skip to primary navigation skip to content

Department of Geography




See also: Earlier news | News from the Scott Polar Research Institute

Atom icon

# Earliest human remains in eastern Africa dated to more than 230,000 years ago

The age of the oldest fossils in eastern Africa widely recognised as representing our species, Homo sapiens, has long been uncertain. Now, dating of a massive volcanic eruption in Ethiopia reveals they are much older than previously thought.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Cambridge, has reassessed the age of the Omo I remains – and Homo sapiens as a species. Earlier attempts to date the fossils suggested they were less than 200,000 years old, but the new research shows they must be older than a colossal volcanic eruption that took place 230,000 years ago. The results are reported in the journal Nature.

Members of the Department, Dr Céline Vidal (lead author), Professor Clive Oppenheimer, Professor Christine Lane, were all part of the team.

Read more …

# Sylvie Hodgson-Smith wins 2021 the Quaternary Research Award Dissertation Prize

Many congratulations to Sylvie Hodgson-Smith who has been selected as this year's recipient of the QRA Dissertation Prize for her dissertation "Reconstructing the global climate effects of the volcanic eruption of Mt. Samalas, 1257 AD".

The judges commended Sylvie's dissertation as …. 'a sophisticated analysis of tree-ring-derived palaeotemperature and hydroclimate records to examine the impacts of a large tropical eruption, including the coherency of records at regional to global scales. Sylvie's interpretation was thoughtful and balanced, and included a critical evaluation of climate models that simulate the climate behaviour following the eruption. The thesis stood out in terms of its very high standard of presentation and is worthy of publication. We congratulate Sylvie on an outstanding piece of undergraduate research.'

Well done on this remarkable achievement!

# Women of Snow and Ice

SPRI PhD student Morgan Seag, SPRI researcher Dr Becky Dell and SPRI Institute Associate Dr Ali Banwell are among interviewees in a special ice-themed edition of BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour.

Listen (from around 28:00) as women researchers in Antarctica are interviewed for the programme; find out how women broke through the ice ceiling to create opportunities and become leaders in their fields, and hear from researchers in the field working on the George VI ice sheet.

# SPRI research in the New York Times

As part of his doctoral research at SPRI, Dr Praveen Teleti investigated the historical variability of Antarctic sea ice, making use of whaling logbooks cared for by our archive. The logbooks contained invaluable climate measurements, including air and water temperatures, barometric pressure, wind strength, from the 1930s and 1950s.

You can read more about Dr Teleti's work in a new article in the New York Times, or for a more detailed account see "A historical Southern Ocean climate dataset from whaling ships' logbooks" in the Geoscience Data Journal (open access).

Read more …

# Professor Bhaskar Vira appointed as the next Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education

Professor Bhaskar Vira, current Head of Department, has been appointed as the next Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education.

Professor Vira finishes his term as Head of Department in September 2022 and will take up his new post immediately afterwards, for a period of three years. Professor Vira will be taking over the role from Professor Graham Virgo.

Professor Vira will be joining the team of five Pro-Vice-Chancellors whose role, as well as supporting the Vice-Chancellor in providing academic leadership to the University, is to work in partnership with senior administrators; as the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Vira will lead the development and implementation of strategy and policy relating to education.

Read more …

# Professor Ron Martin named as Highly Cited Researcher

Professor Ron Martin, Emeritus Professor of Economic Geography, has been named by Clarivate (the Web of Science) as a Highly Cited Researcher.

He has more than 44,000 Google Scholar citations of his work. His most recent co-authored book (with Professor Peter Tyler and others), titled Levelling Up Left Behind Places: The Scale and Nature of the Economic and Policy Challenge (London: Routledge), has just been published.

Ron's highly cited papers cover contributions to the theory of regional and urban economic growth, the economic resilience of cities and regions, the geographies of money and finance, the development of the new field of evolutionary economic geography, and spatial economic policy. He is the only social scientist across the University to be named as a Highly Cited Researcher.

Read more …

# The zoonotic city

A new article from Professor Matthew Gandy explores the relationship between urbanisation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew explores "how contemporary health threats intersect with complex patterns of environmental change, including the destruction of biodiversity (and trade in live animals), the co-evolutionary dynamics of viruses and other pathogens, and wider dimensions to the global technosphere, including food production, infrastructure networks, and the shifting topographies of peri- or ex-urban contact zones."

Read more …

# Flood Risk Modelling UK East Coast

By Andy Beecroft, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Elizabeth Christie and Tom Spencer, of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, in collaboration with the National Oceanography Centre and Consulting Engineers Arup report a new approach to coastal flood risk modelling, with a case study for the city of Hull.

Read more …

# A Venetian saltmarsh survival experiment

Tom Spencer has contributed to a commentary in the journal 'Science' on a study published in the journal 'Nature Geoscience' on a large-scale experiment on saltmarsh health in the Venice lagoon where periodic closure of the MOSE barrier system now excludes storm surge sedimentation on the marshes.

Professor Spencer comments 'this study is instructive in highlighting the fundamental mismatch between those strategies aimed at the protection of the built environment and its inhabitants and those aimed at the protection of valuable, biodiverse intertidal habitats. Co-existence is not out of reach but is going to require much more nuanced and sophisticated coastal management approaches than are available at present, urgently needed as we move into decades of progressively higher sea levels.'

# Arctic Ocean started getting warmer decades earlier than we thought

An international study shows that the Arctic Ocean has been getting warmer since the beginning of the 20th century – decades earlier than records suggest – due to warmer water flowing into the delicate polar ecosystem from the Atlantic Ocean.

The study, co-led by Dr. Francesco Muschitiello and reported in the journal Science Advances, provides the first historical perspective on Atlantification of the Arctic Ocean and reveals a connection with the North Atlantic that is much stronger than previously thought. The connection is capable of shaping Arctic climate variability, which could have important implications for sea-ice retreat and global sea-level rise as the polar ice sheets continue to melt.

An analysis of the findings is featured on CNN, and the work has been featured in article in the New York Times.

Read more …

Browse earlier articles…