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Professor in the Department of Geography+44 (0) 191 33 41859


My research interests focus on Antarctic environmental history, especially the history of the ice sheet in the Antarctic Peninsula-Weddell Sea region. I have a number of current research themes at the moment:

i) Antarctic Ice Sheet History

This work combines glacial geomorphology and cosmogenic isotope surface exposure dating to try and infer past thickness (and extent) variations of ice sheets. I have also produced the first detailed relative sea level curves for the Antarctic Peninsula, which provide independent constraints on former ice sheet thickness. Areas of ongoing study include the Amundsen Sea area (Pine Island Glacier), southern Antarctic Peninsula and Alexander Island, Ellsworth Mountains, Pensacola Mountains, Coats Land, and South Georgia.

In most of these projects I collaborate closely with modellers, especially Richard Hindmarsh, Anne Le Brocq and Alun Hubbard (ice sheet models) and Pippa Whitehouse and Glenn Milne (Glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) modelling). This is a two-way process that allows the field data to be used as constraints for models and for models to direct site selection in future field campaigns. For example in the Ellsworth Mountains we developed an ice sheet model reconstruction of ice at the Last Glacial Maximum, using geomorphological evidence of former ice heights.

A significant recent output of our work on ice history has been a new model of glacial isostatic adjustment of Antarctica. The GIA modelling has been underpinned by new relative sea level data and geomorphological evidence of ice sheet change which are used to constrain models of ice sheet history. Our new model, W12 (Whitehouse et al., 2012a, 2012b) has been used to correct satellite gravimetry measurements of present-day ice sheet mass balance.

ii) Antarctic Sub Glacial Lake Exploration

I am part of the Lake Ellsworth Consortium. This is a NERC-funded consortium that aimed to drill into subglacial Lake Ellsworth. On Christmas Day 2012 the attempt had to be called off. Drilling was ceased after the main borehole failed to link with a subsurface cavity of water, built up over ~40 hours. Without this link, insufficient water was available to continue drilling downwards to the lake. A full explanation of the Review of this work and how we will take the next steps towards revisiting the lake site can be found at the project website: 

Our aim is still to retrieve water and sediment samples with the intention to study life in extreme environments and decipher long-term climate change and ice sheet behaviour. With Prof Dom Hodgson (BAS) I am working on the components of the the project that will analyse sediment cores from the lake bed.

iii) Antarctic Ice Shelf History

With colleagues from British Antarctic Survey and Edinburgh University I completed a project on Antarctic Peninsula ice shelf history. We worked on a series of epishelf lakes along the margin of the George VI Ice Shelf, where a multi-proxy palaeolimnological approach provided a long-term perspective on ice shelf behaviour. 

iv) Glacial & Climate History of Southernmost South America

I have worked for several years as part of a team which is determining the glacial and environmental history of southernmost South America using a variety of approaches including glacial geomorphology, palaeoecology, and linked ice sheet-climate modelling. Recent work with Masters and PhD students has included detailed geomorphological mapping and cosmogenic surface exposure dating of the Magellan Strait and Tierra del Fuego regions.

Research interests

  • Antarctic environmental history
  • Antarctic ice sheet history
  • Antarctic ice shelf history
  • Cosmogenic dating
  • Falkland Islands palaeoenvironmental history
  • Glacial geomorphology
  • Global sea levels
  • Icelandic and Scottish deglaciation
  • Landslides
  • Raised shorelines and relative sea level change
  • South American glaciation
  • Subglacial lakes


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