centre for earth, planetary, space and astronomical research
 Professor Robert A Spicer
Home Current Projects Research interests Recent Papers & Publications Personal details Links Contact

Robert Andrew Spicer

Bob Spicer FushunDepartment of Earth Sciences,
Open University,
Walton Hall, Milton Keynes,

Tel. No.: 01908 652887 / 01908 654940
Fax No.: 01908 655151
Email: r.a.spicer@open.ac.uk

Nationality: British
Present Post: Professor of Earth Sciences.

Visiting Professor, State Key Laboratory, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.


1972-1975 Imperial College, London University, Geology Dept.
1969-1972 Imperial College, London University, Botany Dept.

BSc (First Class, Botany), 1972, Imperial College, Associate of the Royal College of Science.

PhD (Geology), 1975. Imperial College.
Thesis Title: The Sorting of Plant Remains in a Recent Depositional Environment.

MA (Oxford - awarded by special decree on appointment) 1989.

Current Position:

Current and Previous Positions:

Professor of Earth Sciences, The Open University

• 1/4/2010 - 1/10/2010: Visiting Professor, State Key Laboratory, Institute
of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

• 1/5/04 - 31/9/06: Founding Director of the Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR), The Open University; Chair of Directorate

• 1/10/1994 - 1/1/ 1998: Head of Earth Sciences, The Open University; Chair of Earth Sciences Management team

Other Managerial Roles:

• 2008 RAE National Expert Reviewer for UoA17 Earth and Environmental Sciences
• 2008 Panel Member Deutsche Forschungsgemainschaft (DFG)German Research Foundation -
• 2007 - Present: Member NERC Polar Strategy Working Group.
• 1/9/06 - Present: Chair OU RAE UoA 17 submission team
• 1/9/06 - Present: Member OU RAE Team
• Elected Deputy Chair Research Board (1999-2006)
• Elected Chair of Research Strategy and Development Committee of Research Board (1999 - 2006)
• Member of Strategic Planning and External Relations Committee of Research Board (1999 - 2006)
• Chair, Contract Research Staff Initiative Working Group (1999 - 2006)
• Elected by Senate to Strategic Planning and Resources Committee 1999 - 2001
• Elected by Senate to Technology Development Committee 1996 -1998
• Elected by Senate to University Council 1995 - 1999
• Elected by Senate to University Research Committee 1995 - 1999
• 2003 - 2006 Member of Natural Environment Research Council Peer Review College


• 2008- 2012 External Examiner Undergraduate Programme University
of Plymouth.
• 2003 - 2007 External Undergraduate Examiner at Reading University
(Environment and Soil Sciences)
• Tutor SXR 208 Astronomy (Observing the Universe) 2006 - Present.
• Senior Tutor SXR369 Weeks for students with additional requirements 2005-Present.
• Author of S199 (Weather and Climate Modelling) and Course Team Chair 2003 - 2008
• Chair of S269 (Earth and Life) Course Team and Exam Board 1998 -2004
• Course Team Member S369 (The Geological Record of Environmental Change) 2000 - Present
• Course Team and Exam Board Member SXR 369 (The Geological Record of Environmental Change Residential School) 2000 - Present
• External PhD/DPhil Examiner at Numerous Universities in UK and overseas
• External Undergraduate Examiner at Reading University (Environment and Soil Sciences) 2003 - Present

Public Engagement:

• 2009-Present Consultant to two other TV production companies regarding ongoing palaeoenvironmental projects.
• 2009 Contributor to NOVA TV documentary "Arctic Dinosaurs".
• 2008 Author of blogs for BBC/Open2.net "Our Man in India"
• 2007 Lead Academic Consultant on BBC1 "Climate Change - Britain Under Threat", I hour Attenborough programme; contributor to accompanying websites; press interviews
• 2006 Academic Consultant on numerous programmes that comprised the "Climate Chaos" season across the BBC Network including its web presence. Programmes include "Meltdown" BBC4 (subsequently re-screened on BBC2), 1 hour, Paul Rose presenter; eight shorts related to climate change "Some Like it Hotter", "Snow Patrol", "Killer Lakes", "Corking Sunshine", "Glacial Retreat", "Savage Heat", "Northern Melt", & "Shifting Shoals"; "Climate Controversies" BBC4, 1 hour, Ian Stewart Presenter; Academic Consultant and on-screen contributor to 2 hour-long programmes on climate change, Sir David Attenborough presenter; author of a climate change essay on BBC Open2.net website; several radio, TV and press interviews in the UK, China and India
• 2005 Exhibitor - Royal Society Summer Exhibition "Climateprediction.net"; "Huygens Lander on Titan", several radio interviews
• 2004 Exhibitor EUG, Vienna, "Climateprediction.net"
• 2002 Finalist, Laboratory News "Best UK Research Group"
• 2001 Exhibitor, Royal Society Summer Exhibition, "Fossil Leaves: Nature’s Ancient Meteorologists"
• 1998 On-screen contributor to "Earth Story", BBC2, Aubrey Manning presenter
• 1995 On-screen presenter BBC2, 1 hour, "Cretaceous World: Poles Apart"
• 1993 Exhibitor, Royal Society Soirιe "Polar Vegetation and Climate"
• Each year I give numerous public lectures, press, TV, radio interviews in the UK and overseas

