Environmental Reconstruction

This sub-theme focuses on climatic change and human-environment interactions on a range of temporal scales and using a variety of archival sources and proxies.

Our Environmental Reconstruction staff and PhD students are conducting research in a range of environments from the poles to the equator, from the land to the oceans. We have active research links with the British Geological Survey, where several of our staff are appointed as Visiting Research Associates via the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry.


Reconstructing past climates

We use deposits from terrestrial, lake and ocean environments to reconstruct past climates. We investigate climate changes over late Pleistocene and Holocene timescales using lake sediments (eg from Mexico, Australasia, and Turkey) and over longer timescales back into the Pleistocene from marine cores in high latitudes north and south. We also work on understanding more recent climate patterns from instrumental data to aid our reconstructions of past conditions.

Recent publications

  • Konecky B.L., McKay N.P., Churakova O., Comas-Bru L., Dassié E., DeLong K., Falster G., Fischer M., Jones M.D., Jonkers L., Kaufman D.S. Leduc G., Managave S.R., Martrat B., Opel T., Orsi A.J., Partin J.W., Sayani H.R., Thomas E.K., Thompson D.M., Tyler J.J., Abram N.J., Atwood A.R., Conroy J.R., Kern Z., Porter T.J., Stevenson S.L., von Gunten L. and the Iso2k Project Members. 2020. The Iso2k Database: A global compilation of paleo-δ18O and δ²H records to aid understanding of Common Era climate. Earth System Science Data
  • De la Barreda B., Metcalfe S.E., Boyd D.S. 2020 Precipitation regionalisation, anomalies and drought occurrence in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. International Journal of Climatology. 40, 4541-4555Doi: 10.1002/joc.6474
  • Mariani M., Tibby J., Barr C., Moss P., Marshall J. C., McGregor G. B. 2019. Reduced rainfall drives biomass limitation of long‐term fire activity in Australia’s subtropical sclerophyll forests. Journal of Biogeography, 46(9), 1974-1987.

Human impacts and their intersection with climatic change

We investigate human impacts and their intersection with climatic change through collaborations with archaeologists, social scientists, engineers and environmental scientists. This ranges from more recent issue around nitrogen deposition and cultural eutrophication to geoarchaeological investigation into the relationship between people, the environment and the climate over thousands of years.

Recent publications

  • Jones M.D., Abu-Jaber N., AlShdaifat A., Baird D., Cook B.I., Cuthbert M.O., Dean J.R., Djamali M., Eastwood W., Fleitmann D., Haywood A., Kwiecien O., Larsen J., Maher L.A., Metcalfe S.E., Parker A., Petrie C.A., Primmer N., Richter T., Roberts N., Roe J., Tindall J.C., Unal E. and Weeks L. 2019. 20,000 years of societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in southwest Asia WIREs Water 6, e1330.
  • Briddon C.L., McGowan S., Metcalfe S., Panizzo V.N., Lacey J., Engels S., Leng M., Mills K., Mushrifah I. 2020. Diatoms in a sediment core from a flood pulse wetland in Malaysia record strong responses to human impacts and hydro-climate over the past 150 years. Geo-Geography and Environment 7(1) e00090.
  • Roberts S., Adams J.K., Mackay A.W., Swann G.E.A., McGowan S., Rose N.L., Panizzo V.N., Yang H., Vologina E., Sturn M., Shchetnikov A.A. 2020. Mercury loading within the Selenga River Basin and Lake Baikal, Siberia, Environmental Pollution, 259, 113814.
  • Swann G.E.A., Panizzo V.N., Piccolroaz S., Pashley V., Horstwood M.S.A., Roberts S., Vologina E., Piotrowska N., Sturm M., Zhdanov A., Granin N., Norman C., McGowan S., Mackay A.W. (2020) Changing nutrient cycling in Lake Baikal, the world's oldest lake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117:27211-27217.

Calibration, validation and development of novel proxies

The calibration, validation and development of novel proxies for environmental reconstruction is an important strand of our research. Through the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry we are leading research in the development of methodologies for the analysis and interpretation of stable isotopes and the development of models regarding the deposition and incorporation of isotopic and biological proxies into sediments.

Recent publications

  • Luu T.N.M., Do t.n., Matiatos I., Panizzo V.N., Anh T.D. 2020. Stable isotopes as an effective tool for N nutrient source identification in a heavily urbanized and agriculturally intensive tropical lowland basin, Biogeochemistry, 149, 17-35.
  • Anh T.D., Do T.N., Panizzo V.P., McGowan S., Leng M.J. 2020. Using stable isotopes to estimate young water fractions in a heavily regulated, tropical lowland river basin. Hydrological Processes
  • Chen X., McGowan S., Bu Z., Yang X., Cao Y., Bai X., Zeng L., Liang J., Qiao Q. 2020. Diatom-based water-table reconstruction in Sphagnum peatlands of northeastern China. Water Research 174,115648.



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

+44 (0)115 951 5559