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Dr Thomas Roland

Dr Thomas Roland

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography


 Amory C412


Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK


I am an environmental scientist working at the nexus of palaeo- and contemporary ecology. My primary research interests lie in the application of biological, geochemical and geochronological techniques to address key research questions around past, present and future environmental and climate change. I have a particular interest in the palaeoenvironments of the Southern Hemisphere, having worked across the Antarctic Peninsula, Peru, New Zealand and Patagonia on a range of records, from high-altitude and high-latitude wetlands through to coastal and shallow-marine systems.

Most recently, my research has focussed on the provision of longer-term (decadal to centennial) context for contemporary environmental and ecosystem changes, often driven by ongoing climatic change, which cannot be provided by instrumental or historical data alone. I also have a particular interest in the potential of cross-discipline research to provide novel, holistic approaches to future-facing Earth science research questions.

I am also an experienced field scientist having coordinated complex and remote field seasons in Peru, New Zealand, Patagonia and Alaska.

Currently funded research

'A novel transdisciplinary approach to investigating the recent responses of High Andean wetlands(bofedales) to increasing climate-related pressures' (funded by The Royal Society, until 2024)

The Convex Seascape Survey (funded by Convex Insurance, until 2025)

'The Wetter the Better? Understanding wet woodland carbon dynamics in the Anthropocene' (PhD Project: Emma Duley, funded by NERC ARIES DTP)

'Keeping above the waves? The response of coastal freshwater peatlands to sea-level rise' (PhD Project: Maddie Timmins, funded by NERC GW4+ DTP)


Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter (2023-present)

Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter (2019-2023)

Lecturer (Education & Scholarship), University of Exeter (2017-2019)

Research Fellow, University of Exeter (2014-2019)

Research Fellow, University of Southampton (2012-2014)


PhD in Geography, University of Exeter (2008-2012)

MSc in Quaternary Science, Royal Holloway and UCL, University of London (2006-2007)

BSc (Hons.) in Geography, University of Exeter (2003-2006)


Research group links

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Research interests

  • Peatland ecology and palaeoecology including the analysis of testate amoebae, plant macrofossils and pollen
  • Statistical analysis of palaeoecological data
  • Peatland carbon and nutrient dynamics
  • Late-Quaternary palaeoclimatology
  • Tephrostratigraphy and tephrochronology
  • Age-depth modelling in peatlands (radiocarbon, short-lived radioisotopes and tephra) using a range of statistical techniques
  • Environmental archaeology

Research projects

'Holocene evolution of the Southern Annular Mode using novel peat isotope proxies'

With Dan Charman and Matt Amesbury at the University of Exeter. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

This project aims to reconstruct long-term variability in the Southern Annular Mode, a key component of the Southern Hemisphere's climate system. Using peatland records from across New Zealand, we'll employ a range of palaeoenvironmental techniques, including a novel stable isotopic approach recently developed here at Exeter, to look for links between changes in climate in the Southern Hemisphere and the tropics, as well as inter-hemispheric teleconnections. 

‘Terrestrial Holocene climate variability on the Antarctic Peninsula’

With Dan Charman and Matt Amesbury at the University of Exeter. Funded by the NERC Antarctic Funding Initiative.

Together with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge, we aim to provide a longer term context for the rapid environmental changes recently witnessed on the Antarctic Peninsula. This involves the analysis of moss bank records using a multi-proxy palaeoecological and geochemical approach (testate amoebae, stable isotopes), supported by radiocarbon, lead-210 and tephra derived chronologies. Visit the project website here.

‘Palaeoclimate reconstructions from Tierra del Fuego to detect land-ocean-atmosphere interactions’

With Paul Hughes at University of Southampton. Funded by NERC.

Working with colleagues from the Universities of Aberdeen, Swansea and Plymouth, the PATAGON project aims to develop a new regional network of proxy archives and create quantitative climate reconstructions for southern South America spanning the last ~2000 years, based on the multi-proxy palaeoecological (plant macrofossils, testate amoebae) and geochemical analysis of the Sphagnum-dominated peat deposits of southern Patagonia. Visit the project website here.

