Dr Stephanie Mills

Dr Stephanie Mills

Lecturer in Physical Geography

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


I joined the University of Plymouth in September 2013 as a Lecturer in Physical Geography. I was previously a lecturer at Kingston University from 2010 – 2013.

I am a glacial geomorphologist with an interest in late Quaternary environments. My expertise lies in the area of using glacier reconstruction and mass balance techniques, glacier modelling and surface exposure dating, to reconstruct past environmental change in previously glaciated landscapes. My work has specifically focussed on environmental change in southern Africa and more recently in Australasia.

Current work includes the Royal Geographical Society funded project (Peter Fleming Award) which aims to reconstruct past environmental change in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg, southern Africa.


BSc (Hons) Geography, RoyalHolloway University of London

PGDip Surveying and Mapping, University of East London

PhD (cold climate geomorphology), University of the Witwatersrand South Africa

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

British Society for Geomorphology 

Quaternary Research Association

South African Society for Quaternary Research

Teaching interests

I have taught many aspects of Physical Geography, however my particular area of expertise is in glacial and periglacial geomorphology.

I am currently Stage 4 Tutor and am module leader for:

GGP2204 Cold Environments

GGX3200 Dissertation in Geography

I also contribute teaching to the following modules:

GGX1200 Geography Matters

GGX1202 Introducing Physical Geography 2

GGX2200 Fieldwork in Geography

GGX2201 Principles and Applications of Geography 1

GGX2202 Principles and Applications of Geography 2

GGP2204 Cold Environments


Research interests

My research has focussed on the development of a multi-method approach, to discriminate between landforms and deposits of glacial origin in the Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa. A key outcome from this has been the identification that the climate of southern Africa is highly sensitive to climate change and has experienced large variations in the past. More specifically, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) the high mountain regions of southern Africa were wet enough to sustain small glaciers, suggesting a change in the timing and seasonality of precipitation in southern Africa during the last glacial cycle. This research has been funded by the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society.

Much of my more recent work has focussed on the timing and magnitude of glaciation within the broader southern Hemisphere and fieldwork has been undertaken in Tasmania, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea as part of a collaborative project with Dr Tim Barrows (Exeter University) funded by the Australian Research Council. This research will help gain a better understanding of global warming at the end of the last ice age, using glacier modelling and surface exposure dating to determine whether the timing was synchronous across a latitudinal gradient.    

I am also interested in the application of glacier modelling to determine glacier-climate relationships, based on glaciological simulations and geomorphological evidence. In addition, recent work has focussed on the modelling of snowblow in areas of marginal glaciation, in order to determine the effect this can have on glacier mass balance and subsequent climate reconstructions.

Grants & contracts

2011 - Royal Geographical Society Peter Fleming Award. The impact of the Agulhas Currenton the ice age climate of the Drakensberg Mountains, southern Africa £9000.

2010 - Royal Geographical Society 30th International GeographicalCongress Award £650.

2010 - Queen Mary University of London Michaela Benzeval fund £450.

2009 - European Geosciences Union Young Scientist's Travel Award £400 (€ 433).

2008 - British Society for Geomorphology Research Grant. Determining the timing ofglaciation in eastern Lesotho, southern Africa £525.

2007 - Royal Society Joint International Project. Climate and Glaciation insouthern Africa at the LGM £11 750Co-investigatorin project led by Dr Simon Carr and Prof. Stefan Grab.

2007 - Quaternary Research Association Research Grant £450.

Key publications are highlighted

Mills SC, Barrows TT, Telfer MW & Fifield LK 2016 'The cold climate geomorphology of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg: A reevaluation of past climatic conditions during the last glacial cycle in Southern Africa' Geomorphology 278, 184-194 , DOI PEARL
Mather AE, Mills S, Stokes M & Fyfe R 2015 'Ten years on: what can Google Earth offer the Geoscience community?' Geology Today 31, (6) 216-221
Telfer MW, Mills SC & Mather AE 2014 'Extensive Quaternary aeolian deposits in the Drakensberg foothills, Rooiberge, South Africa' Geomorphology 219, 161-175 , DOI
Harrison S, Rowan AV, Glasser NF, Knight J, Plummer MA & Mills SC 2014 'Little Ice Age glaciers in Britain: Glacier–climate modelling in the Cairngorm Mountains' The Holocene 24, (2) 135-140 , DOI
Barrows TT, Williams MAJ, Mills SC, Duller GAT, Fifield LK, Haberlah D, Tims SG & Williams FM 2014 'A White Nile megalake during the last interglacial period' Geology 42, 163-166 , DOI PEARL
Barrows TT, Almond P, Rose R, Fifield LK, Mills SC & Tims SG 2013 'Late Pleistocene glacial stratigraphy of the Kumara-Moana region, West Coast of South Island, New Zealand' Quaternary Science Reviews 74, 139-159 , DOI PEARL
Lukas S, Benn DI, Boston CM, Brook M, Coray S, Evans DJA, Graf A, Kellerer-Pirklbauer A, Kirkbride MP & Krabbendam M 2013 'Clast shape analysis and clast transport paths in glacial environments: A critical review of methods and the role of lithology' Earth Science Reviews 121, 96-116 , DOI
Mills SC 2013 'Late Pleistocene glaciation in southern Africa' Quaternary Newsletter 129, 31-45
Mills SC, Grab SW, Rea BR, Carr SJ & Farrow A 2012 'Shifting westerlies and precipitation patterns during the Late Pleistocene in southern Africa determined using glacier reconstruction and mass balance modelling' Quaternary Science Reviews 55, 145-159 , DOI
Grab SW & Mills SC 2011 'Late Quaternary slope environments in the upper Sehonghong Valley, eastern Lesotho' Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 122, 179-186 , DOI
Carr SJ, Lukas S & Mills SC 2010 'Glacier reconstruction and mass-balance modelling as a geomorphic and palaeoclimatic tool' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35, 1103-1115 , DOI
Carr SJ, Lukas S & Mills SC 2010 'Glacier reconstruction and mass-balance modelling as a geomorphic and palaeoclimatic tool' Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35, (9) 1103-1115 , DOI
Mills SC, Grab S W & Carr SJ 2009 'Recognition and palaeoclimatic implications of late Quaternary niche glaciation in eastern Lesotho' Journal of Quaternary Science 24, (7) 647-663 , DOI
Mills SC, Grab SW & Carr SJ 2009 'Late Quaternary moraines along the Sekhokong range, eastern Lesotho: contrasting the geomorphic history of north- and south-facing slopes' Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 91, (2) 121-140 , DOI
Grab S W, Mulder N A & Mills SC 2009 'Spatial associations between late winter snow cover and cold region landforms in the Drakensberg, southern Africa' Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography 91, (2) 83-97 , DOI
Mills SC & Grab S W 2005 'Debris ridges along the southern Drakensberg escarpment as evidence for Quaternary glaciation in southern Africa' Quaternary International 129, 61-73 , DOI
Howard AJ, Macklin MG, Bailey DW, Mills S & Andreescu R 2004 'Late-glacial and Holocene river development in the Teleorman Valley on the southern Romanian Plain' Journal of Quaternary Science 19, (3) 271-280 , DOI
Bailey DW, Andreescu R, Howard AJ, Macklin MG & Mills S 2002 'Alluvial landscapes in the temperate Balkan Neolithic: transitions to tells' Antiquity 76, (292) 349-355 , DOI
Editorial comments
Mills SC & Carr SJ 2011 'Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa' Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 122, 177-178 , DOI
Grab S W, Mills SC & Carr S J 2012 'Periglacial and glacial geomorphology' in Holmes P; Meadows M Southern Africa Geomorphology. Recent Trends and New Directions Bloemfontein Sun Media 231-265