Dr Chris Satow

BSc. Geology and Physical Geography, MSc Quaternary Science, PhD Quaternary Marine Tephrostratigraphy

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

School of Law and Social Sciences


I am particularly interestered in the interactions between the Earth's spheres, the atmosphere, the biosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the cryosphere. My research currently focuses on the interactions between sea level change and volcanic eruptions, while my teaching is mostly in the module Earth Systems science, which takes an holistic approach to examining the interacting spheres of the Earth.

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

  • Earth Systems
  • Oceans and the Marine Environment
  • Atmosphere and Climate
  • Concepts in Geography
  • Geographical Enquiry and Field Research
  • Geographical Research and Practice

In addition to teaching on the modules listed below, I am co-leading a pedagogic project with Dr. Ingrid Medby (£5000 funding from a Brookes Teaching Innovation Team Award) to create a digital research techniques guide for Geography students. Material for this guide will be created by undergraduate students, who (in 3rd year) will also act as mentors to guide the fieldwork research projects of 2nd year students. The work forms the basis of a Brookes Teaching Fellowship.


I'm interested in constructing volcanic histories using both proximal (on the volcano) deposits and distal (up to 1000s km away) deposits of pumice and ash. These histories not only play a role in volcanic hazard assessment, but also inform us about the fundamental processes operating within the Earth. Currently we are constructing a volcanic history for the Santorini volcano, in the Aegean Sea, with a view to testing an hypothesis relating its activity to sea level changes over glacial and interglacial timescales. 

In addition, linking the volcanic deposits from location to location can help to constrain the timescales of environmental records at each location. This tool can be used to assess the relative timing of climatic and ecological changes, providing critical insights to the patterns of future climate change as well as checks on the outputs of climate models. 

Research grants and awards

NERC Grant in Kind (£54k) for Ar:Ar dating analysis (Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre)

Priming Funding (£6k) for Electron Microprobe geochemical analysis (held at Natural History Museum, London)

Research projects

Leverhulme TrustProject Partner ‘Unravelling the pattern, impacts and drivers of early modern human dispersals from Africa’ (added to this project as project partner in April 2018)

P.I. Does Sea Level Influence the Eruptive Frequency of Island Volcanoes? Collaboration with:

  • Darren Mark: http://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/suerc/staff/markdarren/#/
  • John Browning: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/earth-sciences/people/staff/research/browning
  • Andrew Miles: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/geology/people/miles-aj
  • James Lambert Smith: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/693089-
  • David Pyle: https://www.earth.ox.ac.uk/people/pyle/
  • Andreas Hahn: http://www.kingston.ac.uk/staff/profile/dr-andreas-hahn-275/



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Further details

I studied Geology and Physical Geography at the University of Edinburgh from 2003-2007
and progressed to an MSc degree in Quaternary Science run jointly at that time between
Royal Holloway, UCL and Queen Mary within the University of London. These two degrees
preserved my broad interests across the Earth Sciences. Fieldwork was particularly
formative for me, emphasising the range of spatial and temporal scales which we have to
entertain within our discipline. I became fascinated with links between seemingly familiar
Earth Surface processes, and internal processes. For example the proposed link between
low pressure atmospheric systems and earthquakes or the mechanism by which erosion can
drive mountain building. These links challenge our intuitive perceptions of the influence of
natural processes. During my PhD at Royal Holloway University of London, I was part of an
international and interdisciplinary research group. The project utilised tephra (volcanic ash)
deposits preserved within climate and archaeological records in the Mediterranean region to
precisely link the two, avoiding the chronological uncertainties which arise when employing
other dating techniques such as radiocarbon. A major outcome was that climatic cooling had
little impact on Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals and inferred that competition
between the two populations was to blame for the demise of the Neanderthals. An aside to
this project was the revelation that there are significant numbers of unidentified eruptions
evident in marine sediment records and this is the root of my current research agenda at
Oxford Brookes
Prior to working in academia, I worked in the education department of the Natural History
Museum in London for 18 months, concurrently with the Open University as an
Associate Lecturer.