Dr Andrew Carr

Senior Lecturer in Physical GeographyDr Andrew Carr

Bennett Building F43

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3851

Email: asc18@le.ac.uk

ORCID ID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5794-6428


My research focus is primarily on arid environments and palaeoenvironmental change in the tropics and low latitudes. This work is underpinned by the use of stable isotope environmental proxy methods and the development of depositional chronologies using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating methods.

I teach across the BSc degree programmes, including the first year module Evolution of the Earth System, a second year introduction to palaeoclimates module and my third year module, African Drylands, which considers many of the research themes listed below. I am also the Geography admissions tutor.


My main research interests are:

Palaeoenvironmental change in southern Africa

Most of my research has focused on Pleistocene environmental changes in desert and coastal environments of southern Africa. This area lies within an important transitional zone between the sub-tropical and temperate latitudes, and as a result it has been very sensitive to past global climatic changes. This work has taken various forms and has included the development of chronologies for relict aeolian (wind-blown) landforms, the analysis of fossil pollen from wetland and lake sediments and the application of stable isotope and biomarker proxy techniques. I am a member of an international team of researchers that makes up the European HYRAX research project. This project seeks to develop detailed records of past environmental change in this region using a remarkable source of evidence – the ancient latrines of the Rock Hyrax. A nice video that refers to some findings from our Hyrax work can be found here. A recent project funded by the National Geographic Society is also searching for and dating palaeo-lakes in the arid interior of South Africa. More information on this project can be found here.

Stable isotopes and organic matter (biomarker) palaeoenvironmental proxies

This work focuses on the analysis of organic matter composition (biomarkers) and the use of stable isotope analyses as palaeoenvironmental proxies. Initiated by a project “Novel Biomolecular insights into dryland ecosystem dynamics”, which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust this work has focused on analysing the composition and fate of organic matter in arid and semi-arid environments. A key goal has been to consider the nature and preservation of terrestrial organic matter in desert regions, and the implications for the interpretation of Quaternary biomarker/stable isotope records from sedimentary archives (especially rock hyrax middens). This work has involved lipid biomarker analysis, compound-specific stable isotope analyses and py-GC/MS techniques for the elucidation of macromolecular organic matter composition, including:

  • The analysis of organic matter sources (primarily plant leaf waxes and cuticles)
  • Characterisation of the macromolecular composition of organic matter in arid dryland soils with a view to understanding the mechanisms and rates of (selective?) OM degradation in arid environments
  • The fate and preservation of organic matter in long-term (Quaternary) sedimentary archives, and associated implications for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.

Recent work has begun to focus on the analysis of organic matter from regions of extreme aridity, and to consider the results in the context of instrumentation being developed to detect organic material on future Mars missions. You can read more about this work here.

Drivers of long-term landscape change

One approach to reconstructing the nature of past environmental changes is to consider evidence within the landscape and sedimentary record. Linking with my interest in luminescence dating, this work has sought to use records of past landscape change to infer past climatic shifts. A large proportion of my work in this area has, however, focused more specifically on the responses of landscapes to environmental change, particularly the coastal regions of southern Africa. Here we have sought to understand how coastal landscapes responded to long-term cycles (glacial-interglacial) of sea-level change driven by the waxing and waning of the ice-sheets during the middle and late Pleistocene.


The chronological framework underpinning much of my research has been  the application optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating techniques. This technique provides depositional (burial) age estimates for quartz and feldspar minerals and is typically used to construct chronologies of sediment deposition and landscape change. I direct the luminescence dating facility within the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment. This facility includes bespoke preparation facilities, a new Risoe DA20 OSL/TL system with an accompanying single grain reader and a Risoe low-level beta counter. Research projects currently include the reconstruction of aeolian sediment accumulation records in the Mojave Desert and the provision of age constraints for tectonic activity in the Tien Shan Mountains (in collaboration with Oxford University). I have also used the single grain technique to consider the potential effects of bioturbation (post-depositional disturbance) on the reliability of OSL age estimates.


