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Everything comes naturally for science expert Angus.

Byline: Tony Henderson

WHEN your subject covers 2.6 million years, then 50 years here or there wouldn't seem to matter much.

But they do to Dr Angus Lunn. For this coming week Angus embarks on his 50th year of teaching about the Quaternary, or the last 2.6m years of geological time which includes human evolution.

Angus worked as a lecturer in natural sciences at Newcastle University. When he retired 15 years ago he did so as head of adult education at the university. He taught his first classes at King's College, which became Newcastle University.

As adult education has been hit by cuts, the course is now offered at the university for 20 weeks from October 6 by the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

The course will look at topics such as climate change, the last glacial age in Britain, human development, and the migration and extinction of plants and animals.

But the exploration of climatic, geological and biological events changes constantly with continuous new research findings.

"The subject is always markedly different because there is always new research which changes or advances what we know about the past," says Angus, who lives at Heddon on the Wall in Northumberland.

"The subject is so vast that the course itself continues to evolve and as far as is possible I try to focus on the North of England."

It means students keep coming back - like Dr Janet Simkin from Ponteland who will be attending the class for the 18th time this year.

She says: "It's such a broad subject, everything from ice sheets and climate change to woolly mammoths, there is always something new to learn."

Angus says: "During the Quaternary, the climate oscillated between temperate and cold. Prior to that, it did not change as often or as much."

Extinctions included animals such as the woolly mammoth and rhino, great elk and sabre-toothed tiger.

"There is controversy over whether humans or climate change caused the extinctions," says Angus.

It was only 20,000 years ago - not long in geological time - that half of Britain including the North East was under the ice sheets.

"Humans exactly like us existed at that time," says Angus.

"During the cold phase the climate swung violently between milder and very cold. About 40,000 years ago the climate was oscillating madly." The last 11,000 years have been stable climate-wise, allowing human civilization to develop.

But he says: "Climate change is now going in a new direction. It is becoming warmer than it has ever been in the last 2.6 million years.

"There is no doubt that human carbon dioxide emissions are a major part of this and we most certainly should be concerned.

Details of Angus's course can be found at http://www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk/activities-courses.php or by contacting the Natural History Society on 0191 232 6386.

Angus, who played a major role in saving the internationally important Border Mires wetlands in Northumberland and Cumbria, has been honoured with the Wildlife Trust's Christopher Cadbury Award.

He was one of the original members of the Northumberland and Durham Naturalists' Trust which began life in 1962.

He is a vice-president of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and was chairman of the Council for National Parks for 10 years.

He now serves on the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

In 2004 he published the New Naturalist Northumberland volume, a definitive natural history study of the county.

Apart from natural history, his other great passion is Newcastle United.

His great uncle, James Lunn, was chairman of the club in the 1930s and Angus is a lifelong fan.

When United played in Europe, Angus switched his courses from Wednesday to Thursdays so he could attend the cup games.

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NATURAL Dr Angus Lunn at the Border Mires in Northumberland
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2011
Words:638
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