The Past and Future Change Team

Laura Robinson

University of Bristol

Co-Principal Investigator

Laura was lucky enough to visit the northern Chilean fjords in 2007, at the end of a sampling campaign to study how erosion and climate affects the chemistry of rivers. After ten years, PISCES will allow her to continue this study by travelling deeper south into the fjord lands and exploring the effects of glacial erosion.  Her main research, which has taken her on major ocean going expeditions around the world, focusses on using corals to examine the history of the oceans (see her TED talk here). Surprisingly, the fjords contain an incredible abundance of marine animals – including fields of corals that are normally only found in the deep sea. This unusual combination of corals growing in shallow fjord waters and the chance to sample rivers and glacial flow will give us an exciting opportunity to learn more about the controls on coral growth. We will also be able to use analyses on fossil coral skeletons to give unique insights into the history of the fjord environment.


Sandra Arndt

University of Bristol


Sandra is leading the development and application of coupled reaction-transport models for the investigated fjords that will be used to assess the fate of carbon and nutrient inputs along the land-ocean transition, and its present and future impact on the biogeochemical functioning of the fjord.

More generally, Sandra is interested in understanding the fate of carbon (and associated nutrients) as it cycles through the Earth system, in particular across its interfaces (such as the sediment-water, the ice-ocean or the land-ocean interface). To answer these research question, she develops and applies state-of-the-art numerical modelling tools ranging from Earth System Models, to General Circulation Models, Early Diagenetic Models, coupled estuarine models and Microbial Models.

In a previous life, Sandra enjoyed playing basketball, hiking and cycling. However, she now spends all her free time digging deep holes into local beaches, looking for the Gruffalo cave, repairing LEGO helicopters or providing assistance at the climbing frame in the local park.

Helena Pryer

University of Bristol

PhD Student

Helena is a first year PhD student at the University of Bristol, funded by the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership. She will be involved in a 1000 km sampling campaign down the length of the Carretera Austral, investigating how the geochemical signature of surface runoff varies with increasing glacial coverage. She aims to use this information to develop novel isotopic proxies for terrestrial inputs into the fjords, encoded in sediment cores and fjord-dwelling corals. This will hopefully enable high-resolution reconstruction of glacial dynamics in the region, allowing for a better understanding of the feedback mechanisms of the fjord environment and aiding predictions of how these critical ecosystems are likely to respond to future change.  Helena is excited to get cold, wet and muddy collecting her samples and is secretly hoping for the chance to go diving in the fjords. She is not excited to eat dehydrated food.