I am a Lecturer in Environmental Change and an environmental geochemist. I have expertise in reconstructing and monitoring climatic, environmental, and anthropogenic drivers of aquatic ecosystem change over timescales ranging from decadal to hundreds of thousands of years.
The main focus of my research and teaching is the use of lake sediments to reconstruct past environments by comparing geochemical approaches with ecological techniques and proxy data with the instrumental record to provide robust reconstructions. I have applied these techniques globally, including across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Arctic.
- More about Dr Roberts
- Lecturer in Environmental Change, Department of Geography, University College London (2023-present)
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow, Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, Denmark (2021-2023)
- Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Geography, University of Nottingham (2020-2021)
Secondments and visiting scientist appointments
- Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, UK, Scientist on secondment (March 2020)
- United States Geological Survey, USA, Visiting Scientist (December 2018)
- Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, Higher Education Academy (2022)
- PhD in Physical Geography, Queen Mary University of London (2019)
- Diploma of Researcher Development, Queen Mary University of London (2019)
- Aquatic Science MSc, University College London (2013)
- Geography BSc Hons, University College London (2012)
- Editorial Advisory Board member for Journal of Palaeolimnology
- Secretary of The Micropalaeontological Society
I teach on the following modules:
- Geography in the Field I (GEOG0013)
- Geography in the Field II (GEOG0014)
- The Practice of Geography (GEOG0016)
- Environmental Consequences of Human Activity (GEOG0170)
- Research Interests
I apply quantitative field and lab-based methods to address a broad range of pressing issues in environmental change, particularly the impact on aquatic ecosystems of the feedback between human activities, climate, biogeochemical cycles, and ecological processes.
Specifically, my research uses traditional (e.g. Mg/Ca, stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon) and novel (P/Ca, clumped isotopes) geochemical proxies and contamination indicators (heavy metals, spheroidal carbonaceous particles) in natural archives such as biogenic carbonates (ostracods, foraminifera, and corals) and sediments in lake, marine, and riverine environments globally. In combination with species assemblage data and instrumental records, I am interested in applying these techniques across aquatic ecosystems and my work has included:
- The application of ostracod geochemistry alongside sediment geochemistry and grain size to reconstruct storm surges in European coastal lakes over the last 200 years.
- Monitoring and modelling annual flux and toxicity of heavy metal concentrations of riverine suspended material in tropical Asian deltas.
- The application of foraminifera and ostracod geochemistry to reconstruct sea ice cover and freshening of the Canadian Arctic Ocean over the last two millennia.
- Establishing new, more robust, methods to reconstruct nutrient enrichment of shallow lakes.
My research has strong ecosystem management implications, which is reflected in my sustained collaboration with conservation organisations, including the Broads Authority, Wildlife Trust, National Trust and WARECOD. Where appropriate, these organisations have co-produced research, and it has had direct benefits to local stakeholders. For example, my research on the effects of agricultural drainage and storm surges on lakes in the Broads National Park is being used as scientific evidence by the Broads Authority and Internal Drainage Board in the implementation of new land drainage pumps. During my postdoctoral work at the University of Nottingham, I was seconded to Defra in the Flood and Water team for one month to complete a rapid evidence review, creating a database of evidence to be used by Defra, the Environment Agency and Natural England.
My Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship at Aarhus University aimed to provide a new ostracod-derived geochemical method, which I compared to more ‘traditional’ palaeoecology techniques (e.g. diatom transfer functions and macrofossil presence-absence), for reconstructing shallow-lake enrichment. The impact of this work will be the establishment of direct quantitative baseline eutrophication restoration targets under the EU Water Framework Directive for the first time.
Whilst working on the UKRI-GCRF Living Deltas Hub at the University of Nottingham, my research also had strong policy implications. I was co-lead of the Community Science working group, which involved a large interdisciplinary effort to assess the environmental, economic, and cultural importance of small water bodies. The research was selected as a UKRI Interdisciplinary Research Excellence case study. As part of these interdisciplinary efforts, I am joint lead author on a pioneering journal article that was the first in the field of Regional Geography to embed multimedia. In addition, my findings on human-impacted heavy metal pollution of river sediments in the Red River catchment in Vietnam were highlighted in a UKRI Development Impact case study. This research on heavy metal pollution has also contributed to an article soon to be submitted to Environment Magazine, the official press of the Vietnam Environment Administration, Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment.
In addition, I have promoted the accessibility of science and higher education through numerous activities, including UCL Widening Participation, GeoBus, and as a peer-reviewer for Routes, a diamond open-access journal dedicated to the publication of sixth form and undergraduate geographical research.
- Research Grants, Prizes and Awards
- 2021 Novel ostracod geochemistry to reconstruct Quaternary palaeoclimates, The Paleontological Society Norman Newell Early Career Grant (PI; $5,000)
- 2020 Developing an independent measure of lake eutrophication: P, Cd & U in ostracod shells, EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (PI; €207,312; deferred until late 2021)
- 2018 Uncertainty in the distribution of Mg/Ca in shells of Cyprideis torosa (Crustacea, Ostracoda): Implications for palaeoclimate reconstructions, The QRA Quaternary Research Fund (PI; £1,500)
- 2017 and 2016 Investigating the ecological impacts of late Holocene salinity change in coastal lakes & wetlands using palaeolimnology, NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities (student co-I; ref IP-1717-0517 and IP-1671-1116; £65,700)
- 2016 Monitoring data as a tool to better understand the reconstruction of salinity and the ecological implications in late Holocene coastal lakes & wetlands, QRA New Research Workers’ Award (£700)