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Trinity College Dublin

Personal Information
Name Edwards, Robin James
Main Department Geography
College Title Associate Prof in Earth Sciences
College Tel +353 1 896 1713
After reading Oceanography in Southampton, I undertook a PhD in Geography at Durham, developing high precision methods of sea level reconstruction, and investigating the relationship between late Holocene climate change and sea level. On completion of my PhD, I moved to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, to work on a project examining the nature of climate - ocean relationships, during which time I undertook fieldwork along the eastern coast of the USA. This project is on-going and I continue to collaborate with colleagues in the Netherlands. I then worked for a short period with the Wetlands Research Group at ACU Sydney, examining salt-marsh and mangrove ecosystems and their potential as sea level indicators, before returning to Durham to take up a lectureship in Quaternary environmental change. Since arriving at Trinity in 2002, I have developed new research interests relating to Irish coastal evolution, sea level change and inter-tidal archaeology. I have also returned to my oceanographic roots with several projects looking at past ocean circulation in the North Atlantic.
Details Date
National Committee for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
Description of Research Interests
My primary research focus is the nature of the climate-ocean relationship at multi-decadal to millennial timescales. I seek to examine this by reconstructing past environmental changes with a view to elucidating the forcing factors, mechanisms and processes involved. An important part of this activity is the ongoing development of existing and novel methodologies to improve the ultimate accuracy and precision of my reconstructions. My recent research interests include the relationship between climate and sea level, the impacts of relative sea-level (RSL) rise on coastal landscapes, and past variability in North Atlantic Ocean circulation. Research Strand 1: Sea-Level Change - Previous IPCC reports have highlighted future sea-level rise as one of the major climate-related impacts facing the world over the coming centuries. The AR4 will show this threat remains difficult to quantify due to significant gaps in our understanding of climate / ice-sheet / ocean linkages. Important questions surround ice sheet dynamics, how short-term variability links to longer-term trends, and how ‘globally averaged’ sea-level change is expressed at local scales. Research Strand 2: Quantitative Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction - The concerns surrounding modern climate change are partly responsible for the demand for improved information about past climates and environmental conditions. Microfossil-based proxies such as pollen, diatoms and foraminifera are one of a number of well-established methods for obtaining this kind of information. An intrinsic part of this research is the continual refinement of the relationships between environmental proxies and the variables of interest, and the search for new techniques to extract more detailed and precise quantitative records of change. Research Strand 3: Land-Ocean Interaction, Coastal Evolution and Human Response - Whilst projections of future sea level rise are usually quoted in terms of ‘global averages’, human populations experience the impacts of sea-level change at local scales. These changes are mediated via a range of processes operating over different temporal and spatial scales, including glacio-hydro-isostatic adjustment, geoidal eustasy, dynamic effects associated with tides and currents, sediment movement and coastal morphodynamics. Simple X-Y plots of sea level through time therefore conceal a multiplicity of associated processes and possible outcomes.
Research Interests
Climate Change Coastal Environmental Change Earth Science Earth Sciences for Climate Research
Earth Stratigraphy, Sedimentary Processes FORAMINIFERA Glaciology MARINE
Oceanography Paleoclimatology Paleontology, Paleoecology Quarternary science
Sea Level
Research Projects
Project title Testing simulations of relative sea-level change: a marine geophysical perspective
Summary Relative sea-level (RSL) histories provide unique insights into the topical issues of ice sheet response to climate change and future sea-level rise. Data from Ireland are particularly instructive due to their location at the former limit of a major ice sheet. Despite their significance, Irish RSL histories are contested and the debate largely characterised by polarised views that reflect methodological and discipline-related divisions. This project will cross this boundary by integrating approaches from both sides of the methodological divide to test the validity of two competing and mutually exclusive views of RSL change since the last glacial maximum (LGM).
Funding Agency SFI (€138 216)
Programme RFP
Type of Project 4 yr PhD
Date from October 2009
Date to September 2013
Person Months