Current research

The evolution of high latitude vegetation and climate - this is primarily directed at times of extreme global warmth in the Mesozoic and focuses on the geologic records of Alaska, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. The research is directed towards providing validation data for numerical global climate modelling and has important implications for global change studies. The research also makes use of palaeo-data to model vegetation under possible future climates and as templates for biosphere management programmes and "designer ecosystems" for carbon sequestering.

An integral part of this research is developing new approaches to plant palaeoecology using plant taphonomy (a field which I pioneered in this country) and extracting climate signals from the architecture of plant fossils using advanced multivariate statistics. These techniques are now being applied to the study of past surface height changes to determine rates of mountain belt and plateau uplift to provide constraining data for mathematical models of the behaviour of the Earth's crust. They are also being used to study biotic and climatic change across the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary.

Allied to the palaeontological elements of my research is the work on climate modelling. I am part of a large distributed computing project (climateprediction.net) funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Department of Trade and Industry and several commercial partners. The project is conducting large scale ensemble forecasting of future climate change using the Hadley Centre model configured to run on desktop PCs.

Current field areas include North-eastern Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, China and Tibet, western North America, Alaska, and India.

PhD/DPhil. students supervised to date: 14
PhD/DPhil. students examined to date: 23


S269, S369 , SXR 369, S199

Icon - Adobe Acrobat pdf documentExample of S369 Teaching Material

Previous Appointments

Oxford University:

• University Lecturer in Earth Sciences and Official Fellow and Tutor of St Hugh's College, Oxford, 1/1/1989 - 31/8/1994
• Elected Dean of St Hugh's College 1989 - 1991
• Member of Oxford Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences Sub-Faculties
• Public Examiner in Geology in the Honour School of Natural Science (Finals), 1991 - 1993
• Member of Graduate Studies Committee 1989 -1990
• Chairman, Library Committee 1991 - 1992
• Member, Departmental Committee (oversees departmental finances) 1992 - 1994
• Departmental Admissions Co-ordinator 1990 - 1994
• Member of the Departmental Academic Committee 1992 - 1994
• Responsible for setting and marking University Entrance Examinations in Geology 1990 - 1993
• Listed in University "Directory of Experts"
• Member of St Hugh’s Governing Body, Academic Needs Committee, Accommodations Committee and Education Committee
• Responsibilities for Lecturing in both Earth Sciences and Plant Sciences Departments
• In Earth Sciences responsible for teaching degree courses in evolution, taphonomy, terrestrial palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimatology, as well as sedimentology/palaeontology field courses
• In Plant Sciences - presented part of the "Green Plants" course
• Tutoring
• Supervision of graduate research students
• DPhil and PhD examiner at numerous UK and overseas universities
• Five post-doctoral Fellows worked in my research group - Dr Richard Bateman, Dr Allister Rees, Dr Jenny Chapman and Dr Michele Lamberson (based partly in Vancouver, Canada)

University of London:

• Senior Lecturer in Life Sciences at Goldsmith's College, London, 1981 - 1988. Responsible for devising and presenting advanced BSc courses in Evolution and Speciation, Plant Palaeoecology, Evolutionary Biology of Seed Plants, Evolutionary Biology of Seedless Vascular Plants and Numerical Taxonomy
• Supervision of Graduate Research Students
• Departmental Research Project Co-ordinator
• Departmental Research Seminar Organiser
• School of Life Sciences representative on College Research Committee
• Member of University of London Boards of Studies in both Geology and Biology
• BSc visiting examiner for Royal Holloway and Bedford New College and King's College London

Research Assistant, Imperial College, London 1978 - 1981:

• On contract to the Office of the National Petroleum Reserves in Alaska (ONPRA).
• Research: High-latitude Cretaceous plant biostratigraphy, systematics and plant community/environmental analyses.