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Journal articles

Loisel J, Gallego-Sala A, Amesbury M, Roland T, Charman D (In Press). Expert assessment of future vulnerability of the global peatland carbon sink. Nature Climate Change
Charman D, Amesbury MJ, Roland TP, Royles J, Hodgson DA, Convey P, Griffiths H (In Press). Spatially coherent late-Holocene Antarctic Peninsula surface air temperature variability. Geology
Roland TP, Swindles GT, Ruffell A (2024). The ‘Anthropocene’ is here to stay — and it’s better not as a geological epoch. Nature, 627(8005), 735-735.
Barión PH, Roberts SJ, Spiegel C, Binnie SA, Wacker L, Davies J, Gabriel I, Jones VJ, Blockley S, Pearson EJ, et al (2023). Holocene deglaciation and glacier readvances on the Fildes Peninsula and King George Island (Isla 25 de Mayo), South Shetland Islands, NW Antarctic Peninsula. The Holocene, 33(6), 636-658.
Sim TG, Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Baird AJ, Gallego-Sala AV, Wang Y, Blaauw M, Camill P, Garneau M, Hardiman M, et al (2023). Regional variability in peatland burning at mid-to high-latitudes during the Holocene. Quaternary Science Reviews, 305, 108020-108020.
Swindles GT, Roland TP, Ruffell A (2023). The ‘Anthropocene’ is most useful as an informal concept. Journal of Quaternary Science, 38(4), 453-454.
Zhang H, Väliranta M, Swindles GT, Aquino-López MA, Mullan D, Tan N, Amesbury M, Babeshko KV, Bao K, Bobrov A, et al (2022). Recent climate change has driven divergent hydrological shifts in high-latitude peatlands. Nat Commun, 13(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Loisel J, Gallego-Sala AV, Amesbury MJ, Magnan G, Anshari G, Beilman DW, Benavides JC, Blewett J, Camill P, Charman DJ, et al (2021). Author Correction: Expert assessment of future vulnerability of the global peatland carbon sink. Nature Climate Change, 11(4), 362-362.
Qin Y, Li H, Mazei Y, Kurina I, Swindles GT, Bobrov A, Tsyganov AN, Gu Y, Huang X, Xue J, et al (2021). Developing a continental-scale testate amoeba hydrological transfer function for Asian peatlands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 258 Abstract.
Sim TG, Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Baird AJ, Cooper CL, Gallego-Sala AV, Charman DJ, Roland TP, Borken W, Mullan DJ, et al (2021). Divergent responses of permafrost peatlands to recent climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 16(3), 034001-034001. Abstract.
Sim T, Swindles G, Morris P, Baird A, Cooper C, Gallego-Sala A, Charman D, Roland T, Borken W, Mullan D, et al (2021). Divergent responses of permafrost peatlands to recent climate change. Abstract.
León CA, Gabriel M, Rodríguez C, Iturraspe R, Savoretti A, Pancotto V, Benítez-Mora A, Valdés A, Díaz MF, Oberpaur C, et al (2021). Peatlands of southern south america: a review. Mires and Peat, 27, 1-29. Abstract.
McKeown MM, Mitchell EAD, Amesbury MJ, Blandenier Q, Charman D, Duckert C, Roland TP, Swindles GT, Wood JR, Wilmshurst JM, et al (2021). The testate amoebae of New Zealand: a checklist, identification key and assessment of biogeographic patterns. European Journal of Protistology, 81, 125789-125789.
Zhang H, Väliranta M, Piilo S, Amesbury MJ, Aquino-López MA, Roland TP, Salminen-Paatero S, Paatero J, Lohila A, Tuittila E-S, et al (2020). Decreased carbon accumulation feedback driven by climate-induced drying of two southern boreal bogs over recent centuries. Glob Chang Biol, 26(4), 2435-2448. Abstract.  Author URL.
Swindles GT, Roland TP, Amesbury MJ, Lamentowicz M, McKeown MM, Sim TG, Fewster RE, Mitchell EAD (2020). Quantifying the effect of testate amoeba decomposition on peat-based water-table reconstructions. European Journal of Protistology, 74, 125693-125693.
Li C, Sonke JE, Le Roux G, Piotrowska N, Van Der Putten N, Roberts SJ, Daley T, Rice E, Gehrels R, Enrico M, et al (2020). Unequal Anthropogenic Enrichment of Mercury in Earth's Northern and Southern Hemispheres. ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, 4(11), 2073-2081. Abstract.
McKeown MM, Caseldine CJ, Thompson G, Swindles GT, Ivanovic RF, Roland TP, Valdes PJ, Potito AP (2019). Complexities in interpreting chironomid-based temperature reconstructions over the Holocene from a lake in Western Ireland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 222, 105908-105908.
