Professor James Scourse
Professor of Physical Geography
Peter Lanyon A086
Peter Lanyon Building, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
Office hours: For undergraduate and postgraduate students: My office hours are Tuesday 1200-1300 and Friday 1200-1300. I am also available when my door is open. My office phone number is 01326 371883.
For undergraduate and postgraduate students:
My office hours are Tuesday 1200-1300 and Friday 1200-1300.
I am also available when my door is open.
My office phone number is 01326 371883.
After a degree in Geography at the University of Oxford and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Bristol, I completed a PhD on the Quaternary stratigraphy and palaeoenvironments of the Celtic Sea, Isles of Scilly and West Cornwall at the University of Cambridge. This research was undertaken in the laboratories of the Sub-department of Quaternary Research including the Godwin Laboratory led by Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton FRS. I was then elected to a Research Fellowship at Girton College, University of Cambridge, but after a year I was appointed to a Lectureship at Bangor University in the School of Ocean Sciences in 1985, being awarded a Personal Chair in 2005. I stayed in Bangor until I moved my research group to the Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter in February 2017.
I have co-ordinated and led two major EU research consortia (SHELF and HOLSMEER), was a senior member of the 40-partner EU MILLENNIUM project (European Climate of the Last Millennium), and have held eleven NERC research grants. Much of my research is based at sea and I have served as Chief Scientist on 10 research cruises.
I was President of the Quaternary Research Association (2008-2011) and Chair of the NERC Radiocarbon Facility Steering Committee (2007-2011). I was Editor of the Journal of Quaternary Science (2000-2004) and was awarded a Royal Society-Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2008-2009. I was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2014 and was Director of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales between 2011 and 2016.
Broad research specialisms
Quaternary palaeoenvironments, especially the marine geology and
palaeoceanography of passive ocean margins.
Marine climate (mechanisms, impacts).
Sclerochronology and scleroclimatology.
MA (Oxon), PGCE (Bristol), PhD (Cantab), FGS, FLSW
Research group links
My research focuses on marine climate change. I have researched mechanisms and feedback responses in the Earth’s climate system, in particular linked to ice-ocean interaction and the impact of changes of sea level on the carbon cycle, sediment transport and ocean circulation. I lead a group reconstructing marine climate using very long-lived annually banded molluscs (sclerochronology/climatology). Notable research highlights of James’ group include:
- The first annually-resolved marine climate series covering the last 1000 years (2017)
- Discovery of the longest-lived animal known to science (2007, 2013)
- The first crossmatched sclerochronological series from the fossil record (2006)
- The first record of seasonal stratification dynamics for any shelf sea (1997, 2002)
- The first palaeotidal model reconstructions for the NW European shelf seas integrated dynamic topography (2006)
- Analysis of the contribution of major sea-level changes to the global carbon cycle (2008)
- Establishing that the last major glaciation of the Isles of Scilly and Celtic Sea occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (published 1991, 2017)
- Providing the first integrated record of ice-rafted detritus flux from the British-Irish Ice Sheet (2009)
- The first record of the neotectonic instability of southern Britain (1990)
My current research activity involves building long, annually-resolved, records of North Atlantic climate - in which I collaborate with colleagues in Geography on the Streatham Campus - in reconstructing tides and tide-dependent processes through geological time, and in investigating recent climate change in the Antarctic Peninsula.
2012-2018: £183k from NERC for ‘BRITICE-CHRONO: Constraining rates and styles of marine-influenced ice sheet decay’ (NE/J007579/1 Consortium Grant led by C. Clark, Sheffield).
2013-2017: £2.7 million from EU Framework 7 for Marie Curie Initial Training Network (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN 604802) (£579,375 to Scourse group): ‘Annually-resolved archives of marine climate change – development of molluscan sclerochronology for marine environmental monitoring and climatology’ (Scourse PI, with partners in Germany, Croatia, Norway, France and The Netherlands).
2015-2018: £53k from NERC for ‘Climate of the LAst Millennium (CLAM): An integrated data-model approach to reconstruct and interpret annual variability in North Atlantic Circulation’ (NE/N002733/1 with I.R. Hall, D. Reynolds, Cardiff, and P. Halloran, Exeter).
2017-2020: £354k from NERC for ‘Impacts of deglaciation on marine benthic ecosystems in Antarctica’ (NE/P003087/1 with S. Jenkins, C.A. Richardson [Bangor] and M. Meredith, D. Barnes [British Antarctic Survey] and A.J. Brante [Universidad Católica de la Santísima, Concepción, Chile]).
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagment and Impact
Royal Society University Research Fellowships Panel (extended Ai), 2016-
A3 Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy and Earth Sciences Scrutiny Committee of the Learned Society of Wales, 2014-.
On the editorial boards of the Journal of Quaternary Science and Boreas
2016: Presented invited seminar entitled ‘Megatides and deglaciation in the glacial North Atlantic’ at the UMR CNRS 5805 EPOC Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux, Université de Bordeaux, France.
2015: Invited lecture entitled ‘Megatides and ice sheet collapse’ at A Celebration of Research in Honour of Colin Ballantyne, University of St Andrews.
2014: Invited seminar at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bergen, Norway ‘Annually-resolved records of marine climate change from the longest-lived animals on Earth’.
2013: Keynote address entitled ‘The last five years: evidence for a climate transition’ at the 2013 Tyndall Centre PhD Conference on Climate Transitions, Cardiff University.
The 2013 Scott Simpson Lecture entitled “Ice and tides: the evolution of the Celtic shelf and Celtic Sea from the Last Glacial Maximum to the present” at the Ussher Society Conference, St Ives, Cornwall.
