Maria Dance

Maria Dance

The influence of Holocene sea-ice variability on Arctic biota: using the past to predict the future

Academic Profile


I have recently completed an MRes in Ecosystem & Environmental Change at Imperial College London after achieving a BA (Hons) in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford. For my master’s thesis I determined whether plant populations may be able to migrate faster than previously thought in response to climate change; I reconstructed the velocities of vegetation change during rapid, natural climate changes (Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles) of the last glacial period and compared these rates with estimated rates for 21st century climate change.

Grants and Awards

2014, 2015 – Summer Grant, Oxford University Society (East Kent)

2014, 2015  – Special Grant, St John’s College

2015 – Casberd Scholarship , St John’s College

2016 – Adams Bursary, St John’s College

2016 – College Prize for for achieving a First in Final Honour Schools, St John’s College

2017 – GCEE Prize, Imperial College London

Additional Research Experience

I have practical ecological fieldwork experience in tropical and temperate systems.  I conducted fieldwork for my undergraduate thesis in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, and I also carried out a variety of fieldwork in Danum Valley, Borneo, for a tropical forest ecology course.  In 2014 I spent the summer as an ornithological research assistant in Sulawesi, Indonesia.  As part of an internship at Oxford University Museum of Natural History (2015) I performed taxonomic identification of species samples for a project on dung beetle diversity and associated ecosystem functioning for the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) project in Sabah, Borneo.

Current Research

Sea ice provides an important seasonal habitat and dispersal corridor for many Arctic species and acts as a major geographic barrier for others; it influences the abundance, distributions, and interactions of marine and terrestrial species. I plan to continue my focus on long-term ecology to test hypotheses on the importance of Arctic sea ice for a broad range of biota during the the Holocene period (11,700 years to present).  Using pan-Arctic, driftwood-based sea ice reconstructions and phylogeographic data to compare long-term sea ice dynamics with species population histories will improve predictions of the impacts of climate-driven sea ice loss throughout the Arctic.


Dance M., Harrison S. P., Prentice, I. C. (2018).  The velocity of vegetation response to rapid climate changes in the past.  Abstract EGU2018-5509 presented at 2018 General Assembly, European Geosciences Union. Vienna, 8-13 Apr.

Associated Research Streams

Maria Dance

Contact information

Associated Supervisors