Dr Ian Matthews

Ian Matthews

Personal profile

I am a lecturer in Physical Geography with principal research interests in abrupt climatic events, geochronology, palaeoecology, and tephrochronology.
I completed my BSc in Geography from Royal Holloway University of London in 2002, an MSc in Quaternary Science in 2003, and a PhD focused on applying tephrochronology to wetland archaeology in 2009. After finishing my PhD, I briefly undertook a Postdoctoral research position funded via the irish Heritage Council's INSTAR programme.  This project extended the scope of my PhD research.  I was appointed as a lecturer in Geography at Royal Holloway in January 2009. Since this time I have developed my research profile and focused on understanding the responses of the environment to abrupt climatic changes particularly over the Last Glacial to Interglacial transition.

Research interests

My research is focused on four main areas: Geochronology, palaeoecology, quantitative estimates of past climatic change, and Environmental archaeology, and palaeoecology. In particular I focus on constraining and testing human-environment interactions in European wetlands through high-precision geochronological techniques including tephrochronology. Although my PhD work focussed on Holocene palaeoenvironments I also have a keen interest in researching abrupt climate change in a variety of geographic regions, including the North Atlantic seaboard and the central Mediterranean. Foremost in my research is the generation of robust palaeoenvironmental and archaeological data constrained by precise and accurate chronologies.


I currently teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Undergraduate courses that I teach include:

GG1002 Physical Geography.  


I teach the second year course GG2041 Environmental Change. this second year course is carried out across both terms and counts for a whole course unit.

'Environmental Change' aims to address three key themes:

1. To develop students' appreciation of the historical context which underpins theory concerning environmental history, present-day environmental problems, and the prediction of future environmental changes.

2. To give practical training in laboratory methods relevant to testing such theories.

3. To train students to undertake laboratory and field studies in readiness for third year independent studies (dissertations) in a range of topical research themes in Quaternary environmental change.

 The accent throughout the course is on precision and accuracy of methods used, and independent testing of theory and models of environmental change.

More information about GG2041 can be found on Moodle


I also Lead the 2nd year Physical Geography fieldtrip to Ireland (GG2003/4).  I teach two days on this fieldcourse which develops themes introduced in the GG2041 course and explores geographical areas that are investigated in the 3rd year. See our Moodle site for details


Lastly, I also teach on the MSc. in Quaternary Science where I contribute to several core course including: Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecolgy Dating and Quantification, and Techiques in Quaternary Science. I also lead the Tephrochronology option course.


I am the point of contact regarding consultancy and commercial enterprise within the Centre For Quaternary Research (CQR).  Over the next couple of months we will be creating an exciting set of webpages demonstrating some of the services, facilities and expertise we have available, so watch this space.

As a research group our focus regarding consultancy is on Research led enterprise initiatives and we would be keen to hear from anyone who might have an opportunity or project that would be of interest. The personnel within the CQR  have many areas of expertise including:

Palaeoecology (vertibrates, pollen, plant macrofossils, entomology)

Sedimentology (Thin section micromorphology of unconsolidated sediments)

Geochronology (OSL, Tephra, 14C sampling and interpetation, U-Series, Age modelling)

Hydrology (Palaeo-flood modelling)

Environmental chemistry

We also have a comprehensive set of percussive and hand drilling equipment and experience in coring lake, peat, and terrestrial locations. We have alos worked extensively within working quarry environments.


We offer spaces on 1 week long training courses.  These are run as part of our MSc. in Quaternary Science, information about this course can be found on the CQR webpages.


If you would like to know more about CQR consultancy please contact me for further details via my e-mail address listed at the top of this page.

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