My research resolves around a number of key areas, all pulled together with the common theme of ‘sea level’.
Late Quaternary sea-level and climate change
The timing and nature of sea-level change is critical to efforts to understand changes in ice sheet mass balance and ocean circulation during different climate states. I have worked on developing late Holocene sea-level reconstructions from salt marshes in northwest Europe, North America, Greenland and Alaska to understand the driving mechanisms of recent sea-level change and carbon storage, and am currently CoI on the NERC C-SIDE project. I am involved in research in the North Sea, looking at high-rates of sea level change during the early Holocene, working with researchers in both the UK (British Geological Survey, Leeds) and the Netherlands (GSN-TNO, Utrecht, Deltares).
I am particularly driven by the aim of improving our understanding of sea-level change during previous interglacial periods. This is critical because current models that project sea-level rise centuries into the future have large uncertainties because the recent observations upon which they are based, encompass too limited a range of climate variability. Therefore, it is crucial to turn to the geological record where there are large-scale changes in climate. I am working on applying methods widely used in Holocene research in estuarine settings, to develop new state-of-the-art reconstructions of previous interglacial sea level. I am currently leading a €2 million European Research Council Starting Grant (RISeR) to further my research in this area.
Abrupt sea-level change
I have been involved in research into sea-level change associated with abrupt events for a long time. In particular, I have worked extensively in Alaska looking at the spatial and temporal similarities and differences of large megathrust earthquakes during the Holocene and associated tsunami hazard risk in the Pacific. I have also worked on palaeo-tsunamis in the North Atlantic and am currently involved in the White Rose INUNDATION project which aims to improve coastal community hazard assessment using novel experiments.
Methods of reconstructing past environments
Throughout my research I have sought to develop the most robust and accurate reconstructions of past sea level possible. This has led me to publish numerous papers on methods of sea-level reconstruction, particularly focused on using microfossils. I have recently become interested in the use of novel geophysical techniques to better reconstruct past sea level and have a number of postgraduate students working in this area. In particular, we have a growing sub-marine landscapes group at Leeds, conducting research with geophysical datasets and cores to better understand palaeo-landscapes and sediment mobility for offshore wind infrastructure.
Modelling solid Earth processes
I have been fortunate to work on some challenging research problems which require novel approaches. This includes modelling the solid Earth process which contribute to sea-level change. I have worked on solutions in Alaska, Iceland and South Georgia, particularly benefiting from collaboration with Dr Giorgio Spada (Urbino).
I welcome interest from potential postgraduate students in any area of my research. My past and present students include:
- Martin Brader (2011-2015). PhD thesis: Postglacial relative sea-level changes and the deglaciation of northwest Iceland. Durham University. Co-supervisor.
- Christine Hamilton (2013-2014). MSc thesis: Late Glacial to Holocene relative sea-level change in Assynt, north west Scotland. Durham University. Co-supervisor.
- Andrew Emery (2016-2020). PhD topic: Constraining Holocene coastal response to marine transgressions to predict future coastal realignment. University of Leeds. Co-supervisor.
- Stephen Eaton (January 2017 – present). PhD topic: Origin, evolution,and mobility of large seabed bedforms, offshore, East Anglia. University of Leeds. Co-supervisor.
- Luis Rees-Hughes (October 2017 – present). PhD topic: The buried coast: developing novel geophysical techniques to reconstruct coastal landscapes. University of Leeds. Lead-supervisor.
- Lucy Wheeler (October 2017 – present). PhD topic: Sea level past, present and future: A chronology for marine and estuarine sediments in the Quaternary. University of York. Co-supervisor.
- Oliver Pollard (October 2019 – present). PhD topic: Modelling glacial isostatic adjustment during the Last Interglacial. University of Leeds. Lead-supervisor.