Professor Neil Loader

Professor, Geography

Telephone number

+44 (0) 1792 295546

Email address

Research Links

Academic Office - 208
Second Floor
Wallace Building
Singleton Campus
Available For Postgraduate Supervision


I am a physical geographer with expertise in the development and application of stable isotope techniques for studying contemporary and palaeoenvironmental change. I specialise in the interrogation of natural archives (tree rings, peat, pollen etc.) to reconstruct climatic change beyond the period of instrumental observations and in the development of tree-ring isotope series for precision dating.

I lead the UK Oak Project, an inter-disciplinary research consortium dedicated to the scientific investigation of oak trees for precision dating, the study of past climates and the resilience and to determine the response of forest trees to contemporary and future environmental change.

Areas Of Expertise

  • Stable isotope analysis of tree rings
  • Dendrochronology and dendroclimatology
  • Stable isotope dendrochronology
  • Environmental archaeology
  • Quaternary research
  • Technique development

Career Highlights

Teaching Interests
My teaching portfolio aims to inspire and engage students as they explore the physical environment, natural archives and proxies of past climate (peat, pollen, lake sediments, trees, historic records etc.) and environmental change through time. I actively promote experiential learning in physical geography, through fieldwork, laboratory practical classes, work experience placements and the dissertation modules. I teach physical geography courses from foundation- to Masters-level.
Recent collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Society (UK) has led to the development of a series of learning resources for schools on tree-rings, past weather and climate.

My research focuses on the physical and chemical analysis of tree-rings for science-based dating, the reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental change, and the study of contemporary processes and resilience in forest ecosystems.

Recent research highlights include:

The development of a new dating method using tree-ring stable isotopes that enables the precise calendar dating of wooden artefacts previously considered “undateable” by conventional ring-width dendrochronology.

An 800-year reconstruction of summer precipitation for the southern UK from oxygen isotopes in oak tree-rings. This record is unique, because unlike many growth-based proxies oxygen isotopes do not require statistical de-trending. This means that the reconstruction faithfully records summer precipitation variability across all temporal scales.

Award Highlights
Advanced Doctorate (DSc) Swansea University
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS)
Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIFA)
Vice President Association for Tree-ring Research
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Advanced Research Fellow (2004-2010)
Emsley Prize for Natural Sciences (University of Cambridge, UK)

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, UK.

Environments of Change, University of Waterloo, Canada.

The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), Birmingham University, UK.

School of the Environment, University of Auckland, Aotearoa / New Zealand.