Geography and Earth Sciences Laboratories

The geography and earth science laboratories support undergraduate/postgraduate courses and research work in these subject areas. Resources include:

The palaeoecology laboratories

Equipped to undertake a range of analytical techniques such as pollen, diatom, insect, foram, fungal spore, plant macrofossil, testate amoeba, and tephra analyses. These proxies can be used to investigate a number of topics including quaternary environmental and landscape change, environmental archaeology, changes in past sea-level, palaeoclimatology, and early agriculture. There are three palaeo labs comprising sampling and processing rooms, plus a larger microscope lab.

Sediment cores and samples can be initially assessed, described, and sub-sampled in the sampling/coring room. This also houses wet processing facilities for bulk samples (insects, forams and plant macrofossils), and cold storage facilities. Secondly is the palaeo-preparation laboratory which contains fume cupboards for processing pollen, diatom, plant macrofossil, testate amoebae, and tephra samples. Monitoring of pollen levels in order to provide the pollen forecast for the Plymouth region in conjunction with the Met Office, is also undertaken here.


Lastly, we have a larger lab where all our microscope work is undertaken. There is a range of low- and high-power microscopes available to use, including dedicated camera and image analysis software. A pollen reference collection and range of identification keys for various proxies is also available. Tuition on using graph drawing software packages (Tilia and C2) for palaeoecology projects can be undertaken here.

Instruction on the use of various field work equipment useful to palaeoecology projects includes a range of sediment corers (Russian, gouge, Livingstone, soil augers). We also hold geophysical equipment, with Katie Head responsible for tuition on the use of our ground penetrating radar and associated analysis software, as well as magnetic susceptibility instrumentation for field and laboratory.

Contact: Dr Katie Head, Room 703a, Davy Building.

Soils, sediment and water laboratories:

  • particle size analysis - sieving / settling columns /laser diffraction / image analysis
  • rainfall simulation / soil erosion experimental work / soil aggregate stability
  • soil pore size distribution assessment
  • lab-based hydraulic conductivity with constant and falling head apparatus
  • basic soil and water chemistry - pH / conductivity


  • loss-on-ignitionorganic matter content
  • soil and sediment sample milling and preparation for subsequent analysis in the analytical research facilities
  • basic geotechnical work.

Contact: Mr Richard Hartley, Room 703a, Davy Building.

Support staff