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Quaternary Discussion Group (QDG)

A series of 50 minute lectures, followed by discussion, on the broad topic of environmental evolution, climate, ecological and human change during the Quaternary (the last ~2.6 million years). The lectures are aimed at a broad audience (including geoscientists, glaciologists, environmental scientists, atmospheric chemists, biologists, anthropologists and archaeologists).

Seminars are on Wednesdays in the Department of Geography Small Lecture Theatre (Downing Site), starting at 17:30. Refreshments are served after the talks and there is time for discussion over drinks and/or dinner.

QDG is currently organised by Jinheum Park and Isobel Rowell, supported by David Hodell, Christine Lane, Francesco Muschitiello and Eric Wolff. Please feel free to contact us with queries and suggestions.

To sign up to the QDG mailing list, follow this link:

View the archive of previous seminars.

# Wednesday 5th June 2024, 5.30pm - Vasiliki Margari, University College London
Building doors are card operated, so latecomers may not be able to access the venue.
Extreme glacial implies discontinuity of early human occupation of Europe
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

The oldest known hominin remains in Europe [ca. 1.5 to 1.1 million years ago (Ma)] have been recovered from Iberia, where paleoenvironmental reconstructions have indicated warm and wet interglacials and mild glacials, supporting the view that once established, hominin populations persisted continuously. We report analyses of marine and terrestrial proxies from a deep-sea core on the Portugese margin that show the presence of pronounced millennial-scale climate variability during a glacial period ca. 1.154 to 1.123 Ma, culminating in a terminal stadial cooling comparable to the most extreme events of the last 400,000 years. Climate envelope–model simulations reveal a drastic decrease in early hominin habitat suitability around the Mediterranean during the terminal stadial. We suggest that these extreme conditions led to the depopulation of Europe, perhaps lasting for several successive glacial-interglacial cycles.

# Wednesday 12th June 2024, 5.30pm - Simon Haberle, Australian National University
Building doors are card operated, so latecomers may not be able to access the venue.
Palaeoecological Insights into the Causes and Consequences of Mid-Late Quaternary Megafauna Extinction in Asia and Australia
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Mid-Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions have long intrigued researchers seeking to understand the causes and consequences of these significant ecological events. What role did fluctuations in climate, shifts in vegetation composition, alterations in habitat distribution, and the impact of human settlement play in megafauna extinction? One way to help us better understand the role of environmental change in the extinction process is to use palaeoecological techniques (pollen, spore and charcoal analysis) combined with well resolved geochronological estimates to reconstruct palaeoenvironmental conditions that occur before, during, and after past megafauna extinctions. Here I present two palaeoecological case studies that provide insights into megafauna extinction in Asia and Australia: (i) the largest ever primate and one of the largest of the southeast Asian megafauna, Gigantopithecus blacki, that persisted in China from about 2.0 million years until the late middle Pleistocene when it became extinct, well before the appearance of Homo sapiens on the landscape, and (ii) the multiple extinctions of megafauna that occurred across Australia around 50,000-40,000 years ago that coincide with a time when people were present across the Australian landscape. This presentation underscores the importance of interdisciplinary approaches integrating palaeoecological, geochronological, archaeological, and climatological perspectives to unravel the complexities of past megafauna extinctions and inform strategies for mitigating future biodiversity crises.