Example publications (full details of all publications can be found here)

Southern African Palaeoenvironmental Change

Scott, L., Manzano, S., Carr, A.S., Cordova, C., Ochando, J., Bateman, M.D., Carrion, J.S. 2021. A 14,000 year multi-proxy alluvial record of ecotone changes in a Fynbos-Succulent Karoo transition in South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, in press

Chase, B.M., Boom, A., Carr, A.S. Quick, L.J, Riemer, P.J. 2020. High-resolution record of Holocene climate change dynamics from southern Africa's temperate-tropical boundary, Baviaanskloof, South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 539, 109518.

Chase, B.M., Niedermeyer, E.M., Boom, A., Carr, A.S., Chevalier, M., He, F., Meadows, M.E., Ogle, N., Reimer, P.J. 2019. Orbital controls on Namib Desert hydroclimate over the past 50,000 years. Geology, 47 (9) 867-871.

Chase, B.M., Faith, J.T, Mackay, A., Chevalier, M., Carr, A.S., Boom, A., Lim, S., Reimer, P.J. 2018. Climatic controls on Later Stone Age human adaptation in Africa's southern Cape. Journal of Human Evolution 114, 36-45.

Chase, B.M., Chevalier, M., Boom, A., Carr, A.S. 2017. The dynamic relationship between temperate and tropical circulation systems across South Africa since the Last Glacial Maximum. Quaternary Science Reviews 174, 54-62.

Collins, J.A., Carr, A.S., Schefuß, E., Boom, A., Sealy, J. 2017. Investigation of organic matter and biomarkers from Diepkloof Rockshelter: insights into Middle Stone Age site usage and palaeoclimate. Journal of Archaeological Science 85, 51-65.

Roberts, D.L, Neumann, F.H., Cawthra, H.C., Carr, A.S., Scott, L., Durugbo, E.U., Humphries, M.S., Cowling, R.M., Bamford, M., Musekiwa, C., MacHutchon, C.M. 2017. Palaeoenvironmental fluctuations during a terminal Oligocene-early Miocene transgression at the southwestern tip of Africa. Global and Planetary Change 150, 1-23.

Carr, A.S., Chase, B.M., Boom, A., Medina-Sanchez, J. 2016. Stable isotope analysis of rock hyrax faecal pellets, hyraceum and associated vegetation in southern Africa: implications for dietary ecology and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Journal of Arid Environments 134. 33-48.

Carr, A.S., Chase. BM. Mackay, A. 2016. Mid to Late Quaternary Landscape and Environmental Dynamics in the Middle Stone Age of Southern South Africa. In: Jones, S., Stewart, B.A., (Eds.), Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments, pp. 23-47. Springer.

Quick, L.J., Carr, A.S., Meadows, M.E., Boom, A., Bateman, M.D., Roberts, D.L., Reimer, P.J., Chase, B.M. 2015. A late Pleistocene–Holocene multi-proxy record of palaeoenvironmental change from Still Bay, southern Cape Coast, South Africa. Journal of Quaternary Science 30, 870-885.

Chase, B.M., Boom, A., Carr, A.S., Carré, M., Chevalier, M., Meadows, M.E., Pedro, J.B., Stager, J.C., Reimer, P.J 2015. Evolving southwest African response to abrupt deglacial North Atlantic climate change events. Quaternary Science Reviews 121, 132-136.

Carr, A.S., Boom, A., Chase, B.M., Meadows, M.E., Grimes, H.L. 2015. Holocene sea level and environmental change on the west coast of South Africa: evidence from plant biomarkers, stable isotopes and pollen. Journal of Paleolimnology 53 (4), 415-432.


Stable isotopes and desert organic matter

Velez, M.I., Mackenzie, K., Boom, A., Bremond, L., Gonzalez, N., Carr, A.S., Berrio, J.C. 2021. Lacustrine responses to middle and late Holocene anthropogenic activities in the northern tropical Andes. Journal of Paleolimnology, 65, 123-136.

