Dr Matt Amesbury
Research Fellow


Research interests

My research interests, developed through both my postgraduate and postdoctoral positions, cover the past climate of both the Northern (north-west Europe and the eastern seaboard of Canada and the USA) and Southern (Antarctic Peninsula, New Zealand, Tasmania and the past history of the Southern Westerly winds) hemispheres, developing multi-proxy, peat-based Holocene palaeoclimatic records.  I am particularly interested in using fine-resolution analyses to determine the potential of rapidly accumulating peatlands to provide reliable sub-decadal resolution palaeoclimatic data, as investigated during my PhD. 

Throughout both my academic and non-academic employment (undertaking a range of outreach activities for an environmental charity), I have developed a strong belief in the importance of communicating science to a much wider audience.  As well as publishing magazine articles on my research in Canada and the Antarctic Peninsula and blogging on projects in New Zealand and the Antarctic Peninsula, I have recently co-developed a website called Bogology that seeks to share the science of peatlands and past climate change and anyone who might be interested!  Please take a look!

Research projects

2012 - 2014: Terrestrial Holocene climate variability on the Antarctic Peninsula.  Funded by the NERC Antarctic Funding Initiative. 

You might expect a research project studying Antarctica’s past climate to be using ice cores, some over 4 km thick and hundreds of thousands of years old.  But in the warmer (by Antarctic standards!), more vegetated Antarctic Peninsula there is another archive of past climate just waiting to be investigated.  Banks of moss have been accumulating on islands to the west of the peninsula for thousands of years and it is these we are studying to put the changing climate of one of the most rapidly warming parts of the planet into a longer-term context.  Click here to visit the project website.

2012 - 2013: Developing a novel proxy for Southern Hemisphere Holocene climate change: stable isotope analysis of restiad peat cellulose.  Funded by NERC.

Previous studies of changing isotope ratios from peat bogs have used a particular type of moss, called Sphagnum, from which to derive their measurements.  This is effective, but is also limited, both to geographical areas where Sphagnum occurs and also to the parts of a core where Sphagnum is present; nobody wants gaps in their record.  We are addressing these two issues by testing the applicability of studying isotopes in a different type of peat that is found in regions where Sphagnum is less common.  In the Southern Hemisphere, bogs are generally dominated by higher, or vascular, plants rather than mosses; these are plants that can actively control the movement of water and nutrients in their tissue.  Bogs dominated by higher plants are widespread globally, but because of the differences in biology between them and mosses, we can‘t be certain that the isotope method is applicable without rigorous testing.  We are using bogs in New Zealand to perform further tests.  If we can demonstrate that the isotope method can be applied to this peat type, the method would be applicable over a much wider geographical area and we will be able to address pressing research questions about past climate change more so than at present.  Read our collection of blogs on the project here.

2010 - 2012: PRECIP (Palaeo REconstruction of ocean-atmosphere Coupling In Peat).   Funded by NERC.

Using a transect of peatlands in Maine, USA and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, we aim to reconstruct the spatial-temporal pattern of moisture balance changes associated with past variability in the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current.  These Holocene reconstructions will be generated at (multi-) decadal to millennial time-scales and will be used to test a set of hypotheses concerning the relationships between ocean thermohaline variability, atmospheric circulation and terrestrially-based palaeoclimate responses.


Professional development

My recent professional development reflects my desire to broaden and deepen my subject knowledge and teaching experience.  I have also undertaken training that reflects my interests in broader aspects of climate change and in communicating these, and my own palaeoclimate research, to wider audiences. 

  • Science Media Centre, Introduction to the News Media, Mar 2012
  • NCAS/NERC Earth Systems Science Spring School, University of Cambridge, Apr 2011
  • Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE), University of Exeter, Jan - Mar 2011
  • Homes and Communities Academy (HCA) ‘In a Nutshell; Understanding Sustainable Communities’, July - Sept 2009
  • Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) Approved ‘Carbon Footprint Management Course: An Introductory Programme’, Jul 2009
  • Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN) ‘Climate Change Condensed’, Jul 2009
  • SciConnect Ltd ‘Communicating research to wider audiences’, Oct 2007
  • University of Southampton Faculty of Science, Engineering and Mathematics ‘Public Engagement and Outreach Skills’, July 2007
  • UK Grad Programme / Research Councils ‘GRADschool’, May 2007


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