The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research Group: Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate

Currently Active: 

Understanding past changes in the Earth System provides the essential context for future climate prediction. Southampton’s Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate research group is big and active with a critical mass of around 60 academics, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students and a suite of state-of-the-art geochemical, micropalaeontological, core-processing and numerical modeling facilities. Our research is global in scope. We work in all ocean basins on key problems in Earth history spanning the Anthropocene to the Palaeozoic.  

Group Overview

Our specific research strengths include:

JOIDES Resolution
JOIDES Resolution
  • the development, calibration, and quantitative application of new research tools
  • past ocean circulation, temperature, and continental ice volume (sea level)
  • the history of biogeochemical cycling and global biodiversity
  • high frequency climate change on seasonal through centennial time scales
  • past changes in regional and global carbon cycling, including ocean acidity and atmospheric CO2 levels
  • ecological/palaeocological applications of foraminifera

Contact: Professor Paul Wilson

Key aspects of the Research Group

(i) A critical mass (~60) of staff, post-docs, PhD students
(ii) A world-class suite of stable isotope, trace metal and SEM laboratories
(iii) Organic Geochemistry and Superconducting Rock Magnetometry laboratories

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The Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate Research Group is equipped with state-of-the-art research laboratories.

These laboratories are used for a wide range of research purposes and upper level project work.

Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory

The Palaeomagnetism and Environmental Magnetism Laboratory houses a list of state-of-the-art instrumentation as well as a shielded room to support palaeomagnetism, rock and mineral magnetism, magnetic stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental-related research. With instruments including a Princeton Measurements Corporation MicroMag 3900 Vibrating Sample Magnetometer and an AGICO KLY4S Kappabridge, magnetic properties of samples can be studied in detail at a range of temperatures to determine the concentration, grain size and mineralogy of magnetic particles in samples. A 2G Enterprises Superconducting Rock Magnetometer provides the capability to rapidly and accurately measure the natural and various laboratory-induced magnetic remanence for continuous and discrete samples. For further information, contact Dr Chuang Xuan, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6401.

Stable Isotope Ratio Mass-Spectrometry (SIRMS) Laboratory

The SIRMS laboratory was established in 1998 with NERC, HEFCE-SRIF and ESSO funds. The facilities function is the measurement of stable isotope ratios of various materials including 13C and 18O in carbonates (sediments and foraminifera), 13C and 15N in organic materials (plankton and soils), 18O in water samples and deuterium in water samples. For further information, contact Professor Paul Wilson, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6164 or  Dr Steven Bohaty, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3040.

Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory

The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) facility was established in 2001, originally funded by NERC, the University of Southampton and Carl Zeiss SMT Ltd, to support high-resolution palaeoceanographical, palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental research. The instrumentation includes a Leo 1450VP SEM and an Oxford Instruments X-Act 10mm2 area SDD EDS Detector, utilising the AZtecEnergy software system. A range of services are offered, including secondary electron and backscattered electron imaging, automated image acquisition, elemental mapping and qualitative and quantitative elemental spot analysis. Museum and other sensitive specimens can be safely imaged or chemically analysed using the SEM variable pressure (VP) mode.

The SEM facility is a research and teaching resource available for use by staff, postgraduate students and final year undergraduate students. The facility is also available for use by staff in other university departments and commercial clients. We have expertise in the examination of geological, metallurgical and some biological materials. For further information, contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477/6518.

X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory

The X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) facility located at NOCS provides a service for the qualitative or quantitative analysis of rock samples to determine bulk mineralogy and/or clay mineralogy. Samples are run on a Philips X'Pert pro XRD machine with a Cu X-ray tube. Mineral identification is undertaken using the JC PDS (powder diffraction studies) database. For further information, contact Dr Richard Pearce, tel: +44 (0)23 8059 6477.

Organic Geochemistry and Compound Specific Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry

The new Organic Geochemistry Facility, part of the SEAPORT Carbon Laboratories, represents a major expansion of the geochemical capabilities at the University of Southampton. Led by Dr Jessica Whiteside the Facility is housed in new, purpose built laboratory spaces and hosts a variety of new instruments designed to comprehensively characterize organic matter from the environment and the geological record. The facility has dedicated sample preparation lab, wet chemistry lab space, and an instrumentation lab utilizing state of the art automated gas and liquid chromatographs linked to various mass spectrometers, including a GC-isotope ratio mass spectrometer. For further information please contact Dr Jessica Whiteside or Dr Sargent Bray.

Postgraduate opportunities

PhD Project Titles

African rainfall variability: Palaeo insights into the climate history of our hominid ancestors and the monsoon response to a warmer future
Prof Paul Wilson, Dr Chuang Xuan, Anya Crocker (UoS).

