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Roland Gehrels
Professor and Head of Department



I am a Quaternary geologist and a physical geographer who specialises in sea-level studies. I was appointed as a Chair in Physical Geography in June 2013. Prior to coming to York I was at Plymouth University for almost 18 years, starting as a lecturer and going through several promotions until I was awarded a Chair in 2007. At Plymouth I was a member of the Quaternary Environments Research Group and headed a small research cluster in sea-level studies. I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Durham with Ian Shennan. My PhD at the University of Maine (USA) investigated Holocene sea-level changes in the Gulf of Maine and was supervised by Dan Belknap and Joe Kelley. My first endeavours in sea-level studies were in collaboration with the late Orson van de Plassche at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam where I completed an MSc in Applied Quaternary Geology.



I started my career as a Holocene sea-level scientist, but in the past decade my efforts have focussed primarily on the coupling of geological field evidence with tide-gauge observations to reconstruct historical sea-level changes using proxy methods. My main achievement is the reconstruction of the acceleration of sea-level rise during the first decades of the 20th century in sites around the North Atlantic and the Southwest Pacific. This work has led to the realisation that recent rapid sea-level changes occur on a global scale and are linked to global warming. In recent years my research has taken on a new societal dimension with relevance for sea-level predictions. An example of this is my involvement in the iGlass project which represents an attempt to apply the sea-level reconstruction methods developed for Holocene intertidal sediments to earlier interglacial sequences, with direct implications for understanding the dynamics of ice sheets.


  • Using interglacials to assess future sea-level scenarios (iGlass), NERC Consortium grant, with University of Southampton (lead PI), Durham University, University of Oxford, University of Bristol, NOC Liverpool, British Antarctic Survey, 2011-2015. PDRA: Dr Margot Saher
  • North Atlantic sea-level variability during the last half-millennium’, Lead PI, NERC-funded, with co-PIs Prof. Antony Long (Durham University) and Prof. Philip Woodworth (Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory), and Project Partners NERC Radiocarbon Facility, MetOffice (Hadley Centre), University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, 2009-13. PDRA: Dr Margot Saher.
  • Recent sea-level changes in Arctic Norway, with Plymouth PhD student Rob Barnett.
  • Recent sea-level changes in the Falkland Islands, with Plymouth PhD student Tom Newton.
  • Recent sea-level changes in Tasmania, with Patrick Moss (Queensland), John Hunter (Tasmania) and others. 
  • Recent sea-level changes in New Zealand, with Bruce Hayward (Geomarine Research, New Zealand) and former Auckland PhD student Brigida Figueira.
  • Sea-level reconstructions from freshwater backbarrier deposits, with Bill Anderson (Appalachian State University, USA). 


Contact details

Prof. Roland Gehrels
Department of Environment and Geography
University of York
YO10 5NG

Tel: 01904 324376
Fax: 01904 322998

External activities




  • Dynamic Earth 
  • Environmental Geography Research
  • Coastal Environments


  • Reconstructing Environmental Change
  • IPCC Science
  • Current Research in Environmental Geography
  • Ocean & Coastal Science