University of St Andrews



My BSc is in Geology and Zoology (Royal Holloway University of London, 1995). My PhD research, supervised by Prof Sir Nick Shackleton, was in Quaternary palaeoclimatology and concerned the relationship between marine and terrestrial records of abrupt climatic change in southern Europe during the last glaciation (University of Cambridge, 2000). I completed a MSc degree in Science Communication (Imperial College London, 2001) and spent a further year working as a freelance science writer. In 2002, I began work as a NERC-funded post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds with Prof Chronis Tzedakis, initially working on marine pollen records of the middle Pleistocene from the Iberian margin and then on terrestrial pollen records of the same interval from Lake Ioannina, Greece.  I was appointed as Lecturer in the School of Geography, University of in Leeds in 2007 and, with colleagues there, established a collaborative research project investigating the long-term history of tropical forests, particularly in Amazonia. I moved to my current post as Lecturer in Physical Geography (Environmental Change) in the School of Geography and Sustainability at the University of St Andrews in August 2014 and am part of the Environmental Change Research Group.



Research Interests

I specialise in long-term ecology and palaeoclimatology. The focus of my research is the use of palaeoecological methods, in particular sub-fossil pollen and sediments, to reconstruct past vegetation responses to climatic change and anthropogenic activity during the Pleistocene and Holocene. I am currently working on the Holocene history of tropical (particularly Amazonian) peatlands where we are investigating questions of carbon dynamics, ecological change, and the effects of human activities on peatland ecosystem function. I am leading a Leverhulme Trust funded research project entitled Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands: An Interdisciplinary Challenge which is investigating how mestizo and indigenous communities, in the Pastaza-Maranon Foreland Basin in Peruvian Amazonia, use and value their peatlands (see project website). I continue to be involved in work on pollen records spanning multiple glacial-interglacial cycles from the Mediterranean region.  

  • Long-term ecology
  • Tropical peatlands
  • Long term dynamics of tropical forests
  • Quaternary palaeoecology
  • Pollen analysis in ocean, lake and peat records
  • Mediterranean palaeoclimate reconstruction



Postgraduate Students

  • William Hiles:  September 2015 to  Spring 2019. Title: The palaeoecological impacts of the Norse settlement of Iceland: a palynological approach.  Funding: University of St Andrews. Principal supervisor: Dr Ian Lawson; other co-supervisor: Dr Richard Streeter.
  • Anna Macphie: September 2018 to 2022. Title: Human impacts on Amazon peatlands. Co-supervisor: Laurie Miles (CASE partner, UN-World Conservation Monitoring Centre).  NERC CASE Studentship.