Geographer, Geologist & Palaeoenvironmental Consultant with a specialist interest in Quaternary Stratigraphy, Engineering Geology and Geochronology.
Dr Sebastian M. Gibson BSc MSc PhD AFHEA
Sidney Sussex College
Biography and Experience
Sebastian has over 10 years of experience in Quaternary environmental change fieldwork and research with primary interests in Quaternary sediments, stratigraphy and geochronology. Specifically, glacial/fluvial sedimentology/stratigraphy and luminescence dating in order to fully understand the complexity behind past glacial activity and its impacts on today's society.
Sebastian provides palaeoenvironmental/engineering geology consultancy to several prestigious engineering programmes, including high speed rail; for several firms. Working with field technicians on-site to senior management at HQ to highlight the importance of Quaternary geology and its effects on planning of and the impact on delivering infrastructure projects.
Sebastian has an excellent teaching record and is formally recognised as an Associate Fellow of The Higher Education Academy. Teaching has seen a range of commitments with highly favourable feedback, from the supervision and field demonstration of undergraduate students to lecturing for the Cambridge Admissions Office across the United Kingdom.
Sebastian's PhD was on the Pleistocene history of glacial deposits in the Birmingham region under the supervision of Professor Philip Gibbard, working closely with Professor Mark Bateman (University of Sheffield) and Professor Julian Murton (University of Sussex). Sebastian read a BSc in Geography at the University of Exeter following onto a MSc in Quaternary Science at the University of London: Royal Holloway/UCL and carried out thesis research at the University of Cambridge and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
Research and activities
Sebastian's research interests focus on field-based and laboratory methods, as well as extensive desk-based study, to advance our understanding of Quaternary palaeoenvironmental change, currently the following are his current research activities:
• The timing of late Middle Pleistocene glaciation across the English lowland and its correlation with the European Continent.
• The dynamics of ice flow and its associate erosion and deposition of glacial sediments.
• The re-organisation of rivers prior to and subsequent to glaciation.
• Use of geophysical (Ground Penetrating Radar) and geospatial (Drones) techniques to further advance our understanding of landscape process where exposure is unavailable.
• The long-term periglacial impacts on a 'pre-conditioning' a landscape for large scale glaciation.
• Improving our understanding of luminescence techniques on 'ancient' glaciofluvial sediments.
• The dynamics and timing of European continental glaciation during the Saalian Stage.
• Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction through palaeobotany (Pollen and Macrofossils).
• The presence of full glacial conditions across Devon during the late Pleistocene.
• The relevance of Quaternary sediments to engineering projects.
• The importance of infrastructure projects to increase our understanding of Quaternary stratigraphy.
• Increasing our understanding of Quaternary sediments and stratigraphy from large scale cross-section and ground investigation (boreholes).
• Railway Quaternary geology.
• Providing an opportunity for infrastructure projects to engage with the public and provide a scientific value to the said project. This increases the clear contribution of such projects to society.
• The definition of the Anthropocene.
• How the Anthropocene debate can allow Quaternary scientist to engage with the wider general public and increase the awareness of our subject.
• Ensuring Oxbridge is as accessible to all as possible through extensive outreach commitments.
Education and Previous Research
• PhD Cambridge Quaternary and Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.
Thesis: The Pleistocene History of the Birmingham District. I re-evaluated the Birmingham regional position within the British Isles Quaternary stratigraphy. Birmingham is built on a complex sequence of Middle and Late Pleistocene sediments representing at least three lowland glaciations (Anglian, Wolstonian, and Devensian). Understanding the age of Quaternary deposits was critical to establishing an understanding of their place within the British stratigraphic record. Professor Fred Shotton (Sidney Sussex College 1929) found a series of Middle Pleistocene glacial sediments, termed 'Wolstonian Stage' in the 1950s. Uncertainty surrounding the relation of the sediments to East Anglian sequences, which implied that the Birmingham sequences should be referred to as Anglian Stage developed in the 1980s. This was based on research by Professor Jim Rose that 'Wolstonian Stage' glacial sediments overlying fluvial deposits (Baginton–Lillington Formation Gravel) that have been attributed to deposition in the headwaters of a pre-Anglian Stage (c. MIS 16–14) ancient 'Bytham River'. This attribution is based on the suggested correlation of similar lithological characteristics of the Baginton–Lillington Gravel to the Bytham Gravel in the East Midlands, and the Ingham Formation Gravels, in East Anglia, both of which are thought to be overlain by Anglian Stage (c. MIS 12) glacial sediments. However, a new regional stratigraphy of the Birmingham district has been established, supported by luminescence dating (OSL/IRSL), cosmogenic exposure dating (TNC Cl36), and pollen palynology to demonstrate that glacial ice advanced into the Birmingham district within the Wolstonian Stage (c. MIS 6), and allowed correlation with the equivalent significant glaciation across the European Continent within the Saalian Stage.