Newnham RM, Hazell ZJ, Charman DJ, Lowe DJ, Rees ABH, Amesbury MJ, Roland TP, Gehrels M, van den Bos V, Jara IA, et al (2019). Peat humification records from Restionaceae bogs in northern New Zealand as potential indicators of Holocene precipitation, seasonality, and ENSO. Quaternary Science Reviews, 218, 378-394. Abstract.
Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Mullan DJ, Payne RJ, Roland TP, Amesbury MJ, Lamentowicz M, Turner TE, Gallego-Sala A, Sim T, et al (2019). Widespread drying of European peatlands in recent centuries. Nature Geoscience, 12(11), 922-928.
Gallego-Sala AV, Charman D, Brewer S, Page SE, Prentice IC, Friedlingstein P, Moreton S, Amesbury MJ, Beilman DW, Björck S, et al (2018). Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming. Nature Climate Change, 8, 907-913.
Amesbury MJ, Booth RK, Roland TP, Bunbury J, Clifford MJ, Charman DJ, Elliot S, Finkelstein S, Garneau M, Hughes PDM, et al (2018). Towards a Holarctic synthesis of peatland testate amoeba ecology: Development of a new continental-scale palaeohydrological transfer function for North America and comparison to European data. Quaternary Science Reviews, 201, 483-500. Abstract.
van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Payne RJ, Roland TP, Hughes PDM, Daley TJ, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM, Pancotto VA, et al (2017). An alternative approach to transfer functions? Testing the performance of a functional trait-based model for testate amoebae. PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY, 468, 173-183.  Author URL.
Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Whitney B, Galloway JM, Gałka M, Gallego-Sala AV, Macumber AL, Mullan D, Smith MW, Amesbury MJ, et al (2017). Ecosystem state shifts during long-term development of an Amazonian peatland. Global Change Biology Abstract.
Roland TP, Amesbury MJ, Wilkinson DM, Charman DJ, Convey P, Hodgson DA, Royles J, Clauß S, Völcker E (2017). Taxonomic Implications of Morphological Complexity Within the Testate Amoeba Genus Corythion from the Antarctic Peninsula. Protist, 168(5), 565-585. Abstract.  Author URL.
Gałka M, Szal M, Watson EJ, Gallego-Sala A, Amesbury MJ, Charman DJ, Roland TP, Edward Turner T, Swindles GT (2017). Vegetation Succession, Carbon Accumulation and Hydrological Change in Subarctic Peatlands, Abisko, Northern Sweden. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 28(4), 589-604. Abstract.
Amesbury MJ, Roland TP, Royles J, Hodgson DA, Convey P, Griffiths H, Charman DJ (2017). Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula. Curr Biol, 27(11), 1616-1622.e2. Abstract.  Author URL.
Amesbury MJ, Swindles GT, Bobrov A, Charman DJ, Holden J, Lamentowicz M, Mallon G, Mazei Y, Mitchell EAD, Payne RJ, et al (2016). Development of a new pan-European testate amoeba transfer function for reconstructing peatland palaeohydrology. Quaternary Science Reviews, 152, 132-151. Abstract.
van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Hughes PDM, Roland TP, Daley TJ, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM, Pancotto VA, Payne RJ, et al (2016). Late-Holocene climate dynamics recorded in the peat bogs of Tierra del Fuego, South America. HOLOCENE, 26(3), 489-501.  Author URL.
Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Mauquoy D, Roland TP, van Bellen S, Daley TJ, Davies D, Hughes PDM, Pancotto VO, Young GHF, et al (2016). Measurements of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon isotope variability in Sphagnum moss along a micro-topographical gradient in a southern Patagonian peatland. Journal of Quaternary Science, 31(4), 426-435. Abstract.
Royles J, Amesbury MJ, Roland TP, Jones GD, Convey P, Griffiths H, Hodgson DA, Charman DJ (2016). Moss stable isotopes (carbon-13, oxygen-18) and testate amoebae reflect environmental inputs and microclimate along a latitudinal gradient on the Antarctic Peninsula. Oecologia, 181(3), 931-945. Abstract.  Author URL.
Amesbury MJ, Charman DJ, Newnham RM, Loader NJ, Goodrich J, Royles J, Campbell DI, Keller ED, Baisden WT, Roland TP, et al (2015). Can oxygen stable isotopes be used to track precipitation moisture source in vascular plant-dominated peatlands?. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 430, 149-159. Abstract.
Amesbury MJ, Charman DJ, Newnham RM, Loader NJ, Goodrich JP, Royles J, Campbell DI, Roland TP, Gallego-Sala A (2015). Carbon stable isotopes as a palaeoclimate proxy in vascular plant dominated peatlands. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 164, 161-174. Abstract.
