Quaternary Environments

We are a well-integrated cluster working at the cutting edge of research into past global environmental change. Our work is characterised by the innovative use of a range of techniques that includes foraminifera, pollen, diatom, sedimentological and stable isotope analyses, along with optical, radiocarbon and other dating methods. These are used in a complementary, multiproxy framework, along with calibration based on multivariate statistics, to investigate issues of past climatic and environmental change.

A major focus of our most recent research has been the improved understanding of rapid environmental transitions, notably during periods - such as the Late-Glacial/Holocene transition - when the Earth System has readjusted to abrupt climatic shifts. Another key period for which we have been collectively setting the international scientific research agenda is the late Holocene, whose study allows actual and projected 21st-century warming and sea-level rise to be put into a longer context. Our work is intrinsically interdisciplinary in character, linking the biological and physical sciences, along with science-based archaeology.

International links

We are strongly international in character, and members of our group are working on projects around the world including the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, Spain, Morocco, SW Africa, Argentina, Chile and in the UK. 

We are involved in collaborative research with major national agencies such as the NERC Radiocarbon Facility and Isotope Geosciences Laboratory. Staff have been centrally involved in international programmes such as POLLANDCAL and PAGES. 

Group members have attracted grants from a wide suite of the most competitive funding bodies, including NERC, the EC, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Council and the Royal Society. 

Our work has significant practical applications in fields such as landslide hazard engineering, and consequently we have secured funding support from professional agencies such as English Nature (e.g. peatland conservation) and Network Rail (impact of sea-level rise on rail infrastructure). 

Our people


Thomas Newton

Supervisors: Tim Daley with Will Blake

Funding: Plymouth University 

Research theme: Reconstructing late Holocene sea-level change using saltmarsh testate amoebae

Havananda Ombashi

Supervisor: Ralph Fyfe with Tim Daley

Funding: Exmoor National Park/Plymouth University (50/50)

Research theme: Pollen-based landscape reconstruction on Exmoor

Emma Rice

Supervisors: Tim Daley with Neil Roberts 

Funding: NERC

Research theme: Testing the late Holocene climate signal from ombrotrophic bogs in southernmost Chile: a multi-proxy, multi-profile and multi-site approach

Francis Rowney

Supervisors: Nicki Whitehouse with Ralph Fyfe 

Funding: Plymouth University studentship

Research theme: Early Middle Pleistocene in northwest Europe: climate and ecology

Recently completed postgraduates:

Rob Barnett

Supervisors: Roland Gehrels/Wil Marshall 

Funding: Plymouth University 

Research theme: Recent sea-level change in Arctic Norway​

Marta Perez 

Supervisors: Ralph Fyfe/Dan Charman 

Funding: Plymouth University

Research theme: Sea-level change and lost archaeological landscapes, Scilly islands

Samantha Allcock

Supervisors: Neil Roberts/Ralph Fyfe 

Funding: Plymouth University 

Research theme: Climate change and societal adaptation in the ancient Near East.