Sophie Norris

Sophie Norris
Assistant Professor
Quaternary geomorphology, geochronology, ice sheet dynamics, glacial erosion, glacial lake outburst floods
Office: DTB B128

PhD (University of Alberta)

 I joined the Department of Geography in 2022. Here, I head the GCR lab (located in DTB B133). GCR is a research laboratory and team focused on unravelling geomorphological and geochronological questions in a Quaternary context. I came to the University of Victoria after completing a postdoctoral position at Dalhousie University in partnership with Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), where I studied global glacial erosion rates. I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Alberta, focused on the deglacial dynamics of the North American Ice Sheet Complex.

In general, my research centers on reconstructing past global climate change and how this affected the timing and nature of ice dynamics in polar regions over the Quaternary period (last 2.6 million years). I study signs left from these ice sheets and glaciers to understand how ice moved and influenced the landscape we use today. I use cutting-edge laboratory and analytical procedures, combined with computer modelling tools, to quantify the precise timing, rates and magnitudes of changes that result from glacial ice formation, movement, and melting. Likewise, my research focuses on immense, dramatic, and often catastrophic floods resulting from proglacial lake drainage.

I am actively recruiting undergraduate and graduate students to join the University of Victoria GCR lab. I seek motivated, enthusiastic students who have experience in or are interested in researching and learning about Quaternary glaciation, ice sheet dynamics and glacial lake outburst flood events. Please contact via email using the subject ‘UVic Graduate Inquiry-Your Name.’ Include a copy of your CV and a brief introduction about the type of project that interests you.


My ongoing research projects fall into three broad themes:


Quaternary geomorphology and sedimentology of the North American Ice Sheet Complex

  • Reconstructing the ice stream evolution of the western Laurentide Ice Sheet using geomorphic mapping and flow-set models
  • Equilibrium line altitude modelling and geomorphic mapping of Younger Dryas plateau icefields in Western Canada
  • Reconstructing the collapse of the Laurentide-Cordilleran ice saddle using terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides dating and ice sheet modelling (project in partnership with the Mount Everest Foundation)


Modelling and reconstruction of glacial lake outburst floods

  • Assessment of the erosional and depositional controls on spillway morphology in the western Canadian Prairies using remote sensing and geospatial modelling
  • Application of change detection software to create a multi-temporal inventory of glacial lake outburst floods- case studies from Western Canada


Quantifying glacial erosion processes within crystalline bedrock regions

  • Statistical identification of key glaciological, lithological, and climatic controls on global rates of Quaternary glacial erosion (project in partnership with Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO))
  • Quantifying and predicting global rates of contemporary glacial erosion using machine learning tools (project in partnership with Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO))
  • Constraining glacial erosion rates in variable ice flow settings using cosmogenic nuclide dating in East Canada (project in partnership with Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) and CRISDal Laboratories- Dalhousie University)


 Prior projects include:

  • Application of terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides to test the availability and viability of an ‘ice-free corridor’ for the peopling of the Americas
  • Flood discharge modelling through the northwestern outlet of Glacial Lake Agassiz and its implications for ocean circulation change
  • The identification of former terrestrial ice stream dynamics from sedimentological evidence and borehole stratigraphy


GEOG272: Introduction to Climatology and Hydrology

GEOG276: Introduction to Geomorphology

GEOG491: Advanced topics in Geography


Publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters:

Google Scholar


Conference abstracts, presentations, and media articles: