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MSc. thesis project suggestions

On this page we will continuously post new suggestions for MSc. thesis projects (GEOR02, 45 credits). The latest suggestions are at the top and posts will be removed as they become obsolete. Contact the main supervisor if you are interested. You can also at any time, based on your own interests, discuss different possibilities with your teachers. You can see examples of previous MSc. theses here. Please note that you have to be admitted to the MSc. programme in geology at Lund University to be able to perform one of the suggested projects.

MSc thesis projects with the Lund Luminescence Laboratory

Are you interested in chronology? Are you interested in understanding the progression of climate change, in the evolution of civilisations or in reconstructing past extreme storms? Do you love a combination of field work and lab work? At the Lund Luminescence Laboratory, we use a methodology called luminescence dating to address such research questions in diverse, challenging and exciting places such as Svalbard, Egypt, the Carpathian basin, Cyprus and many places in Scandinavia. We have several ongoing research projects to which master students can contribute:

  • What does the light (luminescence) from quartz tell us about sediment transport paths and processes?
  • What environmental changes took place in SE Europe during the last glacial-interglacial cycle?
  • Does human activity change the properties of quartz?
  • When did storms and storm surges hit southern Sweden in the past?
  • How has the Scanian coast developed through time?
  • How has the relative sea level changed on N Svalbard during the Weichselian glacial period?
  • Can Egyptian faience be dated?
  • Does micro CT imaging destroy ancient objects?
  • How old is the oldest writing system in the world?

If any of this sounds interesting, please contact Helena Alexanderson, Amber Hood or Zoran Perić for more information or discussions of potential thesis topics. More information on some of the projects is presented below.


Using luminescence as a provenance tool for coastal sediments in southern Sweden

Supervisor: Helena Alexanderson
Entered: 2024-01-30

The availability of sand is crucial for maintaining the sandy beaches of southern Sweden. Ongoing erosion of some Scanian beaches, not least in connection with storms, and contrasting rapid accumulation at other beaches, has highlighted the need to better understand the local coastal sand budget, the transport paths in the coastal zone and the controlling factors. To do this, it is important to know where the sand along a specific part of the coast is coming from, that is, the provenance of the sand. Provenance studies are commonly done for example by looking at the heavy mineral assemblage of the sediment or by dating zircons to infer bedrock sources. However, heavy minerals may be transported in different ways from the lighter minerals quartz and feldspar, which typically dominate Swedish beaches, and so may not give representative information. In recent years, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) on quartz and feldspar has been used to determine provenance of, for example, river and beach sediments in other parts of the world. Could it work in Sweden too?

The project would involve literature and map reviews, field work to collect samples along a selected part of the coast, and laboratory work. It would be possible to combine this work (focussed on luminescence analyses) with analyses of traditional provenance proxies (for example, heavy minerals) by two students working with the same material but looking at different proxies, or possibly by one and the same student doing both types of analyses on a smaller number of samples.

Cliff at shore
Erosion of the Kåseberga ridge occurred during the storm Babet in 2023. Could the ridge be an important source of sand for the beaches of south-eastern Scania? Photo: Helena Alexanderson


Reconstruction of climatic and environmental changes during the last glacial-interglacial cycle in the Carpathian Basin

Supervisors: Zoran Perić and Helena Alexanderson
Entered: 2024-01-30

Are you interested in revealing the response of terrestrial systems to past climate changes and the behavior of our atmosphere during the last glacial period? Then this project may be for you.

General information

Loess-palaeosol sequences (LPS) and loess-like sediments are considered as some of the most significant terrestrial archives of climatic change and past atmospheric mineral dust activity, not least due to their nearly continuous deposition. Mineral dust plays an important role in the climate system by interacting with radiation, clouds, and biogeochemical cycles. Loess has great importance in reconstruction of the climate in the past and the loess formations of Central Europe display a close relationship with cooling and warming trends of the Northern Hemisphere during the Pleistocene, thereby sensitively recording regional palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological changes. In general, loess is typical of cold and dry, periglacial climate and environment while the intercalated palaeosols are indicators of warmer and more humid climate, representing interstadials or interglacials.

Main project objectives and methods

The master thesis will focus on the reconstruction of climatic changes and determination of the atmospheric dust activity during the last 30 000 years in Europe. In this project you will use luminescence dating to construct absolute chronologies for one site coupled with magnetic susceptibility measurements of the sediments. This will allow us to determine the timing of sediment deposition, calculate the sedimentation rates and identify potential soil development. The results will yield very reliable indicators on the behavior of the atmosphere and the timing of the main cold and warm periods. The study will also provide completely new insights into the palaeoclimatic changes during the late Quaternary  as it will be conducted on thus far uninvestigated sites.

The project will require a sampling field trip to Serbia where the most preserved and complete loess sequences are located. After the sample collection, the focus will be on developing your laboratory skills and gaining basic understanding and expertise in the method of luminescence dating.


Two uninvestigated sites are available: Vrtište LPS, near the city of Niš in southern Serbia (43° 22′ 13″ S and 21° 48′ 10″ E) and Samoš LPS in the Vojvodina region in northern Serbia (45°12′08″N and 20°46′12″E).

loess section
A section in a loess plateau in Serbia. Photo: Zoran Perić

Production and storage of fire derived black carbon in boreal forest soils

Black carbon (BC) is produced by incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels and consists of carbon rich aromatic residues (char) and condensed carbon particles (soot). It is found in the atmosphere, ocean and inland waters, soils and sediments. It is of great significance for the carbon cycling on Earth and is one of the most important green-house substances. The high surface area can also function as an absorbent of other organic pollutants. BC particles are resistant to degradation and have a long residence time in soils and sediments and are considered a potential carbon sink. The natural production and storage and of BC in soils are therefore key factors in understanding the carbon cycle.

