Plenary Speakers

Dr Helen Bostock: marine geology (past changes in Southern Ocean)
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

Helen C. Bostock (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Wellington, New Zealand) is a marine geologist, who focuses her research on the modern chemistry and Quaternary paleoceanography of the Southwest Pacific and Southern Ocean. Over the last decade she has spent several months at sea on the Research Vessel Tangaroa, collecting water and core samples and working with her collaborators and students to understand oceanography and paleoceanography of the New Zealand region. In 2016 she received the Geosciences Society of New Zealand most prestigious award, the McKay Hammer award, for her work involved with AUS-INTIMATE, an INQUA supported project.


Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie: palaeoanthropology (early human evolution)
Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie is Curator and Head of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and Adjunct Professor at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in 2001 from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Haile-Selassie is a world-renowned paleoanthropologist working on human origins and evolution. He is principal investigator of the Woranso-Mille paleontological project and conducts fieldwork in the Afar region of Ethiopia. He has published monographs and numerous papers in internationally recognized scientific journals, such as Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Dr. Haile-Selassie speaks nationally and internationally on early human ancestors and has been featured in Time magazine, National Geographic, and in various documentaries on human origins. Dr. Haile-Selassie is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University, and a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, American Paleoanthropology Society, and Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.


Prof Beth Shapiro: palaeogenomics (ancient DNA, vertebrates)
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. She uses DNA recovered from bones and other organic remains to study how species and communities evolved through time and how human activities affected this dynamic process, asking questions about domestication, admixture between species pairs, and pathogen evolution. Beth is currently co-director of the Paleogenomics Laboratory at the University of California Santa Cruz, Director for Evolutionary Genomics at the UCSC Genomics Institute, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A 2009 MacArthur Fellow, Beth is also an award-winning popular science author and communicator who uses her research as a platform to explore the potential of new genomic technologies for conservation and medicine.


Prof Kathy Willis: palaeoecology (conservation)
Dept of Zoology, University of Oxford

Kathy Willis is Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford and Head of the Long-term Ecology Laboratory (OxLEL). She has recently been on a 5-year secondment as the Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Kathy is a palaeoecologist by training, focusing on reconstructing Quaternary vegetation dynamics from fossil pollen assemblages. Her research has always focused at the applied end of the discipline, using the knowledge gained from long-term vegetation dynamics to provide output that is relevant for biodiversity conservation, policy and management. Research topics include reconstructing biodiversity baselines, determining the natural variability of ecosystems in response to environmental change, understanding the factors responsible for persistence and resilience and determining changes in natural capital assets in response to external drivers. Her group has worked on case-studies across the globe but tending to focus in biodiversity hotspots including the Galapagos, Madagascar and the Western Ghats (India). In addition, work in OxLEL has focused on developing tools and technologies to ensure that palaeoecological information is more easily accessible to non-specialists in order to inform environmental decision-making. Kathy has published over 150 scientific publications, including the text book The Evolution of Plants, now in its second edition.  She has also written several popular science books including Plants: From Roots to Riches and Botanicum and has written and presented several radio programmes including the BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to RichesKathy was awarded the 2015 Michael Faraday Prize from the Royal Society for her work in science communication and in February 2016 she was appointed to the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body to the UK Government, which will take forward the implementation of the new 25-year UK Environment Plan. She is also a Chapter Lead Author on “Nature” for the Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services of the International Panel of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). In 2018, Kathy was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to biodiversity conservation and science.


Prof Eric Wolff: Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems (ice cores and past climate)
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Eric Wolff is a Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University. After graduating as a chemist, he has studied ice cores from the Antarctic and Greenland for the past 30 years, using them to understand changing climate, as well as changing levels of pollution in remote areas. He also carries out research into the chemistry of the lower parts of the Antarctic atmosphere. Until June 2013, he led a programme at the British Antarctic Survey. He chaired the science committee of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA), which produced 800,000 year records of climate from the Dome C (Antarctica) ice core and for many years co-chaired the international initiative (IPICS) to coordinate future ice core research. His main research goal is to understand the causes of climate evolution over recent glacial cycles. He was elected as FRS in 2010, and led the Royal Society team in a joint initiative with the National Academy of Sciences on explaining climate science “Climate change: evidence and causes” in 2013.


Prof Xiaoping Yang: Landscape and palaeoclimatic changes in drylands
School of Earth Sciences, Zhejiang University

Xiaoping Yang’s research interests include deserts and their geological and historical changes, especially geomorphology and paleoclimatology during the Late Quaternary. He has been working intensively in the sand seas of northern China, in particular in the Taklamakan Desert, the Badain Jaran Desert, the Kubuqi Desert and in the Hunshandake Sandy Land to better understand the landscape and palaeoclimatic changes in drylands and the interactions between man and the environment. He is especially interested in understanding the processes and mechanisms of landscape change and the interactions between various processes including human activities in desert areas.