Malherbé, C., Hutchinson, I, Ingley, R., Boom, A., Carr, A.S. Edwards, H., Vertruyen, B., Eppe, G. 2017. On the habitability of desert varnish: A combined study by micro-Raman Spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and methylated pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Astrobiology, 17 (11) 1123-1137.

Herrmann, N., Boom, A., Carr, A.S., Chase, B.M., West, A.G., Zabel, M., Schefuß, E. 2017. Hydrogen isotopic fractionation of leaf wax n-alkanes in soils from southern African ecosystems. Organic Geochemistry 109, 1-13

Herrmann, N., Boom, A., Carr, A.S., Chase, B.M., Granger, R., Hahn, A., Zabel, M., Schefuß, E. 2016. Sources, transport and deposition of terrestrial organic material: A case study from southwestern Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 149, 215-229.

Malherbe, C., Ingley, R., Hutchinson, I., Edwards, H., Carr, A.S., Harris, L., Boom, A. 2015. Biogeological analysis of desert varnish using portable Raman Spectrometers. Astrobiology, 15 (6) 442-452.

Boom, A., Carr, A.S., Chase, B.M., Grimes, H.L., Meadows, M.E. 2014. Leaf wax n-alkanes and δ13C values of CAM plants from arid southwest Africa. Organic Geochemistry 67, 99-102.

Carr, A.S., Boom, A., Grimes. H.L., Chase, B.M., Meadows, M.E., Harris, A. 2014. Leaf wax n-alkane distributions in arid zone South African flora: Environmental controls, chemotaxonomy and palaeoecological implications. Organic Geochemistry, 67, 72-84.

Carr, A.S., Boom, A., Chase, B.M., Meadows, M.E., Roberts, Z.E. Britton, M.N., Cumming, A.M.J. 2013. Biome-scale characterisation and differentiation of semi-arid and arid zone soil organic matter compositions using pyrolysis-GC/MS analysis. Geoderma 200-201, 189 – 201.


Drivers of Quaternary landscape change

Oldknow, C., Oldfield, F., Carr, A.S., Hooke, J.M., Biggin, A., Boyle, J.F., Hunt, A., Shen, Z. 2020. Palustrine wetland formation during the MIS 3 interstadial: implications for preserved alluvial records in the South African Karoo. Sedimentary Geology, 105698

Carr, A.S., Bateman, M.D., Cawthra, H.C., Sealy, J. 2019. First evidence for onshore marine isotope stage 3 aeolianite formation on the southern Cape coastline of South Africa. Marine Geology, 407, 1-15.

Cawthra, H.C., Bateman, M.D., Carr, A.S., Compton, J.S., Holmes, P.J. 2014. Understanding Late Quaternary change at the land–ocean interface: a synthesis of the evolution of the Wilderness coastline, South Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 99, 210-223.

Bateman, M.D., Carr. A.S., Holmes, P.J., Dunajko, A., McLaren, S.J., Marker, M.E., Roberts, D.L, Murray-Wallace, C.V., Bryant, R.G. 2011. The evolution of barrier dune systems: A case study of the Middle-Late Pleistocene Wilderness barrier dunes, South Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 63-81.

Carr, A.S., Bateman, M.D., Roberts, D.L., Murray-Wallace, C.V., Jacobs, Z., Holmes, P.J. 2010 The last interglacial sea-level highstand on the southern Cape coastline of South Africa. Quaternary Research 73, 351-362.



Oldknow, C.J, Carr, A.S., Hooke, J.M, Shen, Z. 2020. The suitability of a low temperature post-IR IRSL signal for dating alluvial and colluvial "cut and fill" sequences in the Great Karoo, South Africa. Quaternary Geochronology, 101064.

Campbell, G.E., Walker, R.T., Abdrakhmatov,, K., Carolin, S., Carr, A.S., Elliot, J.R., Jackson, J., Mackenzie, D., Rizza, M., Rodes, A. 2019. Rapid Late Quaternary slip, repeated prehistoric earthquake rupture, and widespread landsliding associated with the Karakudzhur Thrust, Central Kyrgyz Tien Shan. Tectonics, 38, 3740-3764

Rizza, M., Abdrakhmatov, K.E., Walker, R., Braucher, R., Guillou, Carr, A.S., Campbell, G., McKenzie, D., Jackson, J., Aumaitre, G., Bourles, D.L., Keddadouche, K. 2019. Rate of slip from multiple Quaternary dating methods and paleoseismic investigations along the Talas-Fergana Fault: Tectonic implications for the Tien Shan range. Tectonics, 38, 2477-2505.

