This theme focuses on the reconstruction of long-term changes to environment, landscape and climate, with links to human activity during prehistory and early history.

Staff within this theme possess expertise in a wide range of palaeoenvironmental techniques including:

  • palynology
  • plant macrofossil analysis
  • the use of non-pollen microfossils (eg testate amoebae, fungal spores, microscopic charcoal)
  • peat geochemistry
  • stable isotopes

These are supported through the development of geochronologies which are established largely through radiocarbon (14C) and lead (210Pb) dating.

Much of the research undertaken in Palaeoecology is aligned with the theme The North as outlined in the University’s strategic plan.

Our research is collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature. At present we are invested in projects that include research overlaps with those of our colleagues in Archaeology within the School of Geosciences (specifically the Bioarchaeology and Geoarchaeology research themes within Archaeology of the North).

We also maintain links with The James Hutton Institute and a range of UK and International colleagues whose interests span a variety of disciplines including:

  • Archaeology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • History
  • Physics
  • Scandinavian Studies

Research undertaken by this group covers a wide geographical area with on-going projects based in both UK and near-Arctic environments (eg Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Scandinavia), and in the southern hemisphere (eg South Africa, Chile, and Argentina).

Key research themes include:

  • The impacts of Viking/Norse settlement on ‘pristine’ island environments across the North Atlantic.
  • The Lateglacial, prehistoric and historical environments of the British Isles.
  • Geochemical analyses of heavy metals (eg tin, lead and copper) contained in peat profiles; these are deployed  in studies of  European metallurgical history and the influence of anthropogenic forcing on global biogeochemical cycles.
  • Quantitative reconstructions of late-Holocene climate change from ombrotrophic peat bogs in southern South America.