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Dr Liz Holcombe

Dr Liz Holcombe

Dr Liz Holcombe
M.Sci, Ph.D.(Bristol), FHEA

Senior Lecturer

Area of research

landslide hazard modelling and mitigation

Office 2.41
Queen's Building,
University Walk, Clifton BS8 1TR
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 331 5612


Liz Holcombe's background is in dynamic slope hydrology and stability modelling with a particular focus on urban landslide risk management in the Humid Tropics. The core areas of Liz's research are the development and application of:

  • slope stability and landslide cost models
  • methods for assessing landslide risk to road networks
  • community-based drainage measures for reducing urban landslide hazards in developing countries

Liz’s wider research interests within the field of disaster risk management include decision-making in uncertain environments, ‘building back better’ for resilience and sustainability, and community-based approaches.

The main application of Liz’s research has been the development of an innovative methodology for assessing and reducing landslide risk in unplanned urban communities. MoSSaiC (Management of Slope Stability in Communities) is based on identifying the localized physical causes of landslides (often related to inadequate drainage), designing appropriate engineering measures to address these causes (such as surface water drains), and constructing those measures to an adequate specification so that the root cause of the hazard is effectively addressed. This science- and engineering-based approach is embedded in community participation and the engagement of local government experts, policy-makers and development agencies. It has been successfully applied in 12 communities in the Eastern Caribbean with funding from Governments, UNDP, USAID and The World Bank.

Liz’s work is recognised within academia and in the field of international development. In 2007 she was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers Trevithick Prize for a co-authored paper on the MoSSaiC methodology. For a full publication list see here. From 2011 to 2017 she was engaged by The World Bank as Consultant Landslide Risk Management Specialist. Liz has co-authored a book entitled 'Community-Based Landslide Risk Reduction which was published by The World Bank in 2013.


Liz obtained an MSci (First class) in Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol in 2000. Between 2002 and 2006 she completed a PhD entitled 'Modelling Landslide Risk on Highway Cut Slopes in Developing Countries'. As part of Liz's PhD research she carried out fieldwork in Saint Lucia, West Indies, with her supervisor Professor Malcolm Anderson. In response to a request for assistance from the Government of Saint Lucia, they initiated an innovative method for reducing landslide hazard in unplanned urban communities by improving surface water drainage (MoSSaiC, Management of Slope Stability in Communities). The success of the pilot project in 2004 led to the Government of Saint Lucia, and subsequently UNDP, USAID and The World Bank, funding several further community-based hazard reduction projects in the region.

Liz was appointed as a Research Associate in the School of Geographical Sciences in 2005. In 2007 she was awarded the Trevithick Prize by the Institution of Civil Engineers for a paper she co-authored on the MoSSaiC methodology. She has presented invited papers at international conferences in Europe, the United States and the Far East, and is the author of numerous research papers and book chapters in the field of landslide risk reduction. In 2012 she was appointed as a Lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Liz has continued to provide technical support to government teams (engineers and development personnel) and community residents in assessing local landslide processes, and designing and constructing surface water management solutions. She has gained extensive overseas experience and was engaged as Consultant Landslide Risk Management Specialist by The World Bank from 2011 to 2017. Liz has co-authored a book: Community-based Landslide Risk Reduction: Managing Disaster in Small Steps, which was published by The World Bank in 2013. The book is freely available and is targeted towards Disaster Risk Management practitioners, project managers and policy makers in developing countries. 


  • numerical modelling
  • slope hydrology
  • slope stability
  • landslide hazards
  • disaster risk reduction
  • international development

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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