Research Associate of the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 1977 - 1978:

• On contract to ONPRA and the Alaskan Minerals Assessment Program
• Research: Cretaceous plant evolution, ecology, and biostratigraphy in a facies framework with special reference to Alaska
• Author of a computer relational database manager on the Honeywell Federal Multics System at Menlo Park (California), Denver (Colorado), and Reston (Virginia) for managing geological data

Lindemann Fellow, United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California 1975 - 1977:


• The formation, analysis, and interpretation of plant fossil assemblages.
• Cretaceous plant biostratigraphy of Alaska.

Honours and Awards

• 2009 Awarded "Visiting Professorship for Internationally Leading Scientists" by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
• 2008 Presented by Invitation the Prof J.Sen Memorial Lecture, University of Calcutta, Calcutta.
• February 25-May 5th 2008, Senior Visiting Research Scientist, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, India.
• 2007 Awarded Palaeobotanical Society of India International Medal.
• 2007 Invited Public Lecture at Burlington House as part of the Geological Society of London Bicentennial Celebrations.
• 2006 Presented by invitation the 52nd Sir A.C. Seward Memorial Lecture at the Diamond Jubilee of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, India
• Best Paper, Geological Society of America Centennial Meeting, Coal Division
• 1981 Guest Lecturer, Royal Geographical Society Annual Tripartite Meeting
• 1975 - 1977 Lindemann Research Fellowship
• 1975 Marshall Prize for Palaeontology
• 1972 University of London (Hocart) Prize in Botany for highest score across the whole of London University in the final third year examination

Grants and Research Support Obtained

2010 Chinese Academy of Sciences 250,000 Yuan.
2004-Present Royal Society/Chinese Academy of Sciences Exchange Programme- various amounts of funding.
2002 - 2004 NERC £474694.43 (with Oxford University)
2001 - 2003 NERC £103991.00
2002-2004 OU Alumni Fund £25000.00
1998-2000 NERC £176725.00;1997 Open University Research Committee £3000;
1996-8 INTAS 55000 ECU;
1995-6 NERC £16951.5;
1994-5 NERC £4500;
1996-7 Royal Society £9000;
1994-6 Royal Society £7000;
1993 NERC £3948; 1993 National Geographic Society $12000.00†;
1990 National Science Foundation $40000†;
1990 NERC Research Grants (2) totalling £158238.00,;
1990 NATO BF222000.00;
1990 Royal Society £4893.00 equipment grant;
1990, 1992 Astor Fund £600.00;
1990 Lockey Bequest £550.00;
1989 National Geographic £3000.00; 1987-1990 University of Chicago, Paleogeographic Atlas Project $6500.00;
1988-90 Petroleum Research Fund, American Chemical Society $40000.00†;
1986 Goldsmith's College Research Fund £2324.00*;
1986 USGS Depositional Basins Program $2000.00*†;
1985,1986 NATO £9243*†;
1985, 1986, 1987, British Petroleum £85016.00*†;
1985, 1996, 2001 State of Alaska logistic support $11000.00;
1984 Royal Society Expedition Grant $5052.00*;
1984 Mexican Government logistic support £3000.00;
1982, 1984 Goldsmiths' College Research Fund £3788.00*;
1982, 1984 London University Central Research Fund £1440.00*; 1983, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992 Natural Environment Research Council Studentships £60000.00;
1983 Government of Ghana Research Studentship £15000.00;
1978-1981 US Government contracts and logistic support $184460.00; 1975-77 Lindemann Fellowship $30000.00
(* - excluding salary, † with J.T. Parrish, University of Arizona).