2011: Invited FramKlim Seminar entitled “The Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age – testing the NAO hypothesis” at the Norsk Polarinstitut, Fram Senteret, Tromsø, Norway.
2009: Invited Plenary Lecture entitled ‘The impact of sea-level change on the hydro- and sediment dynamics of the NW European shelf seas since the Last Glacial Maximum: modelling insights’ at the British Sedimentological Research Group Annual Meeting, Bangor.
2009: Invited keynote lecture entitled ‘Untangling the Medieval Climate Anomaly – Little Ice Age transition: the role of palaeoceanography’ at European Science Foundation Exploratory Workshop on Synoptic-scale climate dynamics over the last millennium at Kippel (Lötschental), Switzerland.
The 2008 South West Quaternary Lecture entitled ‘Celtic Sea linear tidal sand ridges, the Irish Sea Ice Stream and the Fleuve Manche’ at the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus (Penryn).
2007: Invited lecture entitled ‘The shelf seas: glacial-interglacial cycles, tidal dynamics and the carbon cycle’ at the IX International Conference on Paleoceanography, Shanghai, China.
The 2004 London Quaternary Lecture entitled ‘Heinrich events: ice-ocean-climate interaction in the NE Atlantic, or do “precursor events” exist’ at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The 1999 Scotland Quaternary Lecture entitled ‘Synchronous behaviour of the British and Laurentide ice sheets during H2 (LGM); the role of sea-level in triggering surge events and iceberg discharge’ at the University of Glasgow.
To coincide with the publication of the first 1000-year annually-resolved record of marine climate in Nature Communications (Reynolds et al. 2016) contributed article to The Conversation (December 2016): http://theconversation.com/what-500-year-old-clams-can-tell-us-about-climate-change-69926. This story was then covered in USA Today (front page) (http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/?tfp_id=USAT), Science Recorder (https://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/2016/12/06/500-year-old-clams-give-insight-oceans-past/), Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/5gsu5t/the_growth_rings_of_500yearold_quahog_clams_the/), El Mundo, International Business Times (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/longest-living-animal-sea-sheds-light-thousand-years-ocean-history-1595128), ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/blog/post/500-year-old-clams-recorded-changes-in-ocean-climate), EurekAlert (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/isu-iss120616.php), iNews (https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/environment/chowder-clam-gives-insight-global-warming/), Phy Org (http://phys.org/news/2016-12-analysis-quahog-clam-reveals-oceans.html), Inside Science (https://www.insidescience.org/news/brief-methuselah-clam-reveals-how-we-upended-climate), UPI.com (http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2016/12/06/Quahog-clam-offers-1000-year-history-of-oceanic-climate-change/3831481036225/), The Exception (https://exceptionmag.com/55591/clam-shells-are-like-tree-rings-for-the-ocean/), Science World Report (http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/53943/20161207/clam-study-explains-oceanic-climate-change-history.htm), The Independent (http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/53943/20161207/clam-study-explains-oceanic-climate-change-history.htm), BBC5 live (broadcast Sunday 11 December).
Contributed article on The Anthropocene to The Conversation (January 2016): https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-scourse-173162/articles: 4513 reads and 10 comments during January 2016.
April 2014: Lead speaker in Climate Change Debate: A conversation on Climate Change - part of the National Conversation on The Wales We Want with David Davies MP organised by Cynnal Cymru, the Climate Change Commission of Wales and C3W at St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TR2sgwaVSVI
Launch of IPCC AR5 in 2013 led to extensive BBC TV and radio interviews that appeared on Radio 4 Today programme, BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24271594).
C3W Climate Change Question Time Debate broadcast on Radio Wales Science Café (2011).
Coverage of The Royal Society 350th Anniversary Summer Science Festival (49,000 visitors) included interview on “Material World” (BBC Radio 4, with Quentin Cooper), coverage in The Times, BBC Wales website, Daily Post and the Bangor and Anglesey Mail.
Coverage of the discovery of a 405-year old Arctica islandica from Iceland in October 2007 reached TV (BBC Wales live, ITV Wales, S4C), Radio (BBC World Service, BBC Wales, National Public Radio [USA], Five Live [Australia], New Zealand Radio, CBC Canada, French Radio), Press (Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Daily Post, Science Daily [USA], Nature News, National Geographic News [USA], ABC News [Australia], Yahoo News [India], The Times of India, Spanish News) and many blogs. The story was covered in more than 100 articles and broadcasts around the world, has been officially recognised as a Guinness World Record for the oldest non-colonial animal known, and reached #7 in the CNN-Time Magazine Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2007. Follow-up coverage within New Scientist article (November 2010). Nature Communications paper (2012) on Arctica stimulated media coverage in Norway: http://videnskab.dk/miljo-naturvidenskab/verdens-aeldste-dyr-fortaeller-om-klimaforandringer
Renewed coverage in 2013 consequent on the re-ageing of this specimen went viral, with coverage in the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, BBC World Service, RTE Radio, Yahoo, National Geographic, Time Magazine, Los Angeles Times, BBC1 TV “Have I Got News For You” and multiple other outlets worldwide, including the Chinese media and Lufthansa in flight magazine (01.xii.14).
- GEO1405B - Earth System Science
- GEO2451 - Ice Sheets: Glaciology, Climate and the Oceans
- GEO3455 - Marine Climate and Environmental Change
Supervision / Group
- Paul Butler
- Alejandro Roman Gonzalez
- Stella Alexandroff (moving to Penryn)
- Juan Estrella Martinez (moving to Penryn)
- Edward Lockhart (in Bangor)
- Catriona Purcell (in Bangor)