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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Emerita Professor Mary E Edwards PhD, FRGS

Professor of Physical Geography, University of Southampton; Member, Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton; Adjunct faculty, ESTES, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA

Emerita Professor Mary E Edwards's photo

Mary’s interests are centred on global and regional environmental change: understanding climate-driven and human-driven changes in landscape, vegetation, and ecosystem processes over a range of timescales. She is particularly interested in Northern ecosystem processes and permafrost landscapes - how these intersect with climate change, the carbon cycle and human systems. Currently, she serves as UK representative to Terrestrial Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC). Recently, she has developed several collaborations on environmental change with Russian researchers in Siberia and the Russian Far East and co-leads the UK-Russia research group, DIMA. The main geographic regions in which she works are the Arctic and Subarctic of Siberia, Alaska, northwest Canada and Europe, plus the UK and Madagascar.


Research interests

I use palaeoecological approaches to understanding past environmental change, in particular pollen analysis to understand vegetation dynamics and charcoal to reconstruct fire histories, with a focus on the northern boreal forest. The PLUS group features an ancient sedimentary DNA laboratory; current projects EAGER and ECOGEN apply molecular palaeoecology to archaeological sites and long-term vegetation change. Recent work with the Ecochange (EU) project revised our views of the Siberian mammoth-steppe-tundra vegetation of the Pleistocene Vegetation and fire dynamics in northern ecosystems are closely linked to climate, permafrost, and the carbon cycle; current and recent collaborative work involves palaeoclimate modelling and studies of thermokarst (thaw) lake formation in relation to climate change. The project METHANOL will address the changing flux of greenhouse gases from northern lakes under a changing climate.

Current research students

  • Alvaro Castilla-Beltran: Impacts of human colonization on island biodiversity in Macaronesia
  • Nichola Strandberg: Disturbance Dynamics of South Pacific Island Ecosystems

Research projects


  • DIMA – Scientific cooperation on environmental change with institutions in Siberia and the Russian Far East)
  • METHANOL – Estimating past methane emissions from Alaskan lakes (NERC)
  • EAGER – Environmental and ancient sedimentary DNA at archaeological sites in Alaska (NSF)
  • ECOGEN – Ecosystem change and species persistence over time: a genome-based approach (NFR)


Research group

Landscape Dynamics and Ecology (LDE)


  • UK Representative, International Arctic Science Committee (Terrestrial Group) 2017-present
  • Associate Editor, Quaternary Research
  • International Editorial Board Member, Norwegian Journal of Geography (Norsk Geografisk Tidskrift)
  • Review Editor, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution


  • Member: school Athena Swan committee, senior management group

Convene Global Climate Change: Science Impacts and Policy (yr 2)

Co-teach The Earth System (yr 1)

For International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2018, the UK Science and Innovation Network asked Mary to share some thoughts on how she became a scientist and what it's been like to work in the Arctic throughout her career so far.

Watch the video

Emerita Professor Mary E Edwards
Building 44 University of Southampton University Road Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 44/2038

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