UCL Department of Geography


Battarbee Lecture 2022: Professor Anson Mackay

13 May 2022

Professor Emeritus Anson Mackay gave the 2022 Battarbee Lecture on his research at Lake Baikal in Siberia to a sold-out audience yesterday evening.

Battarbee 2022

Celebrating a career spanning over 30 years, Professor Mackay provided an update on his long-standing interests at the world's largest freshwater lake.

UCL Geography has worked on the project in collaboration with local and international scientists on what Anson has described as “without a doubt one of the most iconic and well-studied freshwater ecosystems on the planet.”

The project began in the early 1990s with the aim of determining the impact pollution was having on the ecosystems that rely on it.

As time went on, Anson and his team added the effects of climate change to their studies and, while he admits the root causes may have shifted, threats to one of the world’s most important large bodies of water only look set to increase.

Today, more organic waste is entering Lake Baikal than at any other time in its history, having a devastating impact on unique species and shoreline ecosystems.

His talk provided a grand narrative of long-term changes in the Lake Baikal ecosystem, using lake sediment analysis to place environmental threats into a historical context.

Professor Mackay is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Change in the Environmental Change Research Centre and the Palaeoclimate Research Group at UCL Geography.

The 2022 Battarbee Lecture serves as a chance to celebrate not only the research that has had a deep impact on his field but also the indelible contribution Anson has made to the life and works of the UCL Geography Department over an illustrious career.

Introducing Anson before the lecture Rick Battarbee said “in his thirty-year career at UCL not only has Anson become an internationally renowned scientist but has been a wonderful role model, immensely liked and respected by all for his selfless and tireless commitment to the well-being of his colleagues, students, and friends across UCL. We wish him a very happy retirement.”

In his response, Anson replied “I have had the utmost privilege to work at UCL Geography, and in the ECRC in particular. Rick was an inspiring mentor while I was an early career scientist, and it was from him that I learned to encourage, motivate and lift others up. I have absolutely adored my time working with and learning from, the many brilliant staff and students in the department, and although I am retired, part of me will never leave.”

Originally from the Scottish Highlands, Anson studied Biological Science at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1989 before earning his doctorate in palaeoecology in 1993 from the University of Manchester.

Professor Mackay joined the UCL community in 1992 as a Leverhulme Research Fellow until his promotion to Reader in 2007 and later Professor in 2013. His research centres on assessing human and climatic impacts on some of the world’s most important freshwater ecosystems; he has authored and co-authored over 160 articles and reports and has been PI on over 30 projects.

Anson has served as Vice-Dean of Research (2013-2016) and of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) (2019-2022) for the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences. He co-chaired the Faculty EDI Strategic Board and the Gender Working Group and was a member of the UCL Equality Charters Group that oversees development of institutional charter marks, Race Equality charter, Athena Swan and the Provost’s Inclusion Forum that monitors implementation of the new UCL EDI Strategy.

At UCL Geography, Anson established the LGBTQ+ network Out In Geography, was the Wellbeing Champion, and set up the thriving running group (UCLgeoggers) to promote health and wellbeing amongst students and staff. He has been routinely nominated for Student Choice awards, including Inspiring Teaching, Equality & Diversity and Exceptional Feedback. He has been the heart and soul of the Department.

The Battarbee Lecture series was launched in 2012 to celebrate the contribution of palaeoecologist Professor Rick Battarbee FRS to geographical science.

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