A look back on 2022

An ancient uplifted coral reef terrace on Kikaijima.

2022 was a busy year for me. I spent almost the entire year in Japan, which was wonderful after spending so much of the past decade travelling around the world. I did do a number of trips within Japan for meetings, including Sapporo, Tokyo and Kikai Island. I had five publications, plus another one accepted that will be out in the next month or so. Things settled down after a very stressful 2020 and 2021. Here is a look back on what I did.


I had one first-author publication last year, which was a reply to comments on my 2021 paper on a topography and ice sheet reconstruction for the past 80,000 years. It actually was much more work to write this paper than what I expected. It started in earnest in mid-2021, and was initially submitted before the end of 2021. I used this reply paper as an opportunity to show a number of locations that provide constraints on past sea level between 60,000 and 20,000 years ago. There aren’t many locations, and I hope that this will provide people with a base to search for more.

Another publication in which I was co-corresponding author was another compilation of sea level indicators for the last interglacial (130-115 thousand years ago), for places that were covered by ice sheets in the MIS 6 glaciation (200-130 thousand years ago). This was a collaborative effort with April Dalton, who organized the literature search and writing the paper, while I entered the data into the WALIS database. This will undoubtedly be used by people trying to reconstruct the size of the ice sheets.

Sebastian Hinck, a student I co-supervised, recently finished his PHD. The main component of his research was incorporating dynamically evolving lakes into the ice sheet model PISM. The paper on this came out last year, and I think will serve as the basis for many modelling studies of past ice sheets, given how much the lakes cause acceleration of the ice flow.

Another paper I worked on with April Dalton came out last year, focusing on the evidence of limited ice sheet extent during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (57-27 thousand years ago). This contradicts many indirect indicators of ice sheet size, namely the marine oxygen isotope record. This presents a challenge to reconstruct ice sheets further in the past, where there are few data due to the erosion of subsequent glaciations.

The final paper was by Hu Yang, which is a modelling study of the Greenland Ice Sheet. He found that including thousands of years of ice sheet history is necessary to properly model the future trajectory of the ice sheet. I mostly served as an advisor on this paper


The first trip of the year was to go to the Japan Geoscience Union conference in May. This was pretty exciting as the first in-person conference for many people since the start of the pandemic. It was great to catch up with colleagues and plan for other meetings later on. I went to Tokyo at the end of June to follow up on that, and got to visit the University of Tokyo and the National Institute of Polar Research. These meetings set up collaborations which will hopefully result in some nice studies in the future. I also made a visit to Sapporo to attend a meeting on Antarctica. I presented some progress I made on assessing the history of the ice sheet.

Perhaps the most interesting trip was in August, when I went to Kikaijima. This is a small island in southern Kagoshima, which is notable in having a very fast tectonic uplift rate. The fast rate has allowed for the preservation of coral reefs that date to between 40-70 thousand years ago. An example of one of these ancient reefs is in the picture at the top of the article. I visited the Kikai Institute for Coral Reef Sciences. With any luck, we will be able to collaborate to deduce past sea level changes.

Finally, I was able to return to Canada for the first time in over three years for Christmas. It was actually the first time I had been home for Christmas since 2009. I am enjoying the cold weather!

Current research and looking towards 2023

I have spent a lot of time in 2022 setting up for future ice sheet reconstruction work. During the past couple of months, in particular, I have gone through my paleo sea level archive. I wanted to do a complete organization of it for some time, as it was cobbled together over the years for other projects. I created a bunch of new scripts in python that automate a lot of things that I was previously doing manually. This will make it easier to add new data. I am currently adding data from Australia.

This project also necessitated the creation of a list of radiocarbon labs to figure out whether or not the labs corrected for carbon isotope fractionation. I was pretty amazed that such a list didn’t exist before, because if fractionation is not corrected for, it can create an error in the age by up to about 400 years. That is not good when you are trying to model sea level. Honestly, I do not know why they started this practice when so many dates had been published without this correction.

Another project that I am hoping to finish soon is my investigation on how lowered sea level 20,000 years ago affected the summer monsoon in Japan. I have the model results, so it is mostly a matter of putting everything together.

One big event that I will hopefully get to is the INQUA conference in Rome. This will be in July, and even if I do not get any funding, I would like to go. This is a fun conference because it gathers together people working on past ice sheets and sea level.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that my research grant will finish at the end of June. I do hope at the very least to get the summer monsoon paper finished and submitted. But at the end of the day, there are limited options to continue with my research in a paid capacity if I want to stay in Japan. I mused about the high probability that my academic research career may be winding down a couple of years ago, and I have been fortunate that I could push the end point a bit later. 2023 may end up being a year of great change.