Meet the RISeR team: Amy McGuire

Hi, I’m Amy, a new recruit to the RISeR team as the project enters its second stage! My primary role in the project will be studying the pollen contained within the (beautiful!) RISeR cores in order to link these new sequences to one another, and eventually to situate them within the larger regional framework of Last Interglacial sea-level rise. Essentially, I’m going to be trying to work out where in the cores pollen from certain species of tree begin to appear, and what this can tell us about the timing of sea-level changes in the southern North Sea.

I have a background in palynology (the study of pollen and spores) and have recently finished my PhD working with Prof Christine Lane in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. My PhD research reconstructed vegetation responses to abrupt climate changes recorded in lake sediments from NW Greece, from the fascinating Ioannina site. To do this, I not only produced a sub-centennial scale pollen record dating from around 40,000 years ago, but also used tephra (volcanic ash deposits) and Bayesian age-depth modelling to produce the first independently dated last glacial chronology for the site.

One of the biggest challenges in studying the past, and something I learnt quite quickly during my MSc at The University of Manchester, is how we date our sequences – it’s important to know how old our records are in order to compare them! During my MSc I attempted to construct tephrochronologies for two fascinating East African cave sites, but unfortunately I only found a single shard of volcanic glass! Luckily I found a few more (although not as many as I’d have liked) during my PhD.

When people ask me what my research interests are I explain that I simply study mud to learn about the past. At the heart of it I am endlessly fascinated by the stories we can find hidden in sediment and what they can tell us about our dynamic landscapes, ecosystems, and (in the case of the RISeR cores) sea-levels.

When I’m not in the lab or in the field, I am usually swimming or watching cricket. Alternatively you may find me at St. Mary’s as, having had a season ticket from the age of 7, I for some reason remain a Southampton FC fan and I suspect it may be too late to change my allegiances.