Climate change, past, present and future

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
(MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October January to April
PhD (MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
January to April

Environmental changes in Earth history can be used to help understand and predict the trajectory of future anthropogenically driven environmental change. The Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the OU are actively researching the course and drivers of changes in the Earth’s environment over its 4.5 billion-year history.

The terrestrial and marine sedimentary record provides examples of climate change over different timescales and the opportunity to examine the Earth’s response over long timescales. Our research is frequently interdisciplinary and is underpinned by the latest methods and approaches in fieldwork and laboratory analysis.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Potential research projects

We encourage enquiries from prospective students on any geochemical, sedimentological, biotic or geochronological aspect of present-day or palaeoenvironmental change.

Current/recent research projects

  • Assessing the stratigraphic record and its utility for understanding the Earth system
  • The development and refinement of geological timescales using orbital chronologies
  • A multi-proxy isotope approach to reconstructing seawater oxygenation
  • Environmental change during the Early Jurassic – A North African perspective
  • 500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes
  • The impact of recent Ocean Acidification on bio-calcification
  • Response of Amazonian tropical forests to past changes in global climate
  • Ocean circulation patterns during the early/middle Eocene climatic warmth
  • Development of biogeochemical proxies and application over glacial-interglacial cycles
  • Unravelling the tectonic and climatic controls on Upper Jurassic mass flow deposits in NE Scotland
  • Late Pliocene stratification and productivity reconstructions: linking monsoon evolution and climate
  • Diversity and disparity at the dawn of fern evolution
  • Investigating the biotic responses to large-scale environmental change in Earth history.

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £15,698 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £7,849 per year

Some of our research students are funded via the Central England NERC Training Alliance; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


Tropical forest

How to apply

Get in touch

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Administrative Support

Phone: +44 (0)1908 332943

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.