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Cambridge Quaternary

The Quaternary, the last 2.6 million years of geological time, saw major climatic changes which caused ice sheets to advance intotemperate latitudes. Repeated glacial episodes caused significant fluctuations in sea level, major geographical changes and major plant and animal population migrations. Sedimentary sequences record these changes in great detail and are central to unravelling past events.

Cambridge Quaternary is a semi-informal research group of approximately 60 people within the University of Cambridge . Its constituent research groups are based in the Departments of Geography , Plant Sciences , Earth Sciences , Archaeology and Zoology . Links also exist with the Department of Physics and the Scott Polar Research Institute . There is an excellent research environment at all levels, fostered by the staff (10 members), post-doctoral workers, and both Ph.D. and M.Phil. students pursuing interdisciplinary research in a wide range of Quaternary fields. This environment is unique in Britain, offering opportunities for research student training unequalled elsewhere, in terms of the range and quality of the expertise available.

Cambridge Quaternary research

Cambridge Quaternary embraces a wide ranging approach to Quaternary Research. General research themes are based around 'core' areas of staff interest. These include palaeooceanography, archaeology, geochronology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, palaeobotany, dendrochronology, micropalaeontology and palaeoecology. These mainstream interests are supplemented by the interaction of staff members with those from other University and external institutions to provide a diverse spectrum of topics. The understanding of palaeoenvironmental evolution is the central element underpinning all these themes; a foundation that provides a base from which to understand both present and future environmental and climatic change.but

This site contains information about who we are, the Institute's research and publications, together with details of M.Phil. and PhD courses organized within the Cambridge departments. Read about the history and role of Cambridge Quaternary in Cambridge.

News and featured pages

anthropoguardian Anthropocene: a new geological epoch? Ian Sample (Guardian 16.10.14).

'Reading the Anthropocene'


Phil Gibbard will participate in an open-panel discussion entitled 'Reading the Anthropocene' on 30.10.14 in the Festival of Ideas in the University's Department of English.

The history of the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research 1948-1994 - by Richard West


The age of Anthropocene: was 1950 the year human activity began to leave an indelible mark on the geology of Earth?


Scientists mull a new epoch defined by mankind's dominance of the planet.

Phil Gibbard awarded the André Dumont Medal 2014


Professor Phil Gibbard has been awarded the prestigious André Dumont Medal by Geologica Belgica, the Belgian national geological society. The medal was presented to Phil at the society's 2014 meeting in Ghent on 1 April 2014 by the President, Professor Sara Vandycke.

Brave New Epoch: a search for humankind's mark on the Earth


Paul Crutzen, an atmospheric chemist began popularising the idea of the Anthropocene in 2001, citing evidence such as humanity's alterations of biodiversity and our changing of the climate through the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Scientists agree that evidence of these and other global changes will leave a lasting impression in the geological record. However, the Anthropocene is not recognised by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS), the body which safeguards the geological time scale. Jan Zalasiewicz's efforts may change that—his ICS working group wishes to formalise the Anthropocene time division.

Other geologists argue that the Anthropocene may not be suitable for the geological timescale at all. One critic, Philip Gibbard, a member of the ICS working group, says the time in which we now live should be called the Late Holocene, because it is consistent with this most recent official Epoch. "For the Anthropocene to merit formal definition, a global signature distinct from that of the Holocene is required that is marked by novel biotic, sedimentary and geochemical change," Gibbard wrote in a paper published last year. (article by Billings, in Nautilus 2014).

A new version of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart!


The International Commission on Stratigraphy's (ICS) Chronostratigraphic Chart has been adapted for Shell's headquarters in Den Haag, The Netherlands. Originally published in English the chart is now available in French, Chinese, Norwegian, Basque and Spanish language versions. For more views click on image.

Phil Gibbard on Science Live webchat

webchatscience live

Phil on Science webchat on 19.04.13. Phil joined Bruce Smith from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, USA, for a Science Live web chat discussion entitled 'Archaeologists say that the 'Anthropocene' is here - but it began long ago. The discussion can be viewed on the Science website and YouTube.

QPG joins GSI3D as a Consortium Member


7.12.12 - GSI3D (Geological surveying and investigation in three dimensions) is a methodology and associated software tool for 3D geological modelling which enables quick and intuitive construction of 3D solid models of the subsurface for a wide range of applications. The methodology and software has been developed jointly by the British Geological Survey (BGS) and INSIGHT GmbH and is being applied by the BGS, where it is the modelling tool of choice. It is now available on general release as part of the not–for–profit GSI3D Research Consortium. The QPG was invited to join the consortium as a full member to assist with the evaluation and development of the three-dimensional mapping of superficial deposits in the British Isles and beyond.

International Chronostratigraphic Charts published

The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) published a new Chronostratigraphic Chart in July 2012 at the International Geological Conference. The chart was designed and produced by S.Finney, K. Cohen and P.Gibbard. It was originally published in English but will shortly be available in French and Spanish language versions (January 2013). Other language versions may be published in future.


The Geologic Time Scale 2012

Published 11.10.12 - The Geologic Time Scale 2012 - edited by F.Gradstein, J.Ogg, M.Schmitz & G.Ogg. Elsevier: Amsterdam. Chapter 30, The Quaternary Period by B.Pillans & P.Gibbard (980-1009).

  • gts2012

Charles Turner awarded the Albrecht Penck Medal 2012

Charles Turner has been awarded the highly prestigious Albrecht Penck Medal by the Deutsche Quartärvereinigung (DEUQUA) at their 36. Hauptversammlung in Bayreuth in September 2012 to mark his contribution to Quaternary research.


Chris Jeans awarded the Collins Medal

Our own Chris Jeans will be awarded the Collins Medal for 2013 by the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. He was already made an Honorary Fellow of the Society in 2011.

'The Collins Medal will be awarded annually to a scientist who, during a long and active career, has made an outstanding contribution to pure or applied aspects of Mineral Sciences and associated studies. Publications, teaching, outreach and other activities leading to the promotion of mineral sciences, in the broadest sense, will be taken into account in making the award. Nominees do not have to be Members of the Mineralogical Society or nationals of Great Britain and Ireland.'

Mike Hall

The longest serving member of the Cambridge Quaternary group (previously the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research and the Godwin Institute of Quaternary Research) will be retiring from his position in the Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research in the Department of Earth Sciences at the end of March 2012. Mike has worked in the University since 1963 and in the field of climate research since 1969, with Nick Shackleton until his death in 2006, then more recently with David Hodell - a total of 48 years.

mike hall

John Hutchinson

Old friend of the Cambridge Quaternary community, Professor John Hutchinson died very peacefully on Thursday 22 December.

Russell Coope

We are very sad to announce the untimely death of our longstanding colleague and friend G.Russell Coope. He died at home on Saturday 26 November 2011 of a heart attack.

Richard Hey

  • It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our friend and colleague, the geologist Dr Richard William Hey. He died on Monday 14 November 2011 aged 94 in Ross-on-Wye. He will be greatly missed. Richard was a founding Fellow of Churchill College


  • Are we now living in the Anthropocene? - coming soon, the opinion of the Geological Society's Stratigraphy Commission. Watch GSA Today.



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