Professor Chris Turney, Department of Geography

Professor Chris Turney. (Photo: Mark Newsham)

Exeter geographer wins prestigious research award to study past climate

A geographer from the University of Exeter has been chosen to receive one of 27 prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prizes for 2008.

Professor Chris Turney of the School of Geography, has been awarded £70,000 to fund his research on historic climate change over the next three years.

Using geological evidence to look back thousands of years, Chris will explore local, regional and global climate change and its impact on past civilisations and cultures.

Using information locked inside corals, tree rings and ice cores, he will reconstruct global temperatures for the last 500-1000 years. He will share his findings with climate modellers so they can use them to help improve projections for future climate change.

Professor Chris Turney says: “It’s critical that we develop a better understanding of past climate and its impact on people and the environment so we can prepare for the future. The funds from this Prize will give me the opportunity to really explore what lessons we can learn from the past. I am thrilled and honoured to have been chosen for one of these prestigious awards.”

The Prize is giving Professor Turney the opportunity to undertake several research expeditions. Over the next three years he plans to carry out research in Scotland, Scandinavia (including the Arctic) and Australia.

Originally from London Professor Chris Turney joined the University of Exeter in 2007 from the University of Wollongong, Australia. He researches and teaches geology and is particularly interested in what the past can tell us about the future. Chris carried out the radiocarbon dating on the ‘Hobbit’ fossil of Flores, Indonesia that hit the world’s headlines in 2004. He has published numerous scientific papers and magazine articles and given frequent media interviews. In 2007 he was awarded the Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal for outstanding young Quaternary Scientist for his pioneering research into past climate change and dating the past. He is the author of two popular science books: Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened and Ice, Mud and Blood: Lessons from Climates Past, both published by Macmillan. His popular science website is

The Philip Leverhulme Prizes are awarded to outstanding young scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their field of study. Chosen scholars are recognised at international level and are recognised for their future potential. The Prizes commemorate the contribution to the work of the Trust made by Philip Leverhulme, the Third Viscount Leverhulme and grandson of the founder.

Date: 10 December 2008

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