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Dr Amy Thomas - Sparkes

Dr Amy Thomas - Sparkes

Postdoctoral Research Associate

+44 (0)29 2087 4325
Room 1.74A, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT


I am a paleoceanographer and geochemist. My research focuses on reconstructing Earth's climate history; specifically changes in ice volume, temperature and ocean circulation that have occurred across critical intervals in the geologic past. My work relies on discovering the chemistry of microfossils, such as foraminifera and fish teeth, found in deep ocean sediments deposited on the seafloor millions of years ago.

Research interests include:

  • Cenozoic paleoclimate and paleoceanography, with specific interest in the Eocene-Oligocene Transition and the Mid-Pliocene
  • Geochemical proxies, with experience in the use of benthic foraminiferal stable isotope and trace element geochemistry (including Mg/Ca paleothermometry) and neodymium isotopes


Career Overview

2020 - present Postdoctoral Research Associate on NERC-NSFGEO funded PLIOAMP project, Cardiff University

2018 Technician in Isotope Analysis, Cardiff University

2017 Research Technician, Cardiff University

Education and Qualifications

2020 PhD (Earth Sciences), Cardiff University

Thesis: 'The North Atlantic Ocean: A Force for Change at Earth's Greenhouse-Icehouse Transition' supervised by Professor Caroline Lear

2013 MRes (Applied Marine Science), Plymouth University

Thesis: 'Sea level changes during Marine Isotope Stage 9: Evidence from the Nar Valley, North Norfolk, UK' supervised by Professor Roland Gehrels 

2012 BSc (Geography), Plymouth University

Honours and awards

2019 The Oceanography Society Travel Award, US$1500

2016 International Conference on Paleoceanography (ICP) Poster Prize 

2015 European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) Scholarship, €900

2014 Antarctic Science Bursary, £4400

2012 Dean's List of Academic Excellence, Plymouth University

Committees and reviewing

2016 - Present Secretary, The Paleoclimate Society


2020 Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (HEA)

2018 Nuffield Student Project Supervisor

2014 - 2019 Postgraduate Demonstrator, Cardiff University

Current Project: PLIOAMP

Currently, I'm working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate on PLIOAMP; a NERC-NSFGEO jointly funded project in collaboration with researchers at the University of Bristol, UK and the University of Massachusetts, USA. The overall aim of our work is to reduce the uncertainty associated with projections of future sea level change by reducing the uncertainty associated with the paleoclimate sea level estimates used to provide constraints in ice sheet models. The PLIOAMP project will produce a new sea level record covering the best available analogue to warming likely to occur over coming decades – the mid-Pliocene. This new record will be used to provide a new set of sea level projections associated with changes in the Antarctic ice sheet set to occur over coming centuries. Based in the CELTIC laboratory at Cardiff University, I will be generating estimates of the amplitude of glacial-interglacial ice volume changes across three key Pliocene intervals using paired benthic foraminiferal stable isotopes and Mg/Ca from three deep ocean sites.

PhD Research

I completed my PhD at Cardiff University under the supervision of Professor Caroline Lear. I completed this research in early 2020 and am currently preparing manuscripts for submission based on this work. My PhD research focused on the changes in  temperature, ice volume and ocean circulation that occurred at the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT) using a combination of benthic foraminiferal stable isotopes and trace elements, and neodymium isotopes from fossil fish teeth. My research generated insights on the globally heterogeneous response in temperature and productivity associated with the initiation of widespread Antarctic glaciation and a significant reorganization of the thermohaline circulation at the EOT.


Past projects