Swindles GT, Amesbury MJ, Turner TE, Carrivick JL, Woulds C, Raby C, Mullan D, Roland TP, Galloway JM, Parry L, et al (2015). Evaluating the use of testate amoebae for palaeohydrological reconstruction in permafrost peatlands. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 424, 111-122. Abstract.
Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Daley TJ, Hughes PDM, Kimak A, Levanič T, Mallon G, Mauquoy D, Robertson I, Roland TP, et al (2015). Simultaneous determination of stable carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopes in cellulose. Analytical Chemistry, 87(1), 376-380. Abstract.
Roland TP, Mackay H, Hughes PDM (2015). Tephra analysis in ombrotrophic peatlands: a geochemical comparison of acid digestion and density separation techniques. JOURNAL OF QUATERNARY SCIENCE, 30(1), 3-8.  Author URL.
Roland TP, Daley TJ, Caseldine CJ, Charman DJ, Turney CSM, Amesbury MJ, Thompson GJ, Woodley EJ (2015). The 5.2 ka climate event: Evidence from stable isotope and multi-proxy palaeoecological peatland records in Ireland. Quaternary Science Reviews, 124, 209-223. Abstract.
Swindles GT, Morris PJ, Mullan D, Watson EJ, Turner E, Roland TP, Amesbury MJ, Kokfelt U, Schoning K, Pratte S, et al (2015). The long-term fate of permafrost peatlands under rapid climate warming. Scientific Reports, 5 Abstract.
De Vleeschouwer F, Vanneste H, Mauquoy D, Piotrowska N, Torrejón F, Roland TP, Stein A, Le Roux G (2014). Emissions from Pre-Hispanic Metallurgy in the South American Atmosphere. PLoS One, 10(9).  Author URL.
Seddon AWR, Mackay AW, Baker AG, Birks HJB, Breman E, Buck CE, Ellis EC, Froyd CA, Gill JL, Gillson L, et al (2014). Looking forward through the past: Identification of 50 priority research questions in palaeoecology. Journal of Ecology, 102(1), 256-267. Abstract.
Hughes PDM, Roland TP, Mauquoy D (2014). Peatlands and carbon credits: natural and anthropogenic threats to the carbon stock. Carbon Management
Van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Payne RJ, Roland TP, Daley TJ, Hughes PDM, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM, Pancotto VA, et al (2014). Testate amoebae as a proxy for reconstructing Holocene water table dynamics in southern Patagonian peat bogs. Journal of Quaternary Science, 29(5), 463-474. Abstract.
Roland TP, Caseldine CJ, Charman DJ, Turney CSM, Amesbury MJ (2014). Was there a '4.2ka event' in Great Britain and Ireland? Evidence from the peatland record. Quaternary Science Reviews, 83, 11-27. Abstract.
Swindles GT, Lawson IT, Matthews IP, Blaauw M, Daley TJ, Charman DJ, Roland TP, Plunkett G, Schettler G, Gearey BR, et al (2013). Centennial-scale climate change in Ireland during the Holocene. Earth-Science Reviews, 126, 300-320. Abstract.
Roland T (2013). Letters from patagonia. Planet Earth(AUTUMN), 24-26. Abstract.
Daley TJ, Mauquoy D, Chambers FM, Street-Perrott FA, Hughes PDM, Loader NJ, Roland TP, Van Bellen S, Garcia-Meneses P, Lewin S, et al (2012). Investigating late Holocene variations in hydroclimate and the stable isotope composition of precipitation using southern South American peatlands: an hypothesis. Climate of the Past, 8(5), 1457-1471. Abstract.
Roland TP (2012). The ‘4.2 kyr event’ in the British Isles: evidence for an abrupt climate event in the North Atlantic?. Quaternary International, 279
Fyfe RM, Brück J, Johnston R, Lewis H, Roland TP, Wickstead H (2008). Historical context and chronology of Bronze Age land enclosure on Dartmoor, UK. Journal of Archaeological Science, 35(8), 2250-2261. Abstract.


LI C, Sonke J, Le Roux G, Piotrowska N, Van der Putten N, Roberts S, Daley T, Rice E, Gehrels R, Enrico M, et al (2021). Unequal Anthropogenic Enrichment of Mercury in Earth’s Northernand Southern Hemispheres. Goldschmidt2021 abstracts.

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Office Hours

My Term 1 office hours will be held on:

  • Mondays at 11:00-12:00
  • Thursdays at 11:00-12:00

Bookings can be made by following this link, and meetings can take place in my office or on Teams as required.



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Madeleine Timmins NERC GW4 DTP

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Office Hours:

My Term 1 office hours will be held on:

  • Mondays at 11:00-12:00
  • Thursdays at 11:00-12:00

Bookings can be made by following this link, and meetings can take place in my office or on Teams as required.

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