Karin Helmens


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Works at Department of Physical Geography
Telephone 08-16 47 75
Visiting address Svante Arrhenius väg 8
Room X 421
Postal address Inst för naturgeografi 106 91 Stockholm

About me


BSc and MSc in Physical Geography, and PhD in Quaternary Geology, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands; 1977-1990); Postdoctoral Fellow, Universities of Alberta and Lethbridge (Canada; 1990-1994); Visiting and Senior Scientist, University of Lapland (Finland; 1994-2004); Researcher, Stockholm University (Sweden; 2004-); Docent, Stockholm University (2010).


As part of my teaching at Stockholm University I designed and lead a 2 week excursion to northern Fennoscandia for graduate students in the courses ‘Natural Archives’ and ‘Polar and Alpine Environments’. The excursion follows two transects: I) A climate transect out of the northern boreal forest in north-eastern Finland and into the low-arctic tundra on the northern tip of the Varanger Peninsula (north-eastern Norway), along which are observed changes in e.g. vegetation, soils, wetland types, lakes, hydrology, slope processes. II) A landscape transect from a spectacular glacial alpine setting along the coast of north-western Norway to a more continental setting (Varanger Peninsula) showing impressive glacial-fluvial landforms and long sequences of raised marine beaches. Additionally, the type-section of a glacial till overlying striated rocks of the Precambrian Varanger Glaciation is visited.

The excursion program includes daily excursions with long hikes into remote backcountry, lectures at research stations covering topics such as the record of Late Quaternary environmental and climate changes in northern Fennoscandia, coring of lake and peat deposits using a variety of coring devices, and mapping of raised beach complexes. Accommodation is at research stations and in tents (camping on the Barents coast at 70 °N). The overall aim of the excursion is to encourage students to think about a career in science, by I) Taking them to impressive northern boreal and subarctic environments; II) Linking education with ongoing research activities at the Department of Physical Geography; III) Providing some experience in field research. The excursion for several years has enjoyed a large contribution of exchange students (e.g. Erasmus program). 


I have a wide research interest focusing on comprehensive reconstructions of past environmental changes in order to contribute to the understanding of the climate system. Expertise: palynology, multi-proxy comparisons, stratigraphy and geomorphology. My research is further characterized by its multi-disciplinary and -proxy approach involving extensive international collaboration.

Main studies so far have been conducted in two very different ecoclimatic zones and topographic settings, i.e. tropical montane South America (Colombia) and sub-arctic continental Europe (NE Finland), and on different time-scales of the Pliocene-Quaternary (last 5 million years). My research has covered such wide topics as dating of the Pliocene uplift in the northern Andes; Neogene-Quaternary litho-stratigraphy and mapping of the Bogotá Basin; timing and magnitude of Quaternary glaciations, vegetation changes and climate fluctuations in the Colombian Eastern Cordillera; and Late Quaternary stratigraphy, environmental changes (e.g. ecosystem change/response, glaciations, glacial lake evolution) and climate variability at the high-latitude site Sokli.

The last 10 years of study at Sokli (NE Finland) have been extensively funded by grant money from the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB).


Last updated: May 31, 2018

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