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Alison MacLeod

  • Deputy School Director of Teaching and Learning
  • Module convenor for Research Training for Geography and Environmental Science (GES)
  • Undergraduate teaching and supervision
  • PhD supervision
  • Research into abrupt past environmental change using annually resolved lake records

Areas of interest

  • Abrupt past climate and environmental change during the Quaternary
  • Annually-resolved lake records
  • Sedimentology
  • Tephrochronology and volcanism
  • Integration of chronological techniques

Postgraduate supervision

Alison supervises students at the University of Plymouth and the Royal Holloway University of London.


Undergraduate teaching

Alison is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Current teaching includes:

  • Geomorphology (Part 1)
  • Natural Hazards (Part 2)
  • Research Training for Geography and Environmental Science (Part 2 – module convenor)
  • Undergraduate dissertation supervision on past environmental change and volcanic hazards

Research centres and groups

Environmental Science Research Division


Alison’s research into Quaternary environmental change developed from a background in geoscience and glacial geomorphology and the reconstruction of former ice masses within the UK.

This focus has evolved over the years to consider rates of landscape response to significant and abrupt climatic shifts. It is this aspect that her PhD research investigated and which led to the publication of two of the first annually-resolved records of abrupt climate change from the UK (MacLeod et al., 2011; Palmer et al., 2010) and a successful application to the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowship scheme (based at RHUL).

This work demonstrated that previous models of landscape response to abrupt changes suffered from considerable uncertainties which limited their usefulness.

In the terrestrial environment, frequently low-resolution or fragmentary records often inhibit identification and analysis of key climatic events. Alison’s research focuses the investigation of long, high-resolution lake records from climatically sensitive regions (predominantly the UK and Sweden), and aims to quantify the response rates of landscapes to rapid climate shifts in the past.

In carrying out her research, Alison applies a range of established (thin section, image analysis) and novel (XRF corescanning) techniques in conjunction with cutting-edge chronological approaches and statistical measures (radiocarbon dating, Bayesian age modelling and tephrochronology – volcanic ash stratigraphy and chronology).

The overall aim of her work is to provide high-resolution and high-quality data sets which will contribute to characterising the response of different components of the climate system to such change.

Ultimately, it is hoped this data will help climate modellers and scientists to better understand the mechanisms driving and propagating high-magnitude, abrupt shifts in climate and to assist in forecasting the potential impacts of future climate change.

Prior to joining the University of Reading in 2017, Alison obtained her undergraduate degree in Geoscience from the University of St. Andrews, her MSc and PhD in Quaternary Science from Royal Holloway University of London and has held academic and postgraduate fellowship positions at Royal Holloway and Plymouth University.

You can follow Alison on Twitter @alimacmatth.


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