The SPECIAL group focuses on the reconstruction and analysis of past climate and terrestrial environmental changes. We are involved in large-scale syntheses of many different types of palaeodata (e.g. isotopes from speleothems, hydrological changes documented by lakes), quantitative climate and vegetation reconstructions (e.g. using pollen and macrofossil data), and palaeoclimate analysis (using both observations and climate model experiments). We also develop and use process-based biosphere models of different levels of complexity, from models of individual tree growth to fire-enabled vegetation models, to facilitate comparisons with paleoenvironmental observations and to explore hypotheses about the causes of biosphere changes. Our model development work increasingly involves collection and analysis of modern data (e.g. plant traits). Our ultimate goal is to improve future projections of changes in climate and the terrestrial biosphere by exploiting the power of the past.