The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

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Matthias Leopold

Asst/Prof Matthias Leopold

Assistant Professor
Agriculture and Environment, School of

Contact details
School of Agriculture and Environment
The University of Western Australia (M079)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 2769
PhD Regensburg
Matthias Leopold is a soil geomorphologist focussing on soils as geoarchives. Frequently used methods of his studies include soil and geomorphic mapping, shallow geophysics, various laboratory methods such as XRD, XRF and others. He is based at the School of Earth & Environment within the Soil Science.
Matthias integrates knowledge from pedology and geoscience to study and to understand near surface processes at various scales and environments. Thus, he develops 2D and 3D subsurface models using geophysical methods, to characterise vertical and horizontal differences in the upper meters including soils. Portraying the complexity of the subsurface, recently known in science as the“critical zone”, allows statements about possible rooting depths, hydrological flowpaths, material composition, thickness variations of soil horizons and geomorphic layers – information highly wanted by agriculture, forestry and engineering. Adding numerical dating techniques such as OSL and radiocarbon towards stratigraphic sections, allows developing chronostratigraphic units in order to describe past landscape evolution - valuable knowledge for nowadays environmental development concepts.

Key research
Soil Science, Geomorphology, Geoarchaeology, Shallow Geophysics
peer reviewed articles & Books (past 5 years 2012 - 2017)

SCHORGHOFER, N., LEOPOLD, M., YOSHIKAWA, K. (2017): State of High-Altitude Permafrost on Tropical Maunakea Volcano, Hawaii. Permafrost and Periglacial processes. ( DOI: 10.1002/ppp.1954

MAY, S., BRILL, D., LEOPOLD, M., CALLOW, N. ENGELS, M.,SCHEFFERS, A. OPITZ, S., NORTHPOTH, M., , BRUECKNER, H. (2017): Chronostratigraphy and geomorphology of washover fans in the Exmouth Gulf (NW Australia) – A record of tropical cyclone activity during the late Holocene. Quaternary Science Reviews, 169: 65-84.

MAY, S.M., GELHAUSEN, H., BRILL, D., CALLOW, N.,ENGEL, M., OPITZ, S., SCHEFFERS, A., JOANNES-BOYAU, R., LEOPOLD, M., BRUECKNER, H., 2017. Chenier-type ridges in Giralia Bay (Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia) - Processes, chronostratigraphy, and significance for recording past tropical cyclones. Marine Geology, DOI: 10.1016/j.margeo.2017.03.005.

LOWE, M.-A., MCGRATH, G., MATHES, F. & LEOPOLD, M. (2016): Evaluation of surfactant effectiveness on water repellent soils using electrical resistivity tomography. Agricultural water management, 181: 56-65.

LEOPOLD, M., MORELLI, A., SCHORGHOFER, N. (2016): Subsurface architecture of two tropical alpine desert cinder cones that hold water. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 121/6: 1148-1160. doi: 10.1002/2016JF003853

GLEESON, D., MATHES, F., FARRELL, M. & LEOPOLD, M. (2016): Environmental drivers of soil microbial community structure and function at the Avon River Catchment Critical Zone Observatory. Science of the Total Environment. 15; 571:1407-18. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.185

WINTON, V., BROWN, V., LEOPOLD, M., D’Ovidio, B., YUSHIHARNI, E., CARSON, A., HAMLET, C., (2016): The first radiometric Pleistocene date for Aboriginal occupation at Weld Range, inland Mid-West, Western Australia. Australian Archaeology, 82: 60-66. doi: 10.1080/03122417.2016.1163952

LEOPOLD M, LEWIS G, DETHIER D, CAINE N, WILLIAMS M (2015): Cryosphere: Ice on Niwot Ridge and in the Green Lakes Valley, Colorado Front Range. Plant Ecology and Diversity. available online at:

DUSIK, J., LEOPOLD M., HECKMANN T., HAAS F., HILGER L., MORCHE D., NEUGIRG F., BECHT M. (2015):Influence of glacier advance on the development of the multipart Riffeltal rock glacier, Central Austrian AlpsEarth surfaces processes and Landforms 40/7: 965-980, DOI: 10.1002/esp.3695

MUEZEWSKI A, WARD I.A, SPOONER N, LEOPOLD M, (2014): What to make of the 'Murchison Cement'?Australian Archaeology 214: 116-123.

Leopold, M., Voelkel, J., Dethier, D.P., & Williams, M.W. (2014): Changing mountain permafrost from the 1970s to today – comparing two examples from Niwot Ridge, Colorado Front Range, USA. Annals of Geomorphology, 58 spp1: 137-157, doi:10.1127/0372-8854/2013/S-00129

LEOPOLD, M., VOELKEL, J., HUBER, J., and DETHIER, D. (2013): Subsurface architecture of the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory from electrical resistivity tomography. Earth surface proc. and andforms 38/12: 1417-1431 DOI: 10.1002/esp.3420

VOELKEL, J., GRUNERT, J., LEOPOLD, M., HUERKAMP, K., HUBER, J. & MURRAY, A. (2013): Eolian and fluvial sedimentation in the southwestern Sinai Mountains, Egypt: a record of flash floods during the late Pleistocene. Hydrology Research 44/2: 281–299 DOI:10.2166/nh.2012.172

LEOPOLD, M. & KLEBER, A. (2013): Classification issues - Discrimination Among Pleistocene Cover Beds. In: Kleber, A. & Terhorst, B. (eds): Mid latitude slope deposits (cover beds). Developments in sedimentology, 66, 24-32. Elsevier ISBN: 978-0-444-53118-6

KLEBER, A., LEOPOLD, M., VONLANTHEN, C. & VOELKEL, J. (2013): Transferring the Concept of Cover Beds. In: Kleber, A. & Terhorst, B. (eds): Mid latitude slope deposits (cover beds). Developments in sedimentology, 66, 171-228. Elsevier ISBN: 978-0-444-53118-6

Roles, responsibilities and expertise
- Coordinator of BSc major Environmental Science
- T&L committee
- Future Farm committee
- leader soil matrix group
Future research
- Developing the Avon River Critical Zone Observatory; an internationally connect platform to study water-soil-plant-atmosphere connections. In collaboration with multiple international partners.

Funding received
2012-17CRC for Polymers – Polymers for Improving Soil Moisture Management & Croppin Productivity (D. Murphy, J. Bougoure, F. Mathes, M. Leopold, G. McGrath, A. O'Donnell, L. Barton, D. Gleeson)total budget 1,217,000 AUD

2015CSIRO Australia , Delivering enhanced agronomic strategies for improved crop performance on water repellent soils in WA (L. Barton and M. Leopold) 160,000 AUD

2014-16 World Wide University Network (WUN), Ancient Soils & Modern Land Use - A Challenge for CZ Science. (M. Leopold, D. Gleeson, A. Rate) 40,000 AUD ongoing

2013 'The 'Critical Zone Concept' in the southern hemisphere.' Research collaboration award (RCA) UWA. (M. Leopold, D. Gleeson, G. McGrath, S. Banwart) 10,000 AUD

2013-14Residence time of soils on landscapes Perth-USAsia Cente. (M. Leopold and O. Chadwick, University of California in Santa Barbara). 10,000 AUD

2015Critical Zone National Office, NSF-US support for US PhD students to attend summer school at UWA. (M. Leopold) 10,000 AUD

2007 - 2013Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory: Weathered profile development in a rocky environment and its influence on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry. Cooperation project with the University of Boulder, USA (PI S. Anderson and 14 intern. project partners). NSF: 06-588; proposal 0724960. 05/2007 – 05/2011. total budget 5,000,000 USD


2011 Jungquartäre Hangsedimente als Archive der Landschaftsgeschichte in der Colorado Front Range, U.S.A. (J. Völkel and M. Leopold, DFG-Az. VO585/15-1)250,000 EUR

2011 "Colluvial fillings below the settlement Niederhummel (Linear Band Pottery age), District of Freising, Germany" (M. Leopold DFG-Az. LE1531/4-1) 20,000 EUR

2008 Genesis and age of dunes near Abensberg and Siegenburg (Niederbayern, Lkr. Kelheim), (J. Völkel and M. Leopold DFG-Az. VO585/13-1)45,000 EUR

2007 Near surface geophysics and sedimentological studies at the former glacial Lake Devlin, Front Range, Colorado, USA (M. Leopold DFG-Az. LE1531/2-2) Part II 50,000 EUR
2006Geophysical and sedimentological studies at the former glacial Lake Devlin, Front Range, Colorado, USA (M. Leopold DFG-Az. LE1531/2-1) Part I40,000 EUR

2005Characterization of soils and slope sediments in the Front Range north of Boulder, Colorado, USA (Leopold444USA111/8/05). 08/2005 – 10/2005; 5,000 EUR

External Partner of DFG-funded projects

2011PROSA ‘„High resolution survey of the geomorphodynamic in rapidly changing proglacial systems of the Alps“ (PROSA). (DFG-Az. BE1118/26-1). Phase 1 Role: External expert for geophysical surveys. Successful renewal Phase 2 in 2013.
External budget ~ 40,000 EUR

2010 Sedimentology of the upper subsurface near the archaeological excavation below the Acropolis, Greece (DFG-proposal Prof. Dr. Zimmer, KU Eichstätt, DFG-Az. ZI335/7-2) 10,000 EUR

French (basic)

Critical Zone Exploration Network (CZEN)
International Association of GeoChemistry (IAGC)
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
European Association for Archaeology (EAA)

National (Germany)

Working group for Geomorphology (AK Geomorphologie)
German Soil Science Society (DGB)
Working group for Soil-Geography (AK BOGEO)
Working group for research in Central Europe mid hills (AK VMFZE).
Working group for Geoarchaeology
Honours and awards
UWA VC innovation Award 2016
Previous positions
Senior Scientist at the
Technical Univerity Munich TUM
Science Center Weihenstephan
Coordinator BSc of Science
with major in Environmental Science

Unit coordinator:
EART3338, Land Capability Assessment
ENVT4401 Advanced Land Use Management

Teaching into
ENVT2236 Soil Science
ENVT5510 Soil Dynamics
EART3339 Land Rehabilitation
Current projects
- Water repellence in WA sandy soils. In collaboration with CRC for Polymer, ex Grains GRDC, WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

- Subsurface hydrology in WA karst systems using electrical resistivity tomography (in collaborations with ANSTO, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority - Kings Park.

- Subsurface conditions of high alpine Mauna Kea, Hawaii - in collaboration with University of Hawaii.

- Geoarchaeological studies of the Dampier Archipelago. In collaboration with the UWA Center for Rockart
Research profile
Research profile and publications

The University of Western Australia

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM