Professor Natasha Barlow

Professor Natasha Barlow


I am Professor of Environmental Change within the School of Earth and Environment. My research has an emphasis on past, present and future sea level, coastal and environmental change. I have established and sustained a research group with an international profile in these areas, combining my expertise with applied research linked to offshore wind. I was awarded the 2019 Quaternary Research Association (QRA) Lewis Penny Medal in recognition of my research.

In addition to my research, I am a member of the QRA Quaternary Engineering Research Group (QERG) committee, and a founding member of the University of Leeds Geosolutions management board.  I currently serve as a member of the PAGES Scientific Steering Committee and the Royal Society Grant Committee.  I am a former leader of PALSEA (2018-2023), an internationally-leading working group which brings together observational scientists and ice-sheet, climate, and sea-level modellers in order to better define observational constraints on past sea-level change and improve our understanding of ice-sheet responses to rapid climate change. I also co-founded and led the cross-School Leeds Quaternary research group. I serve on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Quaternary Science, and Open Quaternary, and have acted as an IPCC reviewer. I am a former leader of the QRA Sea-Level and Coastal Change (SLaCC) working group and a SciFoo alumni.  I regularly engage with both general and non-academic scientific media, and am scientific advisor and collaborator on ‘Meltwater’, an immersive performance by artistic company Manasamitra focussing on ‘water’ as an environmental disruptor.

Prior to arriving at Leeds in 2016 as a tenure-track University Academic Fellow, I was a postdoctoral researcher and fixed-term lecturer at Durham University, where I also completed my PhD on glacial isostastic adjustment and relative sea-level change over the last earthquake cycle in Alaska, and a BSc in Geography.


  • Geosolutions Research Centre Management Board

Research interests

My research focuses on past, present and future environmental change, particularly establishing reconstructions of sea-level change from temperate latitudes to improve understanding of the rates and mechanisms of change, alongside improving predictions of long-term future coastal response and ice-sheet mass balance. I have worked on both passive and active coastal margins developing quantitative reconstructions of near-instantaneous to multi-millennial scale sea-level changes driven by earthquakes and climate, as well as having experience of glacial isostatic adjustment modelling. Recently I have focused on submerged landscapes, conducting research with geophysical datasets and cores to better understand palaeo-landscapes, 3D-stratigraphy and sediment mobility, in particular to support the development of a sustainable offshore wind industry. I am also interested in how environmental and climate change drives blue carbon storage in coastal and submarine landscapes.

Since completing my PhD I have secured ~£3.5M of research funding. I am currently PI on the European Research Council Starting Grant (€2 million) RISeR project, furthering my research in Quaternary sea-level change.  I was Co-I of the NERC-funded ‘Carbon storage in intertidal environments’ (C-SIDE) project, and have focused recent research on palaeo landscapes as carbon sinks and their potential for carbon release.  I have been Co-PI of five USGS National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Programme grants aimed at understanding Alaskan seismology.  I was Co-PI of an interdisciplinary project ‘Sustainable Geoenergy Solutions’ focused on the role geosciences can play in meeting the challenges of NetZero, which in turn provided the foundations for the Geosolutions Research Centre.  I am Co-PI of a Joint Industrial Partnership in geoscience and offshore wind.

Current research students
  • Madeleine Timmins (2020 – present). PhD topic: Keeping above the waves? The response of coastal freshwater peatlands to sea-level rise. University of Exeter. Co-supervisor.
  • Weilun Qin (2021 – present). PhD topic: Solid Earth contributions to sea-level change. TU Delft. Co-supervisor.
  • Ed Taylor (2022 – present). MRes topic: Quaternary environmental change and archeology of the Isle of Skye.  Lead-supervisor
  • Patrick Sharrocks (2023 – present). PhD topic: Processes beneath the Great Wave: improved understanding of tsunami geohazards using advances in deep-sea sedimentology. Co-supervisor
  • Denise Becker (2023 – present). MSc topic: Developing a tephrochronology for the Eemian in northwest Europe. Fulbright Scholar. Lead-supervisor. 
Completed research students
  • Dr Oliver Pollard (2019-2023). PhD topic: Modelling Ice Sheets and Sea Level During the Penultimate Deglaciation and the Last Interglacial: Uncertainty, Sensitivity, and Calibration. University of Leeds. Lead-supervisor.
  • Khai Ken Leoh (2023-2024). MGeog topic: Understanding late Holocene sea-level at Gress, Isle of Lewis. CN Scholar from NTU Singapore. Lead-supervisor
  • Megan Edwards (2022-2023). MGeol topic: Interrogating the Laschamp geomagnetic reversal: identifying the drivers of vegetation changes ~41.5 ka, NW Greece. Co-supervisor.
  • Dr Lucy Wheeler (2017-2022). PhD topic: Sea level past, present and future: a chronology for marine and estuarine sediments in the Quaternary. University of York. Co-supervisor.
  • Dr Stephen Eaton (2017-2021). PhD thesis: Landscape response to glacial-interglacial cycles: insights from a southern North Sea offshore wind farm dataset. University of Leeds. Co-supervisor.
  • Dr Andrew Emery (2016-2020). PhD thesis: Glacial and postglacial landscape evolution at Dogger Bank since the Last Glacial Maximum. University of Leeds. Co-supervisor.
  • Dr Frances Procter (2018-2019). MSc thesis: Methods in geoforensics: understanding the transfer and persistence of soils and soil palynomorphs to clothing materials. University of Leeds. Co-supervisor
  • Dr Martin Brader (2011-2015). PhD thesis: Postglacial relative sea-level changes and the deglaciation of northwest Iceland. Durham University. Co-supervisor.
  • Dr Christine Hamilton (2013-2014). MSc thesis: Late Glacial to Holocene relative sea-level change in Assynt, north west Scotland. Durham University. Co-supervisor.
Postdoctoral researchers and research fellows
  • Megan Edwards (2023-present) Research Assistant in Past Environmental Change
  • Dr Fumiko Watanabe Nara (2022-2023) JSPS-ERC exchange fellow
  • Dr Amy McGuire (2021-present) Research Fellow in Quaternary Palynology
  • Dr Graham Rush (2021-2023) Research Fellow in Quaternary Foraminifera 
  • Dr Amir Khorasani (2020) Research Assistant in Offshore Wind Development
  • Dr Víctor Cartelle (2019-2021) Research Fellow in Offshore Geophysics

I welcome interest from potential postgraduate students or research fellows in any area related to my research.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Physical Geography, Durham University
  • BSc, Geography, Durham University

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy

Student education

My teaching focuses on climate and environmental change.  In particular I teach methods of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and Quaternary geomorphology/processes, at undergraduate and masters level, with relevance to applications in engineering geology.  I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Earth Surface Science Institute
  • Institute of Applied Geoscience
  • Palaeo@Leeds

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>