Skip to main content

Environment, landscape and climate change research cluster

Geography at Birkbeck is at the forefront of research into how environments change over time and how humans interact with these changes. We have a strong focus on effective adaptation to future climate change but also seek to understand past changes over both historical and Quaternary timescales. We work on the coast, islands, lakes and rivers and in temperate (Europe), tropical (Tonga, Maldives) and semi-arid (Iraq, southern Africa) regions. This research informs our very popular MSc Climate Change and MSc Environment and Sustainability programmes hosted in the department.

Our research is strongly applied, with implications for many stakeholders, from civil engineers to conservationists.

Recent funded Projects

  • Climate change resilience on islands (2019-2021): The SUNRISE project (Situated UNderstanding of Resilience in Island Societies and Environments) is led by Dr Aideen Foley in collaboration with Stefano Moncada (L-Università ta' Malta) Patrick Nunn (University of the Sunshine Coast) Verena Tandrayen-Ragoobur (University of Mauritius) and Michelle Mycoo (University of the West Indies, St. Augustine). It has been funded by NERC under the Global Partnerships Seedcorn Fund. This project examines how long-term patterns in climate-related hazards, and trends and changes non-climate stressors, impact and are perceived to impact climate resilience in island communities in Scotland, Mauritius and Fiji.
  • Reconstructing the past #NajafSea (2019-21): Working with Iraqi collaborators Drs Jaafar Jotheri, Hussain Musa Hussain and Ismael Al-Ameri and Birkbeck archaeologist Dr Tim Reynolds, Drs Becky Briant and Stefan Engels have been exploring the past history of the Najaf Sea in western Iraq, dating sediments in collaboration with Professor Mark Bateman in Sheffield. This work is funded by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq.
  • BLUE-coast (2016-2021): The BLUEcoast NERC Consortium consists of researchers from across the UK including Professor Sue Brooks working on a range of coastal issues to enable better prediction and management over the coming decades. The main project aim is to reduce uncertainty in annual to decadal-scale coastal processes in affecting regional sediment budgets, morphological change and how the coast recovers from high magnitude storms. The consortium works closely with several coastal management stakeholders, such as the UK Environment Agency and the Met Office.
  • Insect Armageddon (2019-20): Recent papers have shown evidence of a dramatic decline in insect communities from the 1980s to the present. However, it is currently difficult to attribute this decline to a specific driver, as both land use and climate have changed significantly across the last few decades. In this project, Dr Stefan Engels aims to produce new long-term (centennial-scale) and short term (decadal-scale) data on trends in insect diversity to better understand the forces that govern insect communities.
  • Shoreline change in Mesopotamia (2017)Dr Becky Briant hosted Iraqi researcher, Dr Ismael Al-Ameri, for a year’s study of fossil snails from sediment sequences in the Mesopotamian marshes, determining movements of the Arab Gulf shoreline over the late Holocene period, to better understand the location and development of cities during the Sumerian period.
  • Shoreline change in Suffolk (2015-16): During her Leverhulme Research Fellowship, Professor Sue Brooks developed a new module to understand and predict shoreline erosion in Suffolk, where climate variability sees shoreline changes of up to 15 metres during severe storms. This shoreline response model can be used to predict the position of shorelines over future decadal scales based upon their historic responses to sea-level rise. The model was used to predict future sediment budgets as well as in determining the likely loss of valuable habitat in coastal hinterlands.