    • Manager of Waikato Youth Orchestra (Hamilton) 2002 (1 year)

Papers Taught

Research Supervised

David has taken up a part-time appointment from January 2021 and generally is now teaching mostly in graduate papers (in volcanology and soil resources and risks) and supervising research students associated mainly with his MBIE- and Marsden-funded projects on paleoseismicity in the Hamilton lowlands, and an EQC-funded project on Te Puninga Fault. Previously he taught in soil-science and pedology papers at year-2 and -3 level and contributed to year-1 papers by co-leading associated field trips. He has also been involved in teaching undergraduate volcanology and he developed and taught a graduate level paper on Quaternary studies for 20 years as well as a Science-faculty-wide graduate paper on research method and practice. David contributes to field work associated with Tauranga-based students (with Dr Shari Gallop) including a field trip along the Bay of Plenty coast to Matata and the Rangitaiki Plains in 2020 and 2021.

Supervision and thesis examination

David has jointly-supervised ~80 postgraduates, being chief supervisor for around half of these. Four of David's PhD students have been awarded the  Fieldes Award (best PhD thesis) and six of his MSc students the Rigg Award (best MSc thesis) of the New Zealand Society of Soil Science for their outstanding theses. Another former student (Dr Maria Gehrels, based at Plymouth University, UK) was awarded the Pullar-Vucetich Prize (2008) of the Geological Society of New Zealand for her research on cryptotephras in northern North Island.

David has been an external examiner for 25 theses or dissertations (12 PhDs, 10 MScs, 3 BScHons), most recently in 2022.

Graduate/postgraduate students supervised or co-supervised since the mid-2000s, and  current PhD and MSc students being supervised (as chief) or co-supervised by David, are given below. Covid has impacted on the ability of the University of Waikato to bring in new international students for PhD programmes.

PhD (since 2004)

  • McBride, Rowan (2020 ongoing).The chronology of Waikato wetland pā (supported by Marsden Fund grant to Prof Alan Hogg)
  • Chaneva, Jordanka (2020 ongoing) Geotechnical properties and palaeoseismic implications of liquefied lacustrine ash-layers, Hamilton Basin (supported by MBIE Endeavour UOWX1903 and Marsden Funds UOW1902)
  • Robertson, Thomas (Tom) (2018 ongoing). Sensitive soils derived from rhyolitic tephras and landsliding, Bay of Plenty (part time).
  • Prentice, Marlena (2018 ongoing). Volcanism of the Tauranga and Kaimai volcanic centres: supereruptions at the dawn of the modern TVZ (partly supported by Western Australia Skeptics)
  • Dr Yousefzadeh, Elhamy (Eli) (2020). Ongatiti Ignimbrite and its emplacement: textures, mechanism, and distribution.
  • Dr Ratcliffe, Joshua (Joss) (2020) . Carbon accumulation and decay rates in pristine and disturbed Waikato restiad peatlands.
  • Dr Huang, Yu-Tuan (Doreen) (2015). Studies on carbon and DNA preservation in allophanic soils and paleosols on Holocene tephras in New Zealand (supported by Marsden Fund).
  • Dr Gehrels, Maria (2009, Plymouth University). An enhanced ~1800-year record of recent volcanic ash-fall events in northern New Zealand from analysis of cryptotephra.
  • Dr Palmer, David (2008). Development of national extent terrain attributes (TANZ), soil water balance surfaces (swatbal), and environmental surfaces, and their application for spatial modelling of Pinus radiata productivity across New Zealand (supported by 'Bright Futures' scholarship).
  • Dr Jones, Haydon (2004). Impacts of forest harvesting on performance of soil-landscape modelling in a radiata pine forest, northern New Zealand (supported by SCION Rotorua).

MSc or MSc(Research) (since 2006)

  • Richard Melchert (2022 ongoing) Can ground-penetrating radar detect and map tephra seismite (liquefaction) features in lake sediments? (supported by MBIE Endeavour UOWX1903)
  • Hughes, Joshua (2021 ongoing). Late Quaternary history and possible activity including chronology of Te Puninga Fault, Morrinsville area (supported by EQC BIG-012-2020 and Marsden Fund UOW1902)
  • Gibbons, Vittoria (2021) Geotechnical properties and soils of fault in Hillcrest, Hamilton.
  • Ross, ChrisAnne (2020). Volcanology and secondary alteration of the 1.6 Ma Ngaroma Ignimbrite, upper Waipari Valley.
  • Robertson, Tom (2017) Role of chemical composition in sensitive soils and landsliding, Tauranga.
  • McKay, Aleesha (2017) Using pedological soil maps to aid assessment of liquefaction in Hinuera Formation
  • Kapasi, Aliasgar(2016) Volcanology of the basaltic lava succession within the Auckland pit of the Bombay Quarry, Bombay Volcanic Complex, South Auckland Volcanic Field
  • Loame, Remedy (2016). Using a tephrostratigraphic framework to determine the past 40,000 yrs of rupture and paleohydrothermal activity on the east strand of the Whirinaki Fault, Ngakuru Graben, central Taupo Volcanic Zone.
  • Noyes, Adrea (2016). Soil recovery on landslides in hill country at Whatawhata Research Station, western Waikato, New Zealand.
  • Kleyburg, Melissa (2015). Palaeoliquefaction in Late Pleistocene alluvial sediments in the Hauraki and Hamilton basins.
  • Laubscher, Nadia (2014). Improvement in soil water availability in pastures by excavating and mixing buried soil horizons from multilayered Pumice Soils (Vitrands) at Galatea, central North Island, New Zealand.
  • Heaphy, Marie (2013). Assessing drivers of plantation forest productivity on eroded versus non-eroded soils on hilly and steep land in eastern North Island, New Zealand: from catchment to regional scale.
  • Foster, Courtney (2013). Palaeolimnology of Adelaide Tarn, a ~14,000-year-old low-alpine glacial lake, northwestern South Island, New Zealand.
  • Cunningham, Michael (2012). Sensitive rhyolitic pyroclastic deposits in the Tauranga region: mineralogy, geomechanics and microstructure of peak and remoulded states.
  • Lanigan, Kerri (2012). Characterisation and paleoclimatic signals within tephric loess deposits aged between c.33 to 9.5 cal ka in the Rotorua area, northern New Zealand.
  • Hainsworth, Sharn (2011). Properties and distribution of soils on the Ruataniwha Plains, Hawke's Bay: a new approach integrating classical and digital mapping techniques.
  • Wyatt, Justin (2009). Sensitivity and clay mineralogy of weathered tephra-derived soil materials in the Tauranga region.
  • Pickett, Rachel (2008). A tephra-dated record of palaeoenvironmental change since c. 5,500 years ago from Lake Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.
  • Cole-Baker, Jeremy (2006). Sedimentology and tephrochronology of Late-Glacial and Holocene lake sediments and peats, Westland, South Island.


  • Linehan, James (2015). Distribution of soils in the Southern Hawke’s Bay Greywacke Foothills Land System.

Research Interests

  • Tephrochronology, the characterisation, dating, and stratigraphic correlation of tephra (or volcanic ash) and cryptotephra deposits and their application to linking, synchronizing and dating geological, paleoecological or archaeological deposits or events; includes aspects of volcanology and the history of tephra studies globally
  • Pedology, the nature, genesis, distribution and classification of soils, and palaeopedology, the study of soils of landscapes or environments of the past, especially multi-layered soils in volcanic and pyroclastic-dominated landscapes where upbuilding pedogenesis occurs;
  • Mineralogy of soils formed in volcanic materials including studies of (i) allophane and its role in C sequestration and DNA adsorption, and (ii) halloysite and its morphology and association with landsliding, and their co-existance in soils developed from pyroclastic deposits (tephra) including Andisols and Ultisols
  • Soils of New Zealand: developed into co-writing a text book on "The soils of Aotearoa New Zealand" (published by Springer, 2021)
  • Environmental change in the Quaternary: developing chronologies for the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments, including the impacts of humans (hence geoarchaeology), using environmental proxies at a range of time-scales and deposits since about 2.6 million years ago including studies on bogs and fens, and lakes (paleolimnology);
  • Developing research using liquefied lacustrine tephras (tephra seismites) as a new tool for evaluating prehistoric seismic activity on newly-discovered faults in the Hamilton lowlands and the potential impacts and hazards of such activity (Marsden Fund and MBIE Endeavour Fund projects) (see
  • Historical and biographical aspects of geosciences and tephrochronology
  • Writing a text book on tephrochronology and its application (with Prof Nick Pearce)

Further research information

Link to ResearchGate: David J. Lowe on ResearchGate

Link to Google Scholar:

Recent Publications

  • Chaneva, J., Kluger, M. O., Moon, V. G., Lowe, D., & Orense, R. P. (2022). Geotechnical properties of liquefied pumiceous layers in lakes. In B. Scott (Ed.), Proceedings of the 7th International Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference (pp. 313-318). Sydney: Australian Geomechanics Society.

  • Tonkin, P. J., & Lowe, D. (2022). Gary Edward Orbell MSc (Hons), MNZIAHS, MRSNZ, 12 February, 1936–17 October, 2021. In New Zealand Soil News (Vol. 70, Iss. 1, pp. 45-55). New Zealand Society of Soil Science.

  • Lowe, D. J., Abbott, P. M., Suzuki, T., & Jensen, B. J. L. (2021). The international tephra research group ‘Commission on Tephrochronology’ and its activities – the first 60 years. Preprint - in review. doi:10.5194/hgss-2021-22

  • Lowe, D. (2021). Robert Frith Allbrook (1928-2020). In New Zealand Soil News (Vol. 69, Iss. 2, pp. 37-44). New Zealand Society of Soil Science.

Find more research publications by David LOWE


Environmental Change; Geography; Geology; Natural Resources; Radiocarbon Dating; Science; Science Education; Volcanoes; Wetlands Environment

Andisols; volcanic-ash soils; tephra; cryptotephra; distal tephra; tephrochronology; tephrostratigraphy; Commission on Tephrochronology; pedology; soil stratigraphy; paleopedology; Quaternary science; paleolimnology; soil mineralogy; clay mineralogy; geochronology; volcanology; geoarchaeology; landsliding; natural hazards; geohazards; Waikato region; soils of New Zealand; New Zealand; history of geoscience; Ultisols; New Zealand Soil Classification

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: DE.3.02
Phone: Use cell phone
Cellphone: +64 (0) 21 027 727 07
Fax: +64 7 838 4352