Sophie Williams
PhD student



I am a Physical Geographer with a particular interest in Palaeoclimates and Palaeoenvironments. I have worked on a range of geological time periods including the Carboniferous and the Cretaceous but my main interest lies in reconstructing Quaternary environments.

Before starting my PhD, I studied for a BSc in Physical Geography at the University of Leeds and subsequently completed a Masters at the University of Bristol in Palaeobiology, undertaking a dissertation which bridged the Earth Sciences Department and the Organic Geochemistry Unit in the Department of Chemistry.

Whilst completing my studies, I also enjoyed volunteering. I worked with the Scarborough Museums Trust and the Bristol Museum to deliver outreach in Palaeontology and I was a STEM ambassador for the West England Hub. This role involved getting young children, particularly under represented groups, into Science by delivering workshops and giving talks in assemblies.


  • PhD Environmental Geography (ongoing)
    2017 - present, University of York
  • MSc Palaeobiology (Distinction)
    2016 - 2017, University of Bristol 
  • BSc (Hons) Physical Geography (First)
    2013 - 2016, University of Leeds



Description of PhD

Title: Historical sea-level changes in Australia: Testing the Arctic Ice Melt Hypothesis
Supervisors: Professor Roland Gehrels (University of York), Professor Patrick Moss (University of Queensland), Dr Andrew Sole (University of Sheffield), Dr Sönke Dagendorf (University of Siegen)
Funding: ACCE DTP, NERC.

This project will seek to reconstruct sea level in southeast Australia over the last ca. 500 years to test the Arctic Ice Melt Hypothesis: the theory that before anthropogenic influence, melting from the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic glaciers was responsible for a rapid rise in sea level during the 19th and 20th century that departed from the Holocene trend. Because melting ice causes gravitational perturbations, each melting event leaves behind specific sea-level "fingerprints" which can be tracked across space and time. The gravitational changes result in a non-uniform distribution of sea-level with large relative sea-level drops closest to the melt source and sea-level rise thousands of kilometres away in the mid-latitudes. Therefore, Australia is an ideal location in which to observe this change.

The main aims of the project are to:

  1. Take sediment cores from salt-marshes in Southeastern Australia, specifically, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. 
  2. Analyse the cores and extract microfossils which are to be used as a proxy for sea-level change. 
  3. Use a variety of dating methodologies including stable isotopes and radiocarbon dating to establish a chronology for each core. 
  4. Compare findings to historical changes and models of Arctic glacier and the Greenland ice sheet melt to test the hypothesis.

Contact details

Sophie Williams
Department of Environment and Geography
University of York
YO10 5NG