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Antarctic explorers

Out of the Ice Ages: our past, present and future

Ant SnowFounders007Saturday 9 January 2016, 10:00-16:30

Windsor Building Auditorium

Join us for an entertaining and thought-provoking public outreach day of expert talks, hands-on activities and an “Ask the Panel” session, on the subject of our changing climate, ecosystems, ice sheets and human occupation.  Demonstrations include modelling sea level change, megafloods, re-wilding Britain, Palaeolithic stone tools, 3D imaging of vertebrate fossils and volcanic eruptions, as well as an opportunity to see the “Vanishing glaciers of Everest” exhibit, showcased at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015.  Everyone welcome! 

For Schools:

The programme will be of particular interest to those studying A and AS Level Geography covering topics such as climate change, glaciers and cold environments, the impact of climate change on ecosystems, sea level and coastal systems, geomorphological processes in a range of settings including glacial, fluvial and arid environments, and human evolution and adaptation to the environment. The programme will also be of interest to those studying A and AS Level Biology, through consideration of how flora and fauna (and humans) have been influenced by genetic and environmental factors in the past, including insights from ancient DNA into population movements and evolution, responses of biological communities to environmental change and the implications of this for modern biodiversity and conservation.

Admission is FREE but booking is required on Eventbrite
Drinks and light refreshments are available on site. 

For further information, please contact Dr Simon Blockley or Professor Danielle Schreve 


Past events


Antarctic Environment_penguins Throughout November we celebrated Royal Holloway's connections and the knowledge we share on Antarctica, one of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth.

From fieldwork and studies around climate change to geopolitics and the challenges of a sustainable Polar future, our academics are working to advance understanding of this vulnerable region.

We hosted two special lectures by high profile guest speakers:

How is Antarctica changing and why should we care?

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College

Monday 16 November at 18.15Ant Environment_penguin ice
Moore Building Lecture Theatre

This lecture discussed how our appreciation of Antarctica has changed as a consequence of the technological advances needed for scientific discovery; the role that Gordon Robin played in measuring Antarctica and how the techniques he pioneered have led to our comprehension of ice-sheet flow and evolution; how the view of Antarctica as a cold, lifeless, static continent has been transformed within a decade by a new appreciation of it as a changing, dynamic region that modulates our global environment; what Antarctic change means for the United Kingdom, and why we should be concerned.

Spotlight on Antarctica: The Gordon Manley Lecture

Klaus Dodds, Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, highlights why we should all care about Antarctica, linking up with the themes explored by the 2015 Gordon Manley lecture:

Professor Martin Seigert, Co-Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College, delivered the 2015 Gordon Manley lecture at Royal Holloway.  

Martin is a very distinguished glaciologist, and a former Philip Leverhulme Prize Winner and Martha T. Muse Prize winner for excellence in Antarctic science and policy. When not working on glaciological projects, including the NERC funded Lake Ellsworth Consortium, Martin worked with the historical geographer Simon Naylor on a Leverhulme Trust funded project on an interdisciplinary project on the history of radio-echo sounding of Antarctica.

His 2015 lecture entitled ‘How is Antarctica changing and why should we care?’ was not only timely but very much in keeping with the late Professor Gordon Manley who wrote extensively about climate but was also a contemporary at Cambridge (before taking up a chair at Bedford College) with the distinguished polar geographer and inaugural director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Frank Debenham.

As the world’s only continent without an indigenous human population, it is often represented as cold, bleak, remote and far removed from global political, economic, and cultural concerns. While any visitor to the Antarctic might affirm that it can be cold and bleak, especially in the winter season, it is also a remarkable place when it comes to biodiversity and human activity, both scientific and touristic. The Antarctic Peninsula region is popular with visitors and scientists alike. At one stage nearly 50,000 people were visiting the Antarctic, most of them by ship.