In this project we will measure BC content in soils from forests that burnt in the summer 2018. Our study sites include 50 forest fire sites from southern to norther Sweden, with additional control plots that have not burnt recently. In a previous study (Eckdahl et al in prep) we show that the BC stocks in the mineral soils doubled as a consequence of the forest fires. In this study we will analyse how and where these additional BC is stored in the mineral soils. The BC in soils can be either bound to mineral grains or as free particles in the soils. The research question is to answer if the added BC is in free particulate form or bound to mineral grains in the soils. This is a key question for understanding the cycling of naturally produced BC.

Project plan

The task is to set up a method for separating the mineral bound BC fraction from the free BC fraction. The separation of the two fractions will be achieved by sieving and heavy-liquid separation. BC of the fractions will be isolated by thermal and chemical oxidation, and quantified by flash-combustion elemental analysis. We will also use spectroscopic methods and microscopy to characterise the BC-fractions, potentially including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and x-ray photon spectroscopy (XPS).

The laboratory work will be at the Department of Geology during spring 2022.

The project can be either set up as a 30 or 45 credit project.

Is this for you?

This project is laboratory intense and is suitable if you want to develop laboratory skills and work in a research project. We think that you have some basic laboratory training from previous courses and want to work with new methods and method development.

Main supervisor: Karl Ljung (Geology Lund Univeristy).

Co-supervisors: Johan Eckdahl (Lund and Umeå Univeristy); Dan Metcalfe (Umeå University); Jeppe Kristensen (Oxford University)

Contact: Karl Ljung, karl [dot] ljung [at] geol [dot] lu [dot] se (karl[dot]ljung[at]geol[dot]lu[dot]se), 046-2223996

Inlagt: 2022-01-03

Age and origin of postglacial sediment slumps in Lake Siljan, central Sweden

As part of an ongoing project focussing on the deglaciation dynamics and subsequent lake development of the Siljan region in the county of Dalarna, sediment records from 20-50 m depth in Lake Orsajön have already been obtained. Together with detailed sonar-based bathymetry surveys, these investigations provide evidence of km-sized sediment slumps at great depths that probably took place in the early Holocene. To clarify their timing and triggering processes, similar slump deposits in the even larger and deeper Lake Siljan will be sampled by piston coring in the early spring of 2022. An opportunity for a master thesis project, preferably involving participation in the fieldwork, is offered based on this material. The methods involved will include age determination and age modelling based on radiocarbon dating, lithological and geochemical analyses of lake sediments, as well as interpretation of geophysical data. NOTE: The fieldwork is planned take place during the first week of March, so please let us know as soon as possible if you are interested.

bathymetry image
Sonar-based bathymetry image (depth scale in m) of the southern part of the deep channel running through Lake Siljan, demonstrating a massive slump scar through sloping sediments and adjacent dislocated deposits. The inset photograph shows the preferred fieldwork approach, UWITEC piston coring, for sampling of sediment records from deep lakes.

Supervisors: Dan Hammarlund, Per Möller, Karl Ljung
Date added: 2021-12-02

Solar storms in a paleoperspective

The recent discovery of abrupt short-term radionuclide production rate increases received considerable attention since they can be related to enormous solar storms (see e.g. ).  Such an event could have devastating effects on our technological infrastructure today. Significant efforts are nowadays focusing on high-resolution (annual) 14C measurements in tree rings to identify more of such events. However, ice core 10Be and 36Cl records have the potential to (i) increase the possibility for more reliable detection of such strong solar storm events and (ii) characterise such events in terms of number of particles and energy.

The master thesis will focus on the investigation of potential new solar storm events. It will likely involve ice core sampling at the ice core storage in Copenhagen and it will involve 10Be and 36Cl sample preparation at Lund University. The analysis will include an assessment of the likelihood of the identification of new solar storm event and an assessment of its characteristics.

Supervisors: Raimund Muscheler, Florian Mekhaldi
Date added: 2019-01-24

Are you a geology student and interested in archeology and palynology?

Write your thesis within the project "Archeology in Vännebo - a research study"

The lake Vännebosjön is located in Roasjö parish, Svenljunga municipality, Västergötland (approx. 200 km north of Lund). Along its eastern shore, a number of Iron Age metal objects have been found, including gilded horse harness details, weapons and more, that could typically be dated to the Migration Period, ie around AD 400-550.
The history of the area is relatively unknown despite its spectacular finds. Therefore, with the help of modern archaeological methodology and interdisciplinary working methods, we want to try to understand the development of the site during prehistoric times in general and the migration period in particular. Was there a settlement adjacent to the place of sacrifice? If so, where was it? When were the possible settlements established and how have the landscape and vegetation changed in the vicinity of the lake during the Middle and Late Iron Age?

Pollen analysis of the lake sediments in Vännebosjön, preferably two drill cores - that will be your task!
Other interdisciplinary methods that will be used: soil chemical analyzes, georadar and magnetometer surveys, metal detection.

The goal is to carry out the field work steps (including the pollen analysis) during 2021 and 2022. The time frame is flexible and depending on how the analysis results turn out, the project will be extended.

Supervisors: Karl Ljung, Anne Birgitte Nielsen
In collaboration with archaeologists: Elinor Malmberg, Simon Karlsson, Kulturmiljö, VGR
Date added: 2021-04-16


eichstatt berlin
Photo: Elisabeth Einarsson