• MSc Royal Holloway and New Bedford College and University College, London (UCL), University of London.
Dissertation: An OSL Chronology for the Glaciogenic Sediment on the Gower Peninsula, Wales. I re-evaluated the glacial sedimentology of Hunts Bay and Rotherslade, Gower Peninsula, Wales and applied OSL dating to the key sediment switches. Interpretations held Rotherslade sediments as glacial and Hunts Bay as periglacial, where both sites sedimentology overlayed a raised beach, correlated to MIS 5e, suggesting the glacial sediments were MIS 2. My dissertation controversially presented dates of deposition over two glaciations (MIS 6 & MIS 2),
• BSc University of Exeter.
Dissertation: An Examination of the Punchbowl, Exmoor: a Niviation Hollow or a Glacial Cirque. I re-evaluated two ridge features, previously interpreted as glacial deposits. I found no evidence to support this, instead I reinterpreted the ridges as protalus ramparts. The Punchbowl was interpreted as a niviation hollow, exploiting a geological fault.
Gibson, S.M., Field, M.H., & Gibbard, P.L. 2023. Palaeoenvironmental history of the Middle Pleistocene deposits at Gilson, Warwickshire, England: part of the High Speed Two railway route alignment. Journal of Quaternary Science. https://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.3537
Gibson, S.M., Bateman, M.D., Murton, J.B., Barrows, T.T., Fifield, L.K., Gibbard, P.L. 2022. Timing and dynamics of Late Wolstonian Substage 'Moreton Stadial' (MIS 6) glaciation in the English West Midlands, UK. R. Soc. Open Sci.
9: 220312. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.220312
Field, M. H., Gibson, S. M. and Gibbard, P. L. (2017) East–West European Middle Pleistocene correlation – the contribution of the first British record of Aracites interglacialis Wieliczk. Acta Palaeobotanica. 57(1): 101–108. <PDF>
Gibson, S.M. 2012. Continuing Research of Professor Fred Shotton. Sidney Sussex College Annual 2012. p.98-101.
Gibson, S.M., Gibbard, P.L., Bateman, M.D., Murton, J.D., Pawley, S. (2019). Late Wolstonian Substage (c. MIS 6) glaciation in the British Isles. O-5042 20th INQUA Congress Dublin, Ireland 31 July 2019.
Gibson, S.M., Gibbard, P.L., Bateman, M.D., Murton, J.D. (2019). The Penultimate Glacial Maximum in the English West Midlands. P-2625 27th INQUA Congress Dublin, Ireland 31 July 2019.
Field, M. H., Gibson, S. M. and Gibbard, P. L. (2016) East–West European Middle Pleistocene correlation - the contribution of the first British record of Aracites interglacialis Wieliczk. INQUA-SEQS 2016 Meeting. Armenia.
Gibson, S. M., Gibbard, P. L., Bateman, M. and Boreham, S. (2015) Pleistocene History of the Birmingham District, Midlands, England. INQUA XIX Congress 2015, Nagoya, Japan.
Gibson, S. M. and Gibbard, P. L. (2015) 3D Mapping of Quaternary Deposits in Birmingham, West Midlands, England. INQUA XIX Congress 2015, Nagoya, Japan.
Gibson, S. M. (2014) Melting the Divide. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2014.
Gibson, S. M., Gibbard, P. L., Bateman, M. and Boreham, S. (2014) Constraining Middle Pleistocene Glaciations in Birmingham, England, Using Optical Stimulated Luminescence Dating. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2014.
Dudley Stamp Memorial Award, Royal Geographical Society with IBG.
Parry Dutton Student Fund, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
New Research Workers Award, Quaternary Research Association.
Grant, Cambridge Philosophical Society.
The Anthropocene. Cambridge Admission Office.
The Ice Age. Cambridge Admission Office.
Out of Africa, A Climate Driven Journey. Cambridge Admission Office.
Part Ia Paper 2 (1st Year) Physical Geography
Part Ib Paper 1 (2nd Year) Living with Global Change Part 1 Core Themes.
Part Ib Paper 6 (2nd Year) Glacial Processes.
Part II Paper 8 (3rd Year) Quaternary Environments.
Fieldwork and Laboratory Demonstrations
Part Ia (1st Year) Geographical Skills and Methods.
Part II Paper 8 (3rd Year) Quaternary Environments.
Sutton Trust Summer School Co-ordinator.
Outreach Lecturer, Cambridge Admissions Office and various Cambridge College's.
Supervisor, Homerton College.
Palaeoenvironmental and Engineering Geology Consultant.
Senior Vice President, Cambridge University Railway Club.
Fellow, Cambridge Philosophical Society.
Member, Quaternary Research Association.