Aridity and floods in Asia: Understanding teleconnections high-resolution palaeo records from Plio-Pleistocene marine sequences
Prof Paul Wilson, Dr Chuang Xuan, Dr Suzanne MacLachlan.

Dynamics, causes and consequences of Quaternary geomagnetic change: continuous records from East China Sea and Japan Sea sediments
Dr Chuang Xuan, Prof Alan Kemp, Prof Ryuji Tada (University of Tokyo).

Abrupt climate change during the last deglaciation: linking records from Greenland to central Europe
Prof Alan Kemp, Prof Pete Langdon (Geography & the Environment, UoS).

Antarctic / Atlantic Ocean connections during rapid climate change
Dr Kevin Oliver, Dr Louise Sime (British Antarctic Survey).

Characterising continental weathering in past greenhouse worlds
Dr Christopher Pearce, Mike Clare, Dr Steve Bohaty, Prof Gavin Foster.

Did shifts in Westerly Winds over the Southern Ocean cause glacial-interglacial CO2 change?
Dr Kevin Oliver, Lead Supervisor - Louise Sime and Dominic Hodgson (BAS).

Drivers of marine ecosystem change during the end-Triassic mass extinction and recovery
Dr Jessica Whiteside, Lead Supervisor - Prof Richard J. Twitchett (Natural History Museum).

Inferring early warning signals of ecosystem collapse at the end of the Eocene greenhouse
Kirsty Edgar (Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham).

Measuring the microenvironment around calcifying foraminifera to give clues into the past record of ocean carbonate chemistry
Prof Gavin Foster, Lead Supervisor - Dr Glen Wheeler (Marine Biological Association, Plymouth) and Prof Colin Brownlee (Marine Biological Association, Plymouth).

Reconstructions of Antarctic sea-ice at the peak of the last interglacial (marine isotope stage 5e)
Dr Kevin Oliver, Lead Supervisor: Claire Allen (BAS) and Louise Sime (BAS).

The temperature control on the biological carbon pump – insights from boron isotopes and palaeo-water column pH profiles
Prof Gavin Foster, Dr Mathis Hain, Dr Jessica Whiteside, Dr Tom Chalk (UoS).



    Research Staff

    Staff MemberPrimary Position
    Shir AkbariResearch and Teaching Technician (Palynology)
    Charlotte Emily AldredPostgraduate research student (NERC CDT in Oil and Gas)
    Rachael S AveryPostgraduate research student
    Steven BohatySMMI Lecturer
    Sargent BrayResearch Scientist
    Anieke BrombacherPostgraduate research student
    David CarpenterPostgraduate research student
    Thomas B ChalkLeverhulme Research Fellow
    Anya CrockerVisiting Scientist
    Elwyn De La VegaPostgraduate research student
    Hannah DonaldPostgraduate research student
    Amy L ElsonPostgraduate research student
    Thomas H G EzardNERC Advanced Research Fellow
    John James FieldingPostgraduate research student
    Gavin FosterProfessor of Isotope Geochemistry
    David M FriesPostgraduate research student, Marie Curie Initial Training Network
    Samantha GibbsRoyal Society University Research Fellow
    Philip GoodwinLecturer
    Ian HardingAssociate Professor in Palaeontology
    Max J HolmströmPostgraduate research student
    Claire HuckPostdoctoral Research Associate
    Gabriella E JardinePostgraduate research student
    Yuxi JinVisiting scholar
    Alan KempProfessor
    Jens C KrügerPostgraduate research student, Marie Curie Research Fellow
    Diederik LiebrandPostdoctoral Research Fellow
    Georgios MargaritisPostgraduate research student
    John MarshallProfessor of Earth Science
    Doreen E MkuuPostgraduate research student
    Harriet R MoorePostgraduate research student
    John MurrayEmeritus Professor of Geology
    Matthew NicholsPostgraduate research student
    Gwen Owen JonesPostgraduate research student (SPITFIRE)
    Sameer PatelPostgraduate research student
    Richard PearceResearch Fellow
    Aubrey Jane RobertsPostgraduate research student
    EJ RohlingProfessor of Ocean and Climate Change
    Rachael ShuttleworthPostgraduate research student (SPITFIRE)
    Richard SmithPostgraduate research student
    Megan SpencerStable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry Laboratory Technician
    James F SprayPostgraduate research student
    Tim Van PeerPostgraduate research student
    Ross WhitefordPostgraduate research student
    Jessica H WhitesideAssociate Professor of Geochemistry
    Paul WilsonHead of Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimate Research Group, Professor
    Chuang XuanLecturer

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