Antarctica is also connected to the wider world. We use terms like ‘global common’ to describe places like the Antarctic, the earth’s atmosphere, the deep ocean and the moon. Due to their size, remoteness, and protean qualities in the case of the earth’s atmosphere they have been formally incorporated into our political system through treaty-based governance. We have, for example, the Moon Treaty dating from 1979, which specifies that the Moon does not belong to any one particular nation-state. We describe these spaces as areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

The global commons are also essential elements to debates about sustainable development and even life on earth itself. How we treat and manage the world’s oceans and the earth’s atmosphere is absolutely integral to debates about a warming world, and a planet with a population approaching eight billion with resource needs and by-products such as pollution and wastage.

Antarctica is an unusual global common. Unlike other global commons, it is locked in a long-standing territorial dispute. Seven states, the so-called claimant states of Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom believe that parts of the polar continent and marine domain fall under their national jurisdiction. Two other states, Russia and the United States, have reserved the right to make their own claims in the future. Every other member of the international community rejects those seven claims, and by association those reserved claims.

We have at present a treaty-based system of governance for Antarctica, namely the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and associated legal instruments. It entered into force in June 1961 and the treaty specified that Antarctica should be a zone of peace, free from nuclear testing and military activity. Science and international co-operation was promoted as the ideal practices (and associated values) for Antarctica. Signed in the midst of the Cold War, it remains a major diplomatic achievement. In 1991, a Protocol on Environmental Protection was signed which built on the Treaty to ensure that the spectre of mining in particular was prohibited under Article 7.

While there is much to celebrate in the case of Antarctic co-operation, there is growing interest in the resource value of the polar continent and Southern Ocean. Fishing and whaling have been divisive issues for interested parties. Australia and Japan have been at loggerheads over the emotive issue of ‘scientific whaling’.

More worryingly, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing remains a problem with an array of flag states, coastal states, landing states, fishing states and trans-national companies and criminal organizations. China, Spain, Korea and Russia would like to increase fishing rather than conservation in the Southern Ocean. While others are suspected of using recent proposals for extended marine protected areas (MPAs) to consolidate their sovereign interests in the Southern Ocean (e.g. Australia and New Zealand). The failure to secure consent in 2014-15 on proposals for MPAs in Eastern Antarctica and the Ross Sea remains instructive. It may well be that Russia will not support MPAs because of the geopolitical fall out from the Ukrainian crisis. Antarctica is not isolated from wider global geopolitics.

The Antarctic region does face a series of profound challenges, which go beyond fish and whales however. Geographically, they vary in scope and intensity. From ongoing climate change, with linked worries about ice sheet stability and oceanic acidification, to how to manage issues such as fishing, whaling, scientific activity, non-living resource exploitation, biological prospecting and tourism. All of these activities are managed in a legal no man’s land, where national and international rules and regulations crisscross the polar continent and Southern Ocean.

Professor Seigert’s lecture is very timely. We should care about Antarctica. What happens in Antarctica does not stay in Antarctica. And what happens elsewhere in the world has the ability to affect Antarctica as well.


Going to the ends of the Earth as a woman in science

Professor Jane Francis, Director, British Antarctic Survey

Ant Environment_Antartica 176854137Thursday 26 November at 18.15
Windsor Building Auditorium

This lecture included examples of some of the spectacular fossil plants that we find in Antarctica and how they are used to understand what polar climates were like in the past when the world was a much warmer place. It also explaineed how we undertake geological fieldwork in this awesomely beautiful but remote and harsh landscape. On a continent of which over 99 per cent is now covered with ice sheets, paradoxically, some of the most common fossils are those of plants. They indicate that millions of years ago Antarctica was a green and forested land, even though the continent was situated over the South Pole. The fossils contain a rich store of climate information that provides a window into past greenhouse worlds with ice-free poles.

Women in Science Lecture - find out more about our Women Inspire campaign here

Our Antarctic experts


Meet the experts
 Antarctic Bethan Davies .fw

Dr Bethan Davies in Geography is a glacial geologist interested in the interaction between glaciers and climate. Bethan maintains the website AntarcticGlaciers.org, which aims to explain the science of Antarctic Glaciology to the broader public.



Professor Klaus Dodds in Geography researches geopolitics, security and the international governance of the Antarctic and the Arctic. Klaus is on the advisory council of the All Party Parliamentary Group of the Polar Regions.


 Antarctic hernandez-molina1

Dr Javier Hernández-Molina in Earth Sciences has been involved with 12 research projects in Antarctica. He has made six oceanographic expeditions to Antarctica, his most recent trip was in Jan/Feb 2015.



Professor Martin King in Earth Sciences, studies the effect of mineral dust and back carbon on the reflectivity of snow and sea ice, thought to be responsible for enhanced snow and ice melting.


Read more about their research:


Dr Bethan Davies

Dr Bethan Davies is a glacial geologist interested in the interaction between glaciers and climate over multiple timescales. Bethan specialises in ice-sheet and glacier reconstruction in temperate and high latitudes, using a combination of field studies, chronostratigraphical methods (especially cosmogenic nuclide dating), remotely sensed data sets and numerical modelling to quantify ice-sheet and ice-shelf history. She is particularly interested in glacial processes at the ice-bed interface, and uses detailed sedimentological analyses and micromorphology to analyse processes of entrainment, deposition and deformation. 

Bethan’s current research interests are orientated towards the Antarctic Peninsula, the Patagonian Ice Sheet and the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. Highlights from this research have included:

  • Revised reconstruction of Middle Pleistocene and Devensian British and Fennoscandian ice sheet interactions
  • Analysis of past, present and future ice-shelf and glacier change in the northern Antarctic Peninsula and in Patagonia using field studies
  • Satellite image analysis and numerical modelling
  • Analysis of glacial processes on James Ross Island, northern Antarctic Peninsula
  • Reconstructions of Last Glacial Maximum ice stream dynamics on the northern Antarctic Peninsula.

Bethan Davies is an editor of the Royal Society Open Science and the Open Quaternary journals and  held a Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) Visiting Fellowship to visit Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand for six months in 2013.  She also writes regular blog entries on Antarctic glaciology

Got a question? Ask Bethan on Twitter (@antarcticglacie) Answers will be posted here

Professor Klaus Dodds

Professor Klaus Dodds researches in the areas of geopolitics and security and the international governance of the Antarctic and the Arctic.

Klaus is a Council Member of the Canada-UK Council and a member of the UK Polar Partnership Committee. In July 2014, he was appointed specialist adviser to the House of Lords Arctic Select Committee, which issued its report in March 2015. In September 2015, he was appointed to the advisory council of the All Party Parliamentary Group of the Polar Regions. 

He has published many books including Scramble for the Poles? The Contemporary Geopolitics of the Arctic and Antarctic (Polity 2015 with Mark Nuttall), International Politics and Film (Columbia University Press 2014 with Sean Carter), The Antarctic: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press 2012), Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2007 and 2014 second edition), Global Geopolitics: A Critical Introduction (Pearson Education, 2005) and Pink Ice: Britain and the South Atlantic Empire (I B Tauris, 2002) and co-edited The Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics (Ashgate 2013), Spaces of Security and Insecurity (Ashgate 2009), Observant States: Geopolitics and Visual Culture (I B Tauris 2009), Geopolitical Traditions (Routledge 2000), Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Legal Regimes and Resources (Edward Elgar 2014). His new book projects include Ice for the Earth Series published by Reaktion, and a co-edited Research Companion on the Politics of the Antarctic (Edward Elgar with Alan Hemmings and Peder Roberts), plus the recently published book The Scramble for the Poles (Polity 2015).

Klaus Dodds was editor of The Geographical Journal between 2010-2015 and is currently editorial board member of Critical Studies on Security, Geopolitics, Marine PolicyPolitical Geography and Polar Record.

Dr Javier Hernandez-Molina 


Dr Javier Hernández-Molina has been involved in the Antarctic research since 1996 within the Spanish Research Group SCAN. This group has been working on plate tectonics, geodynamic, basin analysis, sedimentary and paleoceanographic reconstructions. He has been involved in 12 research projects in Antarctica and has participated in six oceanographic expeditions, the last one in January-February 2015. These cruises were executed, mainly, in the Scotia Sea, Weddell Sea and the Pacific Margin of the Antarctic Peninsula. He is currently involved in the next projects on the Antarctica;

  • He is co-Proponent of the International Ocean Drilling Project (IODP) -732 Proposal (accepted, and currently at OTF): “Sediment drifts off the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica”.
  • Main proponent of the DRAKE-SCOTIA SEAWAYS IODP Pre-proposal, now in elaboration, which will be presented in April 2016.
  • Researcher on the UK project: “Depositional patterns and records in sediments drifts off the Antarctic Peninsula and west Antarctica: seismic reflection and coring investigations in support of Propossal 732-Full2”. UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). IP: R. Larter (Bristish Antarctic Survey).
  • Researcher on the Spanish project: TASMANDRAKE Project “The Tasman and Drake gateways and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current: origin, evolution and its effect on climate and Antarctic ice sheet evolution”.
  • Javier Hernández-Molina has published extensively on Antarctica, his most recent publications include:
    • Hernández-Molina, F.J., Larter, R. D., Rebesco, M., Maldonado, A., 2006. Miocene reversal of bottom water flow along the Pacific margin of the Antarctic Peninsula: Stratigraphic evidences from a “Contourite Sedimentary Tail”. Marine Geology, 228 (1-4): 93-116
    • Hillenbrand, C.D., Camerlenghi, A., Cowan, E.A., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Lucchi, R.G., Rebesco, M., Uenzelmann-Neben, G., 2008. The present and past bottom-current flow regime around the sediment on the continental rise of the Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Geology, 25: 55 – 63.
    • Lobo, F.J., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Maldonado, A., Martos, Y., Rodríguez-Fernández, J., Somoza, L., Vázquez, J.T., 2011. Furrows in the southern Scan Basin, Antarctica: interplay between tectonic and oceanographic influences. Geo-Marine Letters, 31 (5/6): 451-464.
    • Maldonado, A., Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Jabaloy, A., Lobo, F., Rodríguez-Fernández, J., Suriñach, E., Tomás Vázquez, J.T., 2006. Ocean basins near the Scotia–Antarctic plate boundary: Influence of tectonics and paleoceanography on the Cenozoic deposits. Marine Geophysical Research, 27 (2): 83-107.
    • Maldonado, A., Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Lobo, F.J., Lodolo, E., Martos, Y.M., Pérez, L.F., Schreider, A.A., Somoza, L., 2014. A model of oceanic development by ridge jumping: opening of the Scotia Sea. Global and Planetary Change: 123-152.
    • Pérez L.F., Maldonado, A., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Lodolo, E., Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., 2015. Tectonic and oceanographic control of growth patterns in a small oceanic basin: Dove Basin (Scotia Sea, Antarctica). Basin Research, 1–22.
    • Pérez, L.P., Lodolo, E., Hernández-Molina, F.J., Maldonado, A., Bohoyo, F., Galindo-Zaldívar, J., Lobo, F.J., 2014. Tectonic development, sedimentation and paleoceanography of the Scan Basin (southern Scotia Sea, Antarctica). Global and Planetary Change, 123: 344-358.

Professor Martin King

Professor Martin King has determined the optical properties of Antarctic (and Arctic) snow and sea ice by a combination of field trips, laboratory experiments and modelling. He is director of the sea ice simulator here at Royal Holloway and regularly makes 2-tonne blocks of sea ice.

Whilst Martin regularly visits the Arctic, he and his co-workers still visit coastal and interior Antarctica. Presently he is using sea ice and snow as a method to calibrate satellite remote sensing data.

Martin King is currently:

1) Chair of the STFC soft matter and biology advisory panel to STFC science Board.

2) Chair of the largest Royal Society of Chemistry Special Interest Group - Environmental Chemistry Group.

3) Core member of the NERC peer review College.

4) Member of the Advisory panel for the NERC Field Spectroscopy facility.


The coldest place on Earth

Antarctic regions are always cold, averaging a chilly -127°F (-83°C) and fluctuating only a few degrees up and down. The coldest recorded temperature on Earth was recorded on the Eastern highlands of Antarctica in 2010 at  -136°F (-93°C) — colder than dry ice!


Out of the Ice Ages

Join scientists from the Department of Geography for an entertaining and thought-provoking day of talks and activities on the past, present and future of our changing climate, ecosystems, ice sheets and human occupation.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Find out more


Out of the Ice Ages!


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