Rob Collier

Outdoor landscapes have always been a source of fascination for me having spent a great deal of my time growing up wandering around Dartmoor and other national parks, so I suppose it’s understandable why I’m interested in how the natural environment develops through time. Being a member of PLUS gives me such an opportunity to examine landscape evolution and to study how interacting drivers, be they natural or anthropogenic in origin, can have an effect on how an environment changes both spatially and temporally.

My interest in the Quaternary began at undergraduate level, with a particular area being the late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions. I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue this line of study for my dissertation where I travelled to Alaska and experienced first-hand palaeo-field work, spending many hours taking lake cores in and around the Fairbanks area. My dissertation focussed on using the coprophilous fungi Sporormiella to attempt to examine the megafauna extinctions at several lakes in Alaska. Whilst no definitive extinction signals were detected, the report was a rewarding experience and left me wanting to pursue more detailed and long term studies of environmental change.

I started my Ph.D. in the autumn of 2013, where my research focuses on understanding the role of British peatlands in carbon regulation. The main focus of this is to attempt to relate vegetation communities at various study sites to recent carbon accumulation, and to see whether this vegetation data can reliably estimate carbon fluxes. This work will then progress to examine how carbon dynamics at the sites have varied both spatially and temporally through the late-Holocene in response to drivers such as palaeoclimatic change, land use practices and the propagation of pollutants. There is understandably much interest at the moment concerning the carbon sequestering potential for peatlands given the contemporary concern of anthropogenically forced climate change, and it is my hope that this research could be used to develop monitoring and management techniques which will help preserve British peatlands’ natural functioning as carbon sinks.