Lourdes López-Merino

Research Fellow, Brunel University London

My research focuses on the multiproxy-based reconstruction of Quaternary climate, environmental and land-use change, the detection of environmental disturbance, and its impact on the functioning of a variety of systems.

I have always been fascinated by the role that climate and humans play on the environment, devoting my career to answer some key questions in this regard. Taking the environmental record into account with a deep time perspective is one of the few tools to unravel patterns and processes of environmental change. This knowledge helps in the understanding of past, present and future environmental dynamics, key for mitigating present-day and projected global change scenarios.

Despite being a young academic, I have a track record of securing funding and delivering research outputs. I collaborated with the Dept. Ecology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid with a training scholarship during the final year of my Biology BSc. After this initial training, I was awarded with a PhD scholarship funded by the European Social Fund and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and I moved into Holocene environmental change during my PhD (2005-2009) and first postdoc (2009-2010) at the Centre of Humanities and Social Sciences (CSIC, Madrid). My research dealt with the palaeoecological study of Holocene peat and lacustrine archives focusing on understanding how prehistoric land-use shaped landscapes.

In 2010 I won a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Spanish Government and I moved into Brunel University London. During my postdoctoral research at Brunel (2010-2012), I incorporated statistical methods into the analysis of long-term environmental data focusing my research on understanding post-disturbance ecosystems dynamics, as well as on the study of the impact that agriculture and mining activities on the landscape and the atmosphere. In January 2013 Brunel awarded me with the MINT fellowship, an internal competitive scheme to support junior researchers to develop their own ideas, to be trained in grant writing and to apply for fellowships. I was successful and I was awarded with a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.

In my Leverhulme-funded project (2014-2016, “Posidonia as environmental archive: long-term ecology and conservation views”) I have applied a multi-proxy palaeoecological approach aiming to detect Holocene climate and land-use changes disturbing the long-term dynamics of Posidonia seagrasses. With this project, I am gaining a better understanding of the past, present and future dynamics of Posidonia meadows, an important marine ecosystem in decline that provides many services to humans (i.e. carbon sink).

In addition, in May 2015 I attended an AHRC Science in Culture workshop for early career researchers (ECRs) with the aim of engaging with other ECRs and developing interdisciplinary ideas with potential to attract funding. Five ECRs with varied backgrounds started to work together to find ways to investigate how communities respond and adapt to landscape change and to make deep time visible, using Orkney as a model, and our project “Orkney: Beside the Ocean of Time”, funded by the AHRC Science in Culture Early Career Developmental Awards, was awarded.