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Armstrong McKay’s research focuses on mapping and modelling nonlinear biosphere-climate interactions, feedbacks, and tipping points in the Earth system as part of the ERC-funded 'Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene' (ERA) project.
A key task of the ERA project is the analysis of the nonlinear biosphere dynamics governing Earth resilience in the Anthropocene, in order to improve our understanding of tipping points in biophysical systems. This requires modelling of the key interactions and feedbacks between Earth system elements, investigating how changing ecosystem dynamics modulate the strength and form of these interactions, and assessing the potential for cascading tipping points across them. Key interactions include between climate change, the marine biological pump, and acidification in the ocean, and between climate change, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience on land (in e.g. tropical and boreal biomes). Armstrong McKay uses a selection of Earth system models (e.g. ecoGEnIE), ecosystem models (e.g. LPJmL and Madingley), and more stylised models to analyse these interactions and their potential for nonlinear dynamics within a socio-ecological framework.
Armstrong McKay completed his MSc and PhD at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (University of Southampton). His doctoral thesis used Earth system and biogeochemical modelling to investigate the drivers of perturbations to the Cenozoic carbon-climate system. This included the biogeochemical impacts of events such as Large Igneous Province eruptions and the initiation of glaciation on Antarctica, as well as assessing the potential of early warning signals across climate shifts like the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
He subsequently worked as a postdoctoral researcher in NOCS and Southampton’s Geography and Environment Department, including on projects assessing the impact of sustainable intensification on ecosystem services both in England and globally, and developing new metrics and models of lake ecosystem resilience during eutrophication. He also used agent-based models to explore the potential benefits of microinsurance cooperatives for vulnerable farmers in coastal Bangladesh.