Quaternary Science MSc – A Taster

So, I am almost a term into the Quaternary Science MSc at Royal Holloway (UoL) and despite having coursework to do, I feel it’s high time I provide a quick taster of what the Quaternary Science MSc is all about.

I really wanted to leave RHUL after doing my undergraduate there. Not because I didn’t like the department – it’s an amazing place. It just has this vibe… there is so much support, encouragement and enthusiasm from all the staff; it’s just a truly fantastic place to be. I wanted to leave because Egham is quite a small town and after three years, I felt I had outgrown the area. However, I couldn’t justify leaving the Centre of Quaternary Research (CQR) to do an MSc elsewhere that would not even begin to touch the Quaternary in ways I wanted to… so I stayed. And I am so glad I did, because the past 3 months have been fantastic and i’m learning a lot and I feel like I am part of a special community: the Quaternary community.

The course is intense. People are shocked at the amount of contact time that we Quaternarists receive. It’s 10am-5pm each day for term 1, which equates to ~30hrs p/week. Obviously you then have your coursework on top and any readings you need to do to understand the course content. You also have fieldtrips in the first term which may reduce your time to complete coursework assignments. So far, I have been to Wales, Norfolk and Yorkshire. In April I will go to Scotland. I’ve handed in one piece of coursework, which was work 5% of the MSc; it was a sedimentology and stratigraphy report discussing our findings from Wales and Norfolk. Although a great piece of work, I found it challenging as it wasn’t exactly what I am interested in, but was great as it has provided me with the essentials that I need to understand stratigraphy… the results come out next week, so wish me luck!

Courses so far have been compulsory (i.e. everyone has attended). These include:

– palaeoclimatology

– sedimentology and stratigraphy

– principles of Quaternary research

– palaeoecology, dating methods, quantification

Right now, I am writing up my coursework for the palaeoclimatology coursework (due on Friday 6th Dec 2013). This is a NERC-style grant proposal with a max. word count of 3,000 words, exceeding no more than 4 pages or 3 figures, including size 10, Arial font. I have chosen the title ‘Regional variability of abrupt climate shifts across Great Britain: How does the magnitude and expression of the 8.2kaBP event vary across Great Britain?‘ I’ve chosen this project as I am interested in abrupt climate change and the use of oxygen isotopes in carbonate rich lacustrine sediments. Moreover, recent research by Lane et al. (2013; Geology) has highlighted the importance of studies in the future to investigate the variability of rapid climate events and how their magnitude of expression differs across small-scale regions. I’ve enjoyed this project a lot and it’s definitely given me full peace of mind that I am doing the right thing and that a research career is the way forward for myself.

During the write-up for this coursework, I have also applied for a PhD which utilises isotopes. So another thing I will need some considerable amount of luck for! Although we are encouraged to apply for PhD’s this academic year, it is highlighted that we are fighting against people who have already got an MSc grade under their belt. It seems it doesn’t matter what career route you go, there will always be some level of competition. At least I am enjoying myself and will end up in a career that I am passionate about and love.



John Lowe’s retirement – London Quaternary Lectures at Royal Holloway 2013 – Quaternary Science MSc: old and present


Chris Turney and myself with Antarctic ice, aged from the Younger Dryas at the London Quaternary Lectures at Royal Holloway


Myself on the stratigraphy fieldtrip in Norfolk, November 2013

Course details here: http://www.rhul.ac.uk/geography/coursefinder/mscquaternaryscience.aspx


My experience at the CIC in Copenhagen

This is a short video summarising my weeks work experience at the CIC in Copenhagen. I had an absolutely amazing time and learnt so, so much. I completed one of my childhood dreams: to work with ice cores as a climate archive. I apologise that my video editing skills are not the finest, but I hope you enjoy the insight into the great work that happens at the CIC. There are some really brilliant people there!