Ainscoe, E.A., Abdrakhmatov, K.E., Baikulov, S., Carr, A.S., Elliot, A.J., Grutzner, C, Walker, R.T. 2019. Variability in surface rupture between successive earthquakes in the Suusamyr Fault, Kyrgyz Tien Shan: implications for palaeoseismology. Geophysical Journal International, 216, 703-705.

Carr, A.S., Hay, A.S. Powell, D.M., Livingstone, I. 2019. Testing post-IR IRSL luminescence dating methods in the southwest Mojave Desert, California, USA. Quaternary Geochronology, 49, 85-91.

Mackenzie, D., Walker, R., Abdrakhmatov, K., Campbell, G., Carr, A.S., Gruetzner, C., Mukambayev, A., Rizza, M. 2018. A creeping intracontinental thrust fault: Past and present slip-rates on the northern edge of the Tien Shan, Kazakhstan. Geophysical Journal International 215, 1148-1170.

Abdrakhmatov K., Walker, R., Campbell, G., Carr, A.S., Elliot, A., Hillemann, C., Hollingsworth, J., Landgraf, A., Mackenzie, D., Mukambayev, A., Magali, R., Sloan, A. 2016. Multi-segment rupture in the July 11th 1889 Chilik earthquake (Mw 8.0-8.3), Kazakh Tien Shan, identified from remote-sensing, field survey, and palaeoseismic trenching. Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth 121, 4615-4640. Also a research spotlight, featured in EOS.

Carr, A.S., Armitage, S.J., Berrio-J-C., Bilbao, B.A., Boom, A. 2016. An optical luminescence chronology for late Pleistocene aeolian activity in the Colombian and Venezuelan Llanos. Quaternary Research 85, 299-312.


Postgraduate Supervision

Recently completed

Alex Hay (2017): "A process history of an aeolian transport corridor in the Mojave Desert" with Mark Powell (Leicester) and Ian Livingstone (Northampton).

Genevieve Tyrrell (2019): "Reconstructions of Neotropical hydroclimate: a compound-specific deuterium isotope approach" with Arnoud Boom (Leicester)

Current PhD students

Natalia Gonzalez Michaels: "Holocene palaeohydrological reconstructions for the Colombian Eastern Cordillera using leaf wax n-alkane biomarkers and compound-specific stable isotope analyses" with Dr Arnoud Boom (Leicester).

Berivan Esen: "Organic matter in extreme environments: arid zone soils, rock varnishes and Mars analogues" NERC CENTA, with Dr Arnoud Boom and Dr Ian Hutchinson (Leicester).

Ollie Hardy: "Development of Raman Laser Spectroscopy for Mars: an inter-disciplinary approach" UK Space Agency Aurora funding with Dr Arnoud Boom and Dr Ian Hutchinson (Leicester).

Research areas for PhD supervision

  • Stable isotopes
  • Plant biomarkers
  • Palaeoecology
  • Palynology
  • Pyrolysis-GC/MS
  • Organic matter
  • Desert ecosystems
  • Luminescence (OSL) dating
  • Long-term evolution of landscapes
  • Aeolian landscape history
  • Coastal landscape history

Enquiries: If you are interested in studying for a PhD in one of these research areas, please make informal enquiries via pgrgeog@le.ac.uk.

You can also find out more information about Geography PhDs including more research areas, how to apply, funding and entry requirements.

Share this page:

Contact Details

School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
Bennett Building
University Road
University of Leicester

T: 0116 252 3933

Maps and directions

Student complaints procedure


AccessAble logo

The University of Leicester is committed to equal access to our facilities. DisabledGo has a detailed accessibility guide for the Bennett Building.