Matthew Allison

University of Birmingham


New North Atlantic Palaeo-Temperature Reconstruction from Terrestrial Sedimentary Archives: Implications for the Influence of the Icelandic Plume on Oceanic Circulation and Climate.


  • Dr. Stephen Jones
  • Dr. James Bendle

PhD Summary

The rock record holds a wealth of climate archives which can be accessed to glean information as to how the Earth’s climate has changed through time. One of these archives is stored in molecules termed branched Glycerol Dialkyl Glycerol Tetraethers (br-GDGT’s). These molecules originate in the cell walls of bacteria and are subsequently incorporated into organic rich sediments in the rock record. Analysis of these molecules allows for reconstruction of terrestrial air temperature with time. During the last 65 million years the North Atlantic (and global) climate has been heavily influenced by the Icelandic Plume. Notably, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum is of great interest as a potential yardstick for how the Earth’s climate responds to rapid warming. Over the course of this project I hope to investigate the link between variable activity of the Icelandic Plume and changes in the North Atlantic climate through the analysis of climate archives and seismic imagery of the North Atlantic Ocean floor.

Previous activity

I completed a Msci in Geology at the University of Birmingham. During my master’s year I had the opportunity to take part in a research project at the Tjörnes Peninsula in Northern Iceland conducting pilot work for the techniques to be used during this PhD. It was a very exciting year. The opportunities to conduct fieldwork in such an incredibly beautiful and geologically interesting place and to be part of post-fieldwork laboratory work were one’s I relished. The project allowed me to get a taste of what independent research was like and heavily influenced my desire to study at a postgraduate level.


Why did you choose doctoral research?

During my masters I got to experience what novel research felt like and I loved it. The challenge of setting your own goals and executing them was highly rewarding. Doctoral research felt like the natural next step. A project of my own and 3-4 years to embark on researching it is something I am very much looking forward to.

Why did you choose CENTA?

CENTA gave me the opportunity to co-create my own project. It is exciting to know that I have had a hand in steering the project from the very start. Beyond that, CENTA offers many instances to broaden my skillset as an Earth Scientist and build professional connections to maximise not only the development of the project, but also my own personal development.

Future plans

I don’t really know what lies beyond my PhD. Having started in 2020 COVID has influenced much of my experience so far. March 2024 seems an awful distance off at the moment! I’ve loved demonstrating with the 1st year undergraduates this term though. I hope to maximise the teaching opportunities that exist throughout my PhD and maybe pursue this in a greater capacity in the future.