Department of Geography and Earth Sciences
I graduated in Natural Sciences (Botany) from the University of Dublin (Trinity College) in 1976, and obtained an MSc in Ecology from the University of Minnesota (1978). My PhD research (University of Cambridge, 1982) was on the Holocene history of the forest-tundra ecotone in Labrador, Canada. I joined DGES in 1983. Until recently, I taught modules in Quaternary Palaeoecology and Biogeography.
My principal research interests are in Quaternary environmental change, specializing in lake-sediment records of climatic and vegetation change. Since 1992, my primary focus has been on East Africa, especially Ethiopia, working with colleagues from Addis Ababa, St Andrews, Bangor, and Cologne. I am Co-Director of the Itrax XRF core scanner facility.
Late Pleistocene desiccation of Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile: Seismic survey showed the optimal location for successful recovery of a 90m core, dated by radiocarbon & luminescence chronologies to establish a near-continuous palaeoenvironmental record for the last 250,000 years. The seismic and geochemical data from the core, determined by Itrax XRF core scanning, present a record of changing lake-level and allochthonous sedimentary input. The record shows varied climate towards the end of the penultimate glacial, followed by an abrupt change to relatively stable moist climate during the last interglacial. These conditions could have favoured selection for behavioural versatility, population growth and range expansion, supporting models of early, multiple dispersals of modern humans from Africa (Lamb et al 2018 :150,000-year palaeoclimate record from northern Ethiopia supports early, multiple dispersals of modern humans from Africa. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS | (2018) 8:1077 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-19601-w )
Lake Suigetsu Varves 2006: An international research project based around the 2006 core of Lake Suigetsu in Japan to establish a radiocarbon calibration model for the Late Pleistocene (10,000-50,000 BP) based on radiocarbon analyses of terrestrial plant macrofossils recovered from annually laminated lacustrine sediment. Our contribution used the XRF core scanner to construct a varve chronology from the core.
Hominid Sites & Paleolakes Drilling Project: Project to a obtain a 400m/1 million year core record of climatic change from the sediments of Chew Bahir, south Ethiopia & test hypotheses about environmental influences on hominid evolution.
Our Way to Europe: Culture-Environment Interaction & Human Mobility in the Late Qaternary: I am an active participant in Project A3 (Ethiopian lakes in the source region of modern man) of this Cologne University research centre with the aim of linking archaeological & palaeo-ecological records of the emergence & dispersal of Homo sapiens from South Ethiopia during the last 200,000 years.
Origins of Agriculture in the Horn of Africa: with Hel?ne Ducrotoy, Matt Hegarty, Wayne Powell, Gareth Griffith, Hazel Davey & Endashaw Bekele (Addis Ababa University), examined the history of plant domestication in NE Africa using both palaeoecological & genetic approaches.