After a degree in Geography at the University of Oxford and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Bristol, I completed a PhD on the Quaternary stratigraphy and palaeoenvironments of the Celtic Sea, Isles of Scilly and West Cornwall at the University of Cambridge. This research was undertaken in the laboratories of the Sub-department of Quaternary Research including the Godwin Laboratory led by Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton FRS. I was then elected to a Research Fellowship at Girton College, University of Cambridge, but after a year I was appointed to a Lectureship at Bangor University in the School of Ocean Sciences in 1985, being awarded a Personal Chair in 2005. I stayed in Bangor until I moved my research group to the Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter in February 2017.
I have co-ordinated and led two major EU research consortia (SHELF and HOLSMEER), was a senior member of the 40-partner EU MILLENNIUM project (European Climate of the Last Millennium), and have held eleven NERC research grants. Much of my research is based at sea and I have served as Chief Scientist on 10 research cruises.
I was President of the Quaternary Research Association (2008-2011) and Chair of the NERC Radiocarbon Facility Steering Committee (2007-2011). I was Editor of the Journal of Quaternary Science (2000-2004) and was awarded a Royal Society-Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2008-2009. I was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2014 and was Director of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales between 2011 and 2016.