NASA image of the day



I am a Physical Geographer and Quaternary Scientist. From September, 2014 I will be based in the Geography department at the University of Manchester from September as a Lecturer in Physical Geography. 

My research interests lie within understanding the dynamics of dryland systems, including environmental change, landscape dynamics and groundwater resources. 

I am interested in these processes and dynamics over a range of timescales and address two broad themes:
  • Chemical tracers as novel archives of groundwater recharge and palaeomoisture.
  • late Quaternary (~250,000 years) landscape dynamics using geoproxies (including sand dunes, water-lain sediments and fluvial tufa and applying OSL and U-series dating).


1) Chemical Tracers as novel archives

A) Rainfall in the desert sand

With the Thesiger-Oman International Fellowship from the Royal Geographic Society I sampled linear dunes above the Stampriet Aquifer in southern Namibia to investigate rates of recharge to groundwater over the past few decades in the region. The data also provides a record of relative moisture changes through time, which is a novel proxy for moisture availability in the desert environment. Read research report. 

And thanks also to the British Society for Geomorphology, who have awarded me a small Reseach Grant, which completed funding for the first phase of fieldwork and laboratory analysis. 

The second phase of fieldwork started in April, 2013, and i
nvestigates whether geomorphological setting controls variations in the records preserved. Thanks to the Quaternary Research Association for funding towards this second phase.

B) Palaeomoisture records in the sandy deserts

With Mike Edmunds I am reviewing the application and developments of using  chemical proxies in sand dunes and sediments (the unsaturated zone) as novel proxies for past moisture availability. 

2) Quaternary environmental dynamics using geoproxies

A) Casting new light on Quaternary environmental change in the Namib Desert.

The application of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) in the Namib Desert is casting new light on the nature and dynamics of late Quaternary environments in the region. See my paper in press in the Journal of Arid Environments, and chapter in The CHANGING DESERTS - Integrating people and their environments book

Have a look at the coverage on BBC Earth News, and Oxford Uni news on the Oxford Deserts conference featuring pictures from my fieldwork in the Namib Desert.

B) Dating generations of dunes

The Namib Dese
rt is one of the earth's oldest deserts. Above the semi-consolidated, tertiary-aged Tsondab Sandstone, lies the the Namib Sand Sea (the unconsolidated dunes). This sand sea contains a range of dune types, and amongst the largest dune forms found on earth. There is a paucity of chronological control for these dunes with three previous studies, providing a handful of ages. This study aims to provide new OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) ages in a region of 'dendritic dune morphology'. The different sizes and orientations of dunes appear to represent very different conditions.


 I teach physical geography at St John's College

Prelims (first year) Physical Geography (Earth System Processes)
  • Climatology, Geomorphology, Ecology of the Biosphere.
Prelims Geographical Techniques
  • Statistics, Earth Observation.
Prelims Geographical Controversies. 

Final Honours School Physical Geography (Earth System Dynamics)
  • Earth's Climate: past, present and future
  • Landscapes and the Earth System 
Final Honours School Environmental Geography
  • Land degradation and desertification
  • Biodiversity loss
  • African environmentalism
Final Honours School Geographical Research Methods 

I am also a tutor for the Quaternary Period and Dryland Environments special subjects for Final Honours School at the School of Geography and the Environment.


On the 1st - 3rd of September, the Annual Conference of the British Society for Geomorphology (BSG)
Geomorphology: Past, Present and Future will be held at the University of Manchester.
Look out for my poster with Mark Bateman, Dave Thomas, Charlie Bristow, Ian Livingstone, Kevin White and Giles Wiggs on Dating desert dunefields (the Namib Sand Sea). I will be in attendance on day 3.

I have just attended an excellent week of talks and posters at the 14th edition of the Luminescence and Electron Spin Resonance Dating conference (LED) in Montreal, where I presented a poster with Mark Bateman (and other members of the Working Group on Sand Seas and Dunefields), which compares the output from a portable reader with full laboratory measurements of the quartz signal using a SAR protocol. 'Dating large dunes in the southern Namib using OSL' 

I look forward to returning to the laboratory to compete measurements on a second batch of samples to make a comparison of the ability of the portable reader to pick up differences between young (< 2,000 year old) and older (110, 000 year old) samples. 

Here are some thoughts on the puzzle of LGM climate and environmental conditions in southern AfricaI'm interested to hear any views on this and the on ways forward...

In the (only very slightly soggy) sands of the Kalahari, some locations contain a lot of nitrate. Is this sheep pee or has it been biologically produced by vegetation that behaves in transient manner across landscapes over decades?  Read here for what I and Mike Edmunds think, and you decide


5 most recent here, view publications page for more (and for copies of these publications please email me) 

Stone, A. E. C. (2014) Last Glacial Maximum conditions in southern Africa: Are we any closer to understanding the climate of this time period? Progress in Physical Geography. 

Stone, A. E. C.
, Edmunds, W. M. (2014) Naturally-high nitrate in the unsaturated zone sand dunes above the Stampriet Basin, Namibia. Journal of Arid Environments 105, 41-51.

Stone, A. E. C.
(2013) Age and dynamics of the Namib Sand Sea: A review of chronological evidence and possible landscape development models. Journal of African Earth Sciences 82, 70-87.  

Stone, A. E. C.
, and Thomas, D. S. G. (2013 - online view since 2011) Casting new light on late Quaternary environmental and palaeohydrological change in the Namib Desert: A review of the application of optically stimulated luminescence in the region. Journal of Arid Environments 93, 40-58. 

Stone, A. E. C.
Edmunds, W. M. (2012) Sand, salt and water in the Stampriet Basin,Namibia: Calculating unsaturated zone (Kalahari dune-field) recharge using thechloride mass balance approach.Water SA 38(3), 367-377


I prepared a FACT SHEET for visitors to the Kalahari Anib Lodge, Namibia (to whom we are very grateful for granting us permission to sample dunes). Dr Chris Brown, chairman of the Gondwana Collection environmental committee has developed this into a large tourist infomation board.


Interesting links...

Quaternary Science and Soil/Sand Gets Speedy

My colleauge Matt was contacted by these speed-seekers, who want to understand more about the composition of the pan surface in South Africa they plan to tear across with a hybrid rocket and Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine! ZOOM...

Gobabeb - 50 years persistent research and fascination
A wonderful place in the desert, hosting both SAAG and SAASQUA conferences in 2012. As part of the celebrations (and to  honour Mary Seely's 70th Birthday) I have paper in JofAE. 

Useful Quaternary Science datasources 
can be found be obtained and downloaded from:


I enjoy playing sports taking photos and listening to new music, including local bands Stornaway and Little Fishand further flung artists, such as Mark Bethune.


Desert refreshment