Dr Ian Matthews

Ian Matthews

Personal profile

I am a senior 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. I was appointed as a lecturer in Geography at Royal Holloway in January 2009. Since this time I have focused my research on understanding the responses of the environment to abrupt climatic changes particularly over the Last Glacial to Interglacial transition.

Research interests

  • My research assesses the impacts of abrupt climate change in Europe over the last 16,000 years. I do this by generating high-precision records of past temperature and environmental response. I particularly focus on the Last glacial to interglacial transition (16,000-8,000 years ago). This research provides an understanding of how the Earth has responded to rapid changes in climate and how future changes might propagate through the physical landscape.

 

  • To achieve my research goals I primarily use palaeoecological proxies and sedimentology alongside cutting-edge chronological techniques. These include the advancement and application of tephrochronology (volcanic ash layers) in Northern Europe.

 

  • My research includes the investigation of the impacts of abrupt climate change on human societies by integrating with archaeological research.

Teaching

I currently teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Undergraduate courses that I teach include:

GG2041 - Environmental Change

GG3043 - Past Climates and Environments

 

I co-teach the second year course GG2041 Environmental Change. This second year course is carried out across both terms and counts for 30 credits.

'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.

 

GG3043 - Past Climates and Environments

 This year 3 course seeks to extend students understanding of both the drivers and responses to climatic change during the Quaternary Period. The course explores global climatic change forcing mechanisms, debates tipping points and the possibility of early warnings of threshold changes in climatic and environmental systems. The course also seeks to introduce the up-to-date debates and controversies in palaeoclimate research and point toward the future of palaeoclimatological studies.

Topics covered include:

Milankovitch forcing and the formation of long marine records of Quaternary climate

The mid-Pleistocene Revolution

The drivers of abrupt change in ocean-atmospheric systems

Tipping points and tipping elements

The chronology of the past

Do humans respond to abrupt climatic events?

 

The course provides transferable skills in time series analysis, data visualisation and data synthesis.

 

 At Postgraduate level, I teach on the MSc. in Quaternary Science where I contribute to several core course including: Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecolgy Dating and Quantification, and the now legendary annual fieldtrip to the West of Scotland. I also lead the Tephrochronology option course in term 2.

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