Professional Affiliations

• Council Member, Systematics Association (1985 - 1988). Ongoing ordinary member
• Council Member Palaeontological Association (1988 - 1990). Ongoing ordinary member
• Member, International Organization of Palaeobotany (1985 - Present)
• Member, Paleobotanical Section, Botanical Society of America (1977 - 2003)
• Member, Geological Society of America (1988 - 1994)
• Member, IGCP 245 (Cretaceous Non-marine Correlation)
• Member, British Association, (1990 - 1991)

Professional Activities

• 2010 Invited Keynote Speaker at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference.
• 2009 Reviewer, Sino German TiP Project Meeting, Qindao, China.
• 2008 Fieldwork in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, India funded by the Government of India.
• 2007 Joint Royal Society - Chinese Academy of Sciences fieldwork Yunnan, China
• 2005 Joint Royal Society - Chinese Academy of Sciences fieldwork near Fushun, China
• 2005 Fieldwork in Alaska
• 2004 Fieldwork in Argentina and Chile
• 2003 Joint Royal Society - Chinese Academy of Sciences fieldwork in Shangxi Province, China
• 2002 Leader and Organiser of OU Geological Society 14 day field trip to western USA (38 students)
• 2001 Fieldwork in northern Alaska
• 2000 Fieldwork in India and Tibet
• 1998 Fieldwork in Northern Alaska. India and Tibet
• 1997 Leader of nine-member multinational INTAS/RFBR team undertaking fieldwork in North-eastern Russia
• 1996 and 1998 Filming for the BBC in Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Nepal and USA
• 1996 Fieldwork in northern Alaska
• 1995 Member of NERC reconnaissance team traversing Tibet
• 1991 - 1992 Fieldwork in western USA
• 1991 Fieldwork/lecturing in Australia and New Zealand
• 1989 Fieldwork in northern, central and southwestern Alaska
• 1988 Fieldwork in western China, lecturing in Nanjing and Beijing
• 1987 Fieldwork in British Columbia, Canada
• 1984 leader of international expedition to El Chichσn, southern Mexico (Royal Society Funded)
• 1980,1982, 1984 taphonomic fieldwork at Mount Saint Helens (USA)
• 1977 - 1979, 1985 - 1987, 1991, 1996 Fieldwork in northern Alaska
• 1972 Co-organizer and expedition member, Imperial College Expedition to Maldive Islands

Consultancies and Links with Industry:

• Current: Chairman of GHG Capital Corporation - low carbon technology development.
• Current: Member of the Board of C-Questor.
• 2004 - 2006 Consultant for Dorling Kindersley publishers
• 2005 External Reviewer for School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Science Geoscience Programmes, Plymouth University
• 2002 Royal Society nominated advisor to the Chinese Government on the establishment of a Tibetan Research Institute
• 1995 Member of Government of India appointed panel assessing the Birbal Sahni Research Institute, Lucknow, India
• 1992 UNESCO representative to Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change meeting on Global Carbon Balance and Forest Ecosystems, Joensuu, Finland
• 1992 Adviser to Indonesian Government on Climate Change
• 1991 Consultancy for the State of Alaska, USGS and University of Chicago Paleogeographic Atlas Project
• 1991 - 1992 Contract Consultant to UNESCO on Global Change and Designed Ecosystems

Editorial Positions:

• 2006 Member, Editorial Board of The Palaeobotanist.
• 1992 - 2005 Editor, Cambridge Palaeobiology Book Series
• 1996 - 1999 Associate Editor of Geology.
• 1990 - 1991 Associate Editor, Paleobiology
• 1992 - 1999 Associate Editor, Palaeoclimates: Data and Modelling.


• 2010 Co-convenor of 'Polar Palaeobotany' session at European Palaeobotany and Palynology Conference Budapest, July 6-10 2010.
• 2006 Co-convenor "Advances in Paleobotany" Meeting, Gainsville, Florida, USA
• 2001 As leader of the "Warm Earth Environmental Systems Research Group", finalist in Laboratory News "Best UK Academic Research Group" Awards
• 1998 "Distinguished Lecturer", invited lecture tour of University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, USA
• 1995 Lecture tour of India - Lucknow, Dehra Dun, Chandigar, Delhi, at the invitation of, and funded by, the Indian Government
• 1994 Guest Professor, University of Vienna
• 1993 February 24-25th Co-organiser of Royal Society Discussion Meeting entitled "Palaeoclimates and their modelling with special reference to the Mesozoic"
• 1985 Co-organiser of international meeting sponsored by the Systematics Association, Linnean Society, Royal Society, British Council, Shell and BP entitled "Systematic and Taxonomic Approaches in Palaeobotany"

Additional web material





Home | Current Projects | Research interests | Recent Papers & Publications | Personal details | Links | Contact

Also on this page ...

Robert Andrew Spicer


Current Position:

Current research


Previous Appointments

Honours and Awards

Grants and Research Support Obtained

Professional Affiliations

Professional Activities

Additional web material