Dr Alison MacLeod

Educational background

1999 - 2003 B.Sc. (Hons) Geoscience, University of St. Andrews

2003 - 2004 M.Sc. Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway University of London

2006 - 2010 PhD. Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway University of London

Personal profile

My research focuses on the investigation and reconstruction of past environments with particular interest in the field of rapid climate change.  I am currently employed as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in Physical Geography in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Following completion of a B.Sc. in Geoscience from the University of St. Andrews in 2003 I moved to Royal Holloway University of London to undertake an M.Sc. in Quaternary Science.  In 2006 I started a PhD linked to the NERC funded RAPID Climate Change Programme and completed this in January 2010.  The focus was on employing sedimentology, micromorphology and sediment chemistry in conjunction with cutting edge chronological techniques, including tephrochronology, radiocarbon dating and Bayesian age modelling, in order to construct high-resolution records and robust chronologies of key climate events.  Application of these techniques has allowed me to develop the first ‘tied’ Late-glacial varve chronology for the UK (MacLeod et al., 2011), the results of which may be pertinent to those working in the fields of climatology, glaciology and geochronology.

Snaefellsjokull Volcano, Iceland

In March 2010 I was appointed as part of the team working on the NERC funded Response of Humans to Abrupt Environmental Transitions (RESET) project.  I am associated with Work Package 3 (WP3), led by Professor Clive Gamble, which aims to investigate the Re-population of Europe after the Last Glacial Stage.  This involves analysing sequences across Northern Europe (UK, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany, Swizerland and Poland) for presence of tephra in association with archaeology in order to more precisely assess the relative timings of human occupation in these regions.

My current research is based in both Sweden and the UK and will utilise annual records of climate change and the unique chemical fingerprints of volcanic ash layers to test the patterns of abrupt climatic events preserved in palaeoenvironmental records from the UK, Sweden and Greenland.

Research interests

My research focuses on the analysis of sediment sequences which span the Late Quaternary period and aims to investigate the following:

  • Construction of robust and precise regional records of environmental change using the following analytical tools:
  • Detection and analysis of annually laminated sediments by thin section analysis
  • High-resolution sedimentology and application of novel methods of sediment analysis (such as ITRAX XRF core scanning – Figure 1)
  • Tephrochronology, radiocarbon dating and Bayesian integration of chronological data (Figure 2)
  • Development of a varve chronology for the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (and Holocene) in the UK
  • Independent correlation and integration of records of abrupt climatic change across the North Atlantic region and Continental Europe.   From which, it is possible to assess the relative timing of environmental responses to climatic forcing across key climatic events.
  • Method development for extraction and analysis of very small quantities of volcanic glass shards


Courses I am contributing to in the 2014-2015 academic year:

 M.Sc. Quaternary Science (Term 1)

  • Palaeoclimatology, Dating and Quantification (co-taught)

3rd Year Undergraduate course (Term 1):

  • GG3026 Glacial Environments (course leader)

ID: 1634079