Project title Palaeoceanographic records of abrupt climate change: a preliminary investigation
Summary This project will analyse existing box and short gravity cores to examine the nature of the palaeoceanographic record they contain with a specific focus on their potential for elucidating multi-centennial to millennial scale, climate-related processes. The coring sites are located within the sensitive NE Atlantic region which has a proven track-record for furnishing high-quality palaeoceanographic records of Late Quaternary climate change. This project will target the last glacial to Holocene sequences in this region with the following objectives: 1. Catalogue and characterise the recent (Holocene) foraminiferal assemblages of the sampling sites and their relationship to key oceanographic variables (e.g. temperature, salinity, water depth etc); 2. Examine changes in these and associated parameters through time by reference to down-core variation in foraminiferal assemblages (benthic and planktonic), and their stable isotopic signatures (ä18O; ä13C); 3. Establish core chronologies and sedimentation rates via a dating programme including AMS radiocarbon analysis of microfossils coupled with stable isotope foraminiferal tuning to Greenland ice core record(s), augmented where appropriate by tephrochronology 4. Assess the evidence for millennial to sub-millennial palaeoceanographic changes from combined sedimentological, microfossil and geochronological analysis, and explore their significance for the current understanding of climate-cryosphere-ocean linkages in the N. Atlantic.
Funding Agency GSI & MI (€ 29 625)
Programme INFOMAR Strand 3
Type of Project Basic research
Date from Jan 2009
Date to Sep 2010
Person Months

Project title Testing the utility of a combined geochemical and microfossil-based approach to sea-level reconstruction in western Ireland
Summary Relative sea-level (RSL) data from western Ireland can provide critical constraints on geophysical models seeking to describe the interplay between dynamic ice sheet responses to climate change, isostatic rebound and ‘global’ eustatic sea-level rise. Despite this, there is a virtual absence of reliable RSL data from large stretches of the Irish coastline and traditional reconstruction methodologies have failed to extract the required information even though there are thick sedimentary sequences in the region. This project will apply a new methodological approach to RSL reconstruction in Ireland to address this important knowledge gap. It will achieve this by answering the following research questions: (1) are carbon / nitrogen ratios (C/N) and carbon isotopes (ä13C) diagnostic tools for discriminating between inter-tidal and terrestrial sediments in western Ireland?; (2) can a composite geochemical and microfossil-based approach improve relative sea-level reconstructions in terms of both data quality (accuracy/precision) and availability (spatial/temporal distribution)?; (3) does a new glacial rebound model for Ireland reliably simulate RSL change within the Shannon estuary?
Funding Agency IRCSET
Programme Postgraduate Scholarship (€ 72 000)
Type of Project 3 year PhD
Date from 2008
Date to 2011
Person Months

Project title Examining the evidence for a recent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise using combined instrumental and proxy data
Summary Scientists agree that sea level rise is potentially one of the most devastating impacts of future climate change, but tide gauge records are too short to show whether sea levels are rising faster today than in the past. This project will use high-resolution geological indicators to relocate former sea levels. These geological-based reconstructions will be validated against tide gauge data and historical evidence of coastal change. They will then be extended to reconstruct sea level rise over the last 200-300 years, and evaluate the evidence for accelerations that may be linked with human activities.
Funding Agency Science Foundation Ireland
Programme Research Frontiers Programme (€ 110 000)
Type of Project 3 year PhD
Date from September 2006
Date to February 2010
Person Months

More Research Projects>>>
Publications and Other Research Outputs
Peer Reviewed
Bradley, S., Milne, G., Shennan, I., Edwards, R.J., An improved glacial isostatic adjustment model for the British Isles, Journal of Quaternary Science, 26, (5), 2011, p541 - 552
Wright, A.J., Edwards, R.J., van de Plassche, O., Reassessing transfer-function performance in sea-level reconstruction based on benthic salt-marsh foraminifera from the Atlantic Coast of NE North America, Marine Micropaleontology, 81, 2011, p43 - 62
TARA - Full Text
Edwards, R.J., Sea levels: science & society, Progress in Physical Geography, 32, (5), 2008, p539 - 556
TARA - Full Text  DOI
Horton, B.P., Edwards, R.J., Quantifying Holocene Sea-Level Change Using Intertidal Foraminifera: Lessons from the UK, Journal of Foraminiferal Research, Special Publication, (40), 2006
Notes: [4 pls., 59 figs., 3 appendinces]
Edwards, R.J., Horton, B.P., Developing Detailed Records of Relative Sea-Level Change Using A Foraminiferal Transfer Function: An Example from North Norfolk, UK., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 364, (1841), 2006, p973 - 991
Notes: [PMID: 16537151 ]
More Publications and Other Research Outputs >>>

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Last Updated:17-APR-2014