Dr Francis Rowney

Dr Francis Rowney

Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Discretionary Member



I am a researcher with interests and experience including (palaeo)ecology, environmental archaeology, environmental epidemiology, public health and interdisciplinary working.

Background and Qualifications

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth
2020 to present

Postdoctoral Research Associate
European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter

PhD Physical Geography "Ecology and climates of Middle Pleistocene interglacials"
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth

MSc Quaternary Science
Royal Holloway and UCL, University of London

BSc (Hons) Geography
University of Hull

Professional membership

British Ecological Society (BES)

Quaternary Research Association (QRA)

Roles on external bodies

Associate of the University of Exeter



Research interests

Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the interdisciplinary Leverhulme-funded Reclaiming Exmoor project, working with Professor Ralph Fyfe and collaborating with colleagues in the Department of History, University of Exeter. In this project, we're exploring the ecological legacies of nineteenth century agricultural "improvements" using high-resolution pollen records and archival documents.

Previously, I was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter. There I worked on the NERC-funded PollerGEN project, exploring associations between airborne grass pollen and population-scale respiratory health. This focussed on population-level respiratory health responses to grass pollen and how these may vary according to grass species. This involved bringing together large public health and environmental datasets. I also worked on an NIHR-funded project investigating links between green-blue spaces and individual-level wellbeing.

I completed a PhD in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth in 2018, conducting research which focused on ‘The ecology and climates of early Middle Pleistocene interglacials in Britain’. This work studied Middle Pleistocene palaeoenvironments through the analysis of sub-fossil insects, pollen and coprophilous fungal spores, with particular focus on local-scale ecological dynamics and regional climates.

Research groups




Rowney, F.M., Fyfe R.M., Anderson, P., Barnett, R., Blake, W., Daley, T., Head, K., MacLeod, A., Matthews I., Smith, D.N. (2022). Ecological consequences of historic moorland ‘improvement’. Biodiversity and Conservation https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02479-6 

Thompson, D.A., Geary, R.S., Rowney, F.M., Fry, R., Watkins, A., Wheeler, B.W., