Bense is a hydrogeologist with a strong interest in geological processes. His primary expertise lies in fault zone hydrogeology and in considering the impacts of climatic changes on the long-term dynamics of groundwater flow systems at high-latitude and in coastal zones. Moreover, he is an avid field hydrogeologist pioneering the use of Distributed Temperature Sensing using fibre-optic cables in hydrogeological applications.

During his PhD (2004) carried out at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam he focused on understanding shallow fault zones both from a structural geological as well as a hydrogeological perspective. Subsequently (2004-2006) he worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Indiana University on regional scale hydrogeological modelling. In 2006 he joined the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia to continue researching and Lecturing in a variety of hydrological and hydrogeological topics. He is co-authoring ‘Hydrogeology: Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition’ with Prof Kevin Hiscock.

Fault hydrogeology

Fault zones form the plumbing of the shallow Earth’s crust where they form the loci for enhanced vertical fluid flow. However faults are also known to have as barriers for lateral fluid migration for example trapping hydrocarbon accumulations. The precise behaviour of faults is often difficult to predict, depending on a complex interaction between geological and hydrogeological factors. Nevertheless, the hydraulic properties faults often play a crucial role in the assessment of groundwater resources, understanding hydrocarbon accumulations, and safety aspects of the subsurface storage of environmentally unfriendly substances such as nuclear waste and excess carbon dioxide. Also, fault zones will play a central role in assessing the potential for the pollution of shallow groundwater as well seismicity, when shale gas recovery is considered.

Bense, V.F., T. Gleeson and S.E. Loveless., O. Bour and J. Scibek (2013), Fault zone hydrogeology, Earth Science Reviews, 10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.09.008

Transient dynamics of groundwater flow systems under the influence of climate change

Changes in boundary conditions to groundwater flow in aquifers can be caused by surface warming, glaciation and sea-level fluctuations.These can all have a profound, long-lasting, impact on hydrogeological conditions such as the distribution of fresh groundwater. The study of groundwater dynamics in relation to past climate change (paleo-hydrogeology) can help forecasting what the impacts will be of ongoing and future climatic changes. Currently, at UEA numerical hydrogeological models are being developed to evaluate the response of permafrost covered aquifers in the Arctic and on the Tibetan plateau.

Bense, V.F., H. Kooi, G. Ferguson and T. Read (2012), Permafrost degradation as a control on hydrogeological regime shifts in a warming climate, Journal of Geophysical Research, doi:10.1029/ 2011JF002143

Distributed Temperature Sensing in Hydrology and Hydrogeology

Using UEA’s Distributed Temperature Sensing systems (DTS) novel methods are being developed to monitor hydrological and hydrogeological systems. DTS uses fibre-optic technology to obtain observations of temperature at very high spatiotemporal resolution. DTS application in hydrology and hydrogeology is currently being focused on novel ways to monitor fluid flow in boreholes.

Read, T., O. Bour, V.F. Bense, T. Le Borgne, P. Goderniaux, M. Klepikova, R. Hochreutener, N. Lavenant, V. Boschero, (2013) Characterizing groundwater flow and heat transport in fractured rock using Fibre-Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing, Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1002/grl.50397


Career History


  • 2012 - current: Senior Lecturer in Hydrogeology - University of East Anglia, UK
  • 2006 - 2012: Lecturer in Hydrogeology - University of East Anglia, UK
  • 2004 - 2006: Post-doc Researcher - Indiana University, USA
  • 1999 - 2004: PhD student - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1998 - 1999: Research Associate - USDA Hydrology Laboratory, USA 


  • 1999 - 2004: PhD Hydrogeology/Structural Geology - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
  • 1993 - 1998: MSc Hydrogeology/Meteorology/Structural Geology - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

PhD Positions

Click here for current PhD opportunities in the School of Environmental Sciences. However, feel free to email me to discuss projects outside these areas and alternative sources of funding.

Key Research Interests

Faults and fluid flow; basin scale groundwater flow; subsurface heat transport; borehole climatology; numerical modeling.

Significant Publications

  • Bense, V.F., H. Kooi, G. Ferguson and T. Read (2012), Permafrost degradation as a control on hydrogeological regime shifts in a warming climate, Journal of Geophysical Researchdoi:10.1029/ 2011JF002143
  • Scheidegger, J.M., V.F. Bense, S.E. Grasby (2012), Transient nature of Arctic spring systems driven by sub-glacial meltwater, Geophysical Research Lettersdoi:10.1029/2012GL051445
  • Person, M.A., J. McIntosh, N. Iverson, C.E. Neuzil, and V.F. Bense (2012), Geologic Isolation of Nuclear Waste at High Latitudes: The Role of Ice Sheets, Geofluidsdoi:10.1111/j.1468-8123.2011.00358.x
  • Person, M.A., V.F. Bense, and A. Banerjee (2012), Models of ice sheet-hydrogeologic interactions,Geofluidsdoi:10.1111/j.1468-8123.2011.00360.x
  • Grasby, S.E., B. Beauchamp, V.F. Bense (2012), Sulphuric acid speleogenesis associated with a glacial driven groundwater system - paleo-spring ‘pipes’ at Borup Fiord Pass, Nunavut, 12(1): 19-28,Astrobiologydoi:10.1089/ast.2011.0700
  • Loveless, S.E., V.F. Bense, and J. Turner (2011), Fault deformation processes and permeability architecture within recent rift sediments, central Greece, Journal of Structural Geology,doi:10.1016/j.jsg.2011.09.008
  • Ferguson, G., and V.F. Bense (2011), Uncertainty in 1D heat-flow analysis to estimate groundwater discharge to a stream, Ground Waterdoi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2010.00735.x
  • Person, M.A., Banerjee, A., Rupp, J., Medina, C., Lichtner, P., Gable, C., Pawar, R., Celia, M., MacIntosh, J., Bense, V.F. (2010), Assessment of basin-scale hydrologic impacts of CO2 sequestration, Illinois Basin.International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Controldoi:10.1016/j.ijggc.2010.04.004
  • Bense, V.F., Ferguson, G., Kooi, H. (2009) Evolution of shallow groundwater flow systems in areas of degrading permafrostt. Geophysical Research Letters36, L22401, doi:10.1029/2009GL039225
  • Bense, V.F., M.A. Person, K. Chaudhary, Y. You, N. Cremer, and S.Simon (2008), Thermal anomalies as indicator of preferential flow along faults in an unconsolidated sedimentary aquifer system, Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L24406, doi: 10.1029/2008GL036017
  • Bense, V.F., Person, M.A.  (2008) Transient hydrodynamics within intercratonic sedimentary basins during glacial cycles. J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 113, No. F4, F04005. doi: 10.1029/2007JF000969
  • Bense, V., and H. Beltrami (2007), Impact of horizontal groundwater flow and localized deforestation on the development of shallow temperature anomalies, J. Geophys. Res., 112, F04015,doi:10.1029/2006JF000703
  • Person, M., J. McIntosh, V. Bense, and V. H. Remenda (2007), Pleistocene hydrology of North America: The role of ice sheets in reorganizing groundwater flow systems, Rev. Geophys., 45, RG3007,doi:10.1029/2006RG000206
  • Bense, V.F. and M.A. Person (2006), Faults as conduit-barrier systems to fluid flow in siliciclastic sedimentary aquifers, Water Resources Research, 42, W05421, doi:10.1029/2005WR004480
  • Bense, V.F. and R.T. Van Balen (2004), The effect of fault relay and clay-smearing on groundwater flow patterns in the Lower Rhine Embayment, Basin Research, 16, 397-411. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2117.2004.00238.x
  • Bense, V.F. and H. Kooi (2004), Temporal and spatial variations of shallow subsurface temperature as a record of lateral variations in groundwater flow, Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, VOL. 109, B04103, doi:10.1029/2003JB002782
  • Bense, V.F., E.H. Van den Berg, and R.T. Van Balen (2003), Deformation mechanisms and hydraulic properties of fault zones in unconsolidated sediments; the Roer Valley Rift System, the Netherlands.Hydrogeology JournalDOI: 10.1007/s10040-003-0262-8

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository