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Philip L. Gibbard


Professor Philip L. Gibbard BSc PhD Docent PhD (h.c.) ScD FGS

Emeritus Associate
Scott Polar Research Institute
University of Cambridge
Lensfield Road

Tel: +44 (0)1223 336540

Senior Fellow
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Tel: +44 (0)1223 333538

Developments and news


Finnish Radio (YLE) broadcast with Teija Peltoniemi, Philip Gibbard and Anu Kaakinen. Broadcast 22.3.2024. Ihmisen tuhovaikutus luontoon näkyy antroposeenin ajassa, mutta pitäisikö sen olla osa geologista aikataulua? (Man's destructive effect on nature can be seen in the Anthropocene, but should it be part of the geological timetable?). The term Anthropocene refers to a new geological epoch in which man has weakened the functioning of nature and expropriated natural resources in such a way that the mark can be seen in the geological strata. The concept was brought to widespread awareness by Nobel laureate, aerosol chemist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer in 2000.

Youtube video discussion

What Kind of Anthropocene is This, Anyway? 12 January 2024. A discussion led by Andrew Revkin, with Phil Gibbard and Erle Ellis.

European glacial landscapes published

European glacial landscapes

Why the 'Great Acceleration' is giving the Anthropocene an identity crisis


Back in 2000, Dutch chemist Paul Crützen's idea that humans have transformed Earth, pushing it into a new geological age that he dubbed the Anthropocene, sparked interest and controversy in the social sciences — and lots of buzz in the popular media.For Earth system scientists — those who study how the planet's atmosphere, hydrosphere, rocky crust and biosphere work, in tandem — the idea was immediately compelling. But some geologists — those who chart Earth's history recorded in hard rock and soft sediments — are more skeptical - including Phil Gibbard. Not all geologists agree humans have transformed Earth's surface in 70 years. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio documentary Ideas presenting a discussion about the Great Acceleration and Anthropocene Working Group labours is now posted at the CBC Ideas website.

Earth Science rankings 2023, 2024

Earth Science ranking 23ES ranking 24, a leading academic platform for researchers, has released the 2023 Edition of its Ranking of Best Scientists in the field of Earth Science.
In 2023 Phil is ranked #613 in the world ranking and #60 in United Kingdom. In 2024 he is ranked #589 in the world ranking and #58 in United Kingdom.

More Anthropocene discussions

Article published on Sunday 23 January 2023 on How to delimit the Anthropocene "Comment délimiter l'anthropocène?" in the Geneva-based newspaper Le Temps.

New book published on 8 November 2022

Deciphering stratigraphy

Deciphering Earth's History: the Practice of Stratigraphy focuses on how to apply the wide spectrum of stratigraphical techniques. Full details on the Geological Society website.

Phil awarded the Verdienstmedaille (Merit Medal) by the German Quaternary Association (Deuqua)

Deuqua vm 22

Professor Philip Gibbard has been awarded the Verdienstmedaille (Merit Medal) by the German Quaternary Association (Deuqua). The medal is awarded biennially as a special honour for outstanding scientific achievements in Quaternary research.

Podcasts and videos

Another word on the Anthropocene

What is the Anthropocene? Does it have to be conceived of as a geological epoch? Our solution questions that assumption and defines the Anthropocene as a geological event: the aggregated effects of human activities that are transforming the Earth system and altering biodiversity, producing a substantial record in sedimentary strata and in human-modified ground. This definition is applicable across academic fields and explicitly recognizes that the Anthropocene varies in time and space.

A word on the Anthropocene


The first on-line workshop and seminar of the IQUAME project successfully took place on 14th December 2020. The meeting was organised by IQUAME coordinator Kristine Asch (BGR) and was opened by the INQUA International Union for Quaternary Research
[Link:] President Thijs van Kolfschoten and the President of the Commission of the Geological Map of the World [Link:] Manuel Pubellier. The agenda encompassed a leading lecture from Philip Gibbard, University Cambridge "A word about the Anthropocene", a key note on Quaternary aspects of the Ausseer Land, Austria by Markus Fiebig, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, President section on European Quaternary Stratigraphy (SEQS) [Link:] of INQUA, an overview on a Geographic Database of European Terrestrial Quaternary Sites of stratigraphical importance (DATESTRA) by Pierluigi Pieruccini, University of Turin, Secretary General SEQS, and several high quality presentations by members of the IQUAME community on aspects of the Quaternary mapping within their countries or regions. The international meeting was attended by 30 participants from 16 mainly European countries.

Geologic Time Scale 2020 published

gts2020 cover

The latest GTS 2020 was published on 25 October 2020 by Elsevier. The Quaternary Period chapter is authored by Phil Gibbard and Martin Head.

Phil awarded the Digby McClaren Medal

digby mmclaren medal 19

Phil was awarded the Digby McClaren medal at the International Commission on Stratigraphy's STRATI 2019 Congress in Milano, Italy on 4 July 2019. The Digby McLaren Medal is awarded to honour a significant body of internationally important contributions to stratigraphy sustained over a number of years. The contributions can be in research (through publication of papers, monographs or books) or in education (through development of influential educational material or resources). It is expected that a major proportion of this work will have been published in an international language. The medal is named in honour of the Canadian geologist Digby McLaren who was so influential in developing the key "golden spike" concept of a Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) with reference to the Silurian - Devonian boundary, and a major force behind the International Geological Correlation Program (IGCP) of UNESCO.

Phil appointed Honorary Member of the Quaternary Research Association


At the Annual General Meeting in Chester on 4 January 2019 Phil was appointed an Honorary Member of Britain's Quaternary Research Association. Phil first joined the Association in 1971 and has since served on the Executive Committee as Secretary, Vice-President and Journal Editor.

Past glacial environments - published


The second edition of the book Past Glacial Environments by John Menzies & Jaap van der Meer (ISBN: 978-0-08-100524-8) is published by Elsevier. The chapter Quaternary glaciation and chronology (Ch.4) is by Jürgen Ehlers, Phil Gibbard and Phil Hughes.


Phil formally retired from the University of Cambridge's Department of Geography on 30 September 2017. He continues to work at the University where he has been appointed as an Emeritus Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute and as a Senior Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

The real story behind Britain's geological exit - more on the Dover Strait formation

physics today

New evidence from the floor of the Dover Strait helps paint a picture of how the island has repeatedly separated from and rejoined the European continent. Published on 7 Jun 2017 the Physics Today website by Phil Gibbard.

Ice Ages

The Ice Age

The Ice Age book provides a look at the climatic history of the last 2.6 million years during the ice age, a time of extreme climatic fluctuations that have not yet ended. The book focuses on the changing state of these glaciers and the effects of associated climate changes on a wide variety of environments (including mountains, rivers, deserts, oceans and seas) and also plants and animals. For example, at times the Sahara was green and colonized by humans, and Lake Chad covered 350,000 km2 larger than the United Kingdom. The book was published on 27 November 2015. The images and tables in the book are available for free download at the publisher's companion website.

ice age

ics Phil Gibbard has been appointed the Secretary-General of the International Commission on Stratigraphy 2016-20. The new ICS executive was installed at the 35th International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa in summer 2016.

crollmedalPhil Gibbard has been awarded the prestigious James Croll Medal 2014 by Quaternary Research Association. The medal was presented to Phil at the QRA's 2015 Annual Discussion Meeting in Edinburgh on 6 January 2015 by the President, Professor Peter Coxon.

anthropoguardian Anthropocene: a new geological epoch? Ian Sample (Guardian 16.10.14).

Research interests and activities

Phil's main interest is in Pleistocene and Neogene Geology, sedimentation and the construction of stratigraphy using appropriate litho-, bio- and chronostratigraphical methods to establish the changing palaeogeography and palaeoenvironment for any particular area.

Within this general field the following topics hold particular interest:

As a geologist, Phil is principally involved with the Quaternary and late Neogene, including its palaeogeographical and palaeoenvironmental evolution, with interests spanning the terrestrial (glacial, fluvial and lacustrine) and shallow marine realms. His studies have mainly focused on Europe, but he has conducted research in North America, the Mediterranean, South Asia and South America. His approach is based on the rigorous stratigraphy of sedimentary sequences, using a wide range of techniques, and its purpose is to develop detailed frameworks which have provided the basis for palaeoenvironmental, palaeoecological and palaeogeographical reconstructions.

Phil's work in Britain has mainly been on the stratigraphy, sedimentology and palaeoenvironments of Quaternary and late Neogene sediments in southern England and adjacent areas. His particular interest has been on the interaction of glaciation, rivers, lakes and the sea, and began with thesis research (supervised by Professor R.G. West ) that unravelled the River Thames' diversion from a course through East Anglia to that through London. Detailed stratigraphical schemes have since been developed for the Thames' drainage system, and this work has been influential in encouraging others to adopt similar approaches to drainage history studies in other regions. The work provides a foundation, not only for geologists, but for archaeologists, palaeontologists and engineers.

In association with this work, Phil has undertaken many collaborative, palaeoenvironmental investigations. This multidisciplinary approach has demonstrated the sheer quality of detail that is potentially achievable from the investigation of Quaternary sequences. His current work involves continuity of these approaches Britain, offshore areas, especially the Channel, and neighbouring countries.

Phil's interest in stratigraphy of the North Sea basin, has led to co-operation with colleagues at the Netherlands' Geological Survey and at the Free University of Amsterdam, Universities of Amsterdam, Leiden and Utrecht. This work concerns the Plio-Pleistocene of the Rhine-Maas system. Other research includes the study of interglacial and related shallow marine sediments in Denmark, with colleagues at the Universities of Aarhus and Copenhagen, which has shown the potential for unravelling geological, oceanographic and climatic events in the Baltic basin. In recognition, the EC funded the BALTEEM project (1 million Ecu) to further this work. Phil was the group co-ordinator, with Danish, Norwegian, Finnish partners, and Estonian, Polish, Latvian, Russian and Australian colleagues.

In 1997, Phil initiated the bi-lateral Projet Groupe Manche (with Prof J.P Lautridou, Prof J.L. Lagarde and colleagues, CNRS, Caen Morphodynamique Continentale et Côtière" - M2C ), to understand the development of the Channel region. This work is still continuing. He is investigating lacustrine and fluvial deposition in northern and central Italy with Italian colleagues, and is also working on Holocene coastal evolution in SW Thailand with Dr J. Stargardt (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge), Dr R. Morley (Palynova Ltd), Dr B. Horton (University of Pennsylvania) and Thai colleagues. At present, Professor M. J. Head (previously in our laboratory) and Phil are investigating the potential of Pleistocene dinoflagellate cyst assemblages in the North and Baltic seas.

In Europe, Phil's interest in glaciation has continued through interaction with Jürgen Ehlers, with whom he has published three books. They were most recently joint co-ordinators of an INQUA Commission on Glaciation workgroup which compiled an atlas of world Quaternary glaciation limits (the group has 250 contributors in 46 countries). The three volumes on Europe, North America and Rest of the World were published in 2004 (Europe: March; North America and Rest of the World : July) (Ehlers & Gibbard, 2004 a, b, c). An updated second edition of this compilation was published in 2011.

Phil (2004) initiated the EREP project on the evolution of major European rivers through the last 3 million years, with colleagues from eastern Europe. The aim of this project is to revise that published in 1988, and updated here , while extending the mapping to cover eastern Europe, almost to the Urals, and south to the Alps. In the future the mapping may be extended further south, if time permits. The project will map the courses of the major river systems for a series of time-slices, on the same basemaps as those used for the glaciation project (above) to ensure compatibility of the reconstructions. He is now participating in TOPO-WECEP project in which he co-ordinates the RIVERS subproject. Phil has continued his interest in the evolution of river systems and their responses to climate changes through co-operation with Professor J.Lewin (Aberystwyth and Worcester). Recently Phil has been co-operating with Indian colleagues on the investigation of river systems in western S. India.

Phil has worked with visiting scholar Dr Kim Cohen on a global database on fluvial activity in the Last Glacial Maximum, the Late Glacial and Holocene. The project was funded by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, research group Palaeoclimatology (Jena, Germany). The project served the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project ( PMIP ) jointly with Dr Sandy Harrison (University of Bristol).

In addition to work on the Quaternary, Phil has also worked with an international team on Neogene terrestrial sedimentation in Turkey and participated bi-lateral work in China led by Professor L. Zhou (Beijing) and Professor M. Fortelius (Helsinki). He completed a review of the evidence for the drainage development of southern Britain during the Tertiary , with Professor J. Lewin (Aberystwyth and Worchester).

Phil's interest in the application of stratigraphical principles is reflected in his membership of the national Geological Society Stratigraphical Commission , the INQUA Subcommission of European Quaternary Stratigraphy (for whom he has jointly organised seven meetings), the British Geological Survey Advisory Committee on Stratigraphy, and his election as the Secretary of the INQUA Commission on Stratigraphy (1999-2003); he was an ex-officio member of the INQUA-SACCOM Commission (2003-2011) and chaired the Commission (2011-2015). He also chaired the International Commission on Stratigraphy's Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy from 2002-2012. Phil was appointed the Secretary-General of the International Commission on Stratigraphy 2016-24, and in August 2023 he was appointed a non-voting member International Commission on Stratigraphy, Subcommission on Precambrian Stratigraphy (2023-).

More generally, Phil has organised many discussion and field meetings, led excursions for overseas groups, worked with BBC and independent television and radio, and lectured to local geological societies. He has served as Vice-President, Secretary and an Executive Committee member of the Quaternary Research Association , and was the chair of the Joint Association for Quaternary Research. He edited the Association's international Journal of Quaternary Science for 5 years and was on the editorial board from its foundation (1985-2007). Phil is also a member of the editorial boards of the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences , Boreas, Geoheritage, the Italian journal Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary (2010-2020), the German journal Eiszeitalter und Gegenwart, the french-language journal, Quaternaire and the INQUA journal Quaternary International (2013-2016). He was also a member of the editorial board of Geological Magazine(1996-2006), the Bulletin de la Société géologique de France (2004-2008), the Polish journal Geological Quarterly (2003-2009), and an Advisory Editor of the Journal of the Geological Society of London (2001-2008). He has served as the Quaternary representative on the NERC ESPRC (1996-9), has chaired several NERC committees, and has served on a CNRS panel to review geological research in France. In 2009 Phil also participated in a QANU (Quality Assurance Netherlands Universities) committee to review the research in Earth Sciences of universities in the Netherlands. He participated in a review committee of the Geological Institute of the University of Innsbruck in Austria in October 2012. In September 2014 Phil was appointed scientific advisor to the International Quaternary Map of Europe project IQUAME, co-ordinated by BGR in Hannover, Germany.

Phil formally retired from the University of Cambridge's Department of Geography on 30 September 2017. He has been appointed as an Emeritus Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute and as a Senior Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.


Phil taught regularly at the University of Helsinki , and has undertaken many external examining tasks, particularly for doctorates or higher doctorates (Habilitations), in Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, India and Finland.


April 1999 - Geological Society - awarded Lyell Fund prize "for excellence in Quaternary Geology".
June 2001 – Professeur associé – Université de Caen-Basse Normandie, Caen, France.
June 2002 – Chercheur associé du CNRS - CNRS UMR-6143 M2C, Caen, France.
May-June 2007 – Visiting Professor - University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria.
September 2007 - Professeur associé – Université de Caen-Basse Normandie, Caen, France.
May 2008 - Professeur associé – Université de Caen-Basse Normandie, Caen, France.
May 2010 - Honorary Doctorate degree (PhD honoris causa) - University of Helsinki (Helsingin Yliopisto), Finland.
April 2014 - Awarded the 2014 André Dumont Medal by Geologica Belgica, the Belgian national geological society, in Ghent. In recognition of Phil's achievements in Quaternary Geology.
January 2015 - Awarded the 2014 James Croll Medal by the Quaternary Research Association, in Edinburgh in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of Quaternary Science. The award reflects Phil's broad-ranging and cutting edge research across glacial, periglacial and interglacial stratigraphy, and his outstanding contributions to national and international committees including both the QRA and the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy.
July 2019 - Awarded the Digby McLaren Medal by the International Commission on Stratigraphy in Milano to honour his significant body of internationally important contributions to stratigraphy sustained over a number of years.
December 2021 - Awarded the the Verdienstmedaille (Merit Medal) by the German Quaternary Association (Deuqua)
2023 - Earth Science in United Kingdom Leader Award.

Recent research articles

word pre-1996 publications.

Recent books and edited volumes

Article published for colleague

Consultant for children's publication


Web publications



For gallery, please click image.

Tjörnes 2010

Phil at the Tjörnes cliffs in northern Iceland on 30.07.10 (photograph by Ann Jennison).