School of Geography

Environmental reconstruction


This sub-theme focuses on climate and human aspects of environmental change on a range of temporal scales and using a variety of archival sources and proxies. 

We use deposits from terrestrial, lake and ocean environments as well as historical documents to reconstruct past climates. We investigate climate changes and extremes (hurricanes) over late Pleistocene and Holocene timescales using lake sediments from Mexico, Belize and the Lesser Antilles (Metcalfe, Jones). We study documentary archives to investigate regional climatic and environmental history in Africa and Mexico (Endfield). High-resolution palaeolimnological records are being used to investigate changes in seasonality through the Early- to Mid-Holocene in the Eastern Mediterranean (Jones, Metcalfe). Dune deposits are used to investigate storm intensity and frequency in Europe and the British Isles (Clarke). In high and mid latitude areas we investigate lake sediment records from West Greenland (McGowan) and Siberia (Swann, Panizzo) on Holocene- Quaternary-Pliocene timescales and ocean sediments from the Bering Sea, the Antarctic margin, and North Atlantic Ocean (Swann) to quantify the timescales and mechanisms for past climate change.

We investigate human impacts and their intersection with climatic change through collaborations with archaeologists, social scientists, engineers and environmental scientists. Geoarchaeological investigations combining palaeolimnological and archaeological techniques are being used to evaluate human and climate impacts in SW Iran and Jordan (Jones, Metcalfe). In Mexico and Belize we are studying human-environment interactions over Holocene and historical timescales (Endfield, Metcalfe). We are determining the extent and consequences of anthropogenically-sourced atmospheric nitrogen deposition on lake ecosystems in SW Greenland (McGowan). We are investigating the impacts of human activities on water resources, land degradation and society in Central Asia (Clarke, O’Hara). We have a focus on cultural eutrophication of lakes in Europe and Mesoamerica and how these impacts interact with climate change (McGowan, Metcalfe) and thus have strong links with the Water resources sub-theme.

The calibration, validation and development of novel proxies for environmental reconstruction is an important strand of our research. We are leading research in the development of methodologies for the analysis and interpretation of stable oxygen, carbon and silicon isotopes from siliceous remains in marine and lacustrine sediments (Swann, Jones, Panizzo). We monitor surface waters to develop models of both stable oxygen isotope systematics (Jones) and the deposition and incorporation of biological proxies into sediments (McGowan) to facilitate the quantitative interpretation of palaeolimnological records. We have expertise in the analysis of diatoms (Metcalfe, McGowan) and a laboratory dedicated to the specialist analysis of chlorophyll and carotenoid pigments from aquatic environments (McGowan). Research in this area is strongly linked to our Water Resources sub-theme. We are experienced in the interpretation of lake sediments using image enhancement and minerological techniques (Clarke, Jones, Metcalfe, O’Hara). 


School of Geography

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham, University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 95 15428
fax: +44 (0)115 95 15249
email: geogenquiries@nottingham.ac.uk