UCL Department of Geography


International Women's Day: 60 Second With...Viv Jones

10 March 2023

Professor of Environmental Change Viv talks about her role, inspirations and memorable career moments. Part of our International Women's Day 2023 series.

International Women's Day: 60 Second With...Viv Jones

Tell us about your role at the University

I am a Professor of Environmental Change in the Department of Geography at UCL.

What are your research interests and why are they important?

I am interested in all aspects of how we humans have affected our planet on a range of spatial and temporal scales. I am especially interested in how we can use lake sediments to understand how aquatic systems (mainly lakes) operated in the past.

I do this by taking sediment cores from lakes and using radiometric techniques like radiocarbon to date them, this means we get a chronology of thousands of years. I then look at fossils such as diatoms, my technical speciality, preserved in the sediment.

The fossil diatoms (along with a wide range of other fossils and chemistry) can be used to inform us of past conditions e.g. climate, water chemistry, and biodiversity. This is important since without historical data (and there is little of this going back beyond about 50 years) we don't know how natural systems operated in the past.

We need to know this to understand natural variability and the extent and timing of human impacts.

What inspires you in your work?

The natural environments - I have been lucky to have had trips to some wonderful parts of the world - from the tropics (Madagascar) to the Arctic (Russia, Greenland, Svalbard) to The Antarctic.

People - I have met inspirational students, colleagues and collaborators and made many friends

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

Probably my two trips to Antarctica - both were amazing with the natural environment of ice and mountains and massive seas and the wildlife including albatross, penguins seals and whales with wonderful people the first camping for eight weeks on Livingstone Island was tougher than the eight weeks in a base camp with showers and all the facilities…few women had done this by the late 1990s so felt rather pioneering.

What passions/hobbies do you have outside work?

Enjoying family and friends and the outdoors in general Gardening allotmenting, yoga, cooking (and drinking while I cook) reading, walking, talking with friends while walking, enjoying nature when walking and talking, rivers aquatic places and the sea, coffees with friends after a walk or sometimes halfway....the list is endless.

Who is your feminist hero?

I don't really do heroes. Probably most true heroes are the unsung ones. But maybe I'd enjoy a walk with Lisa Simpson. OK, she's fictional so perhaps Michele Obama, Dervla Murphy, (she recently died so that wouldn't work) Jo Brand (she walks...) and Jane Austin...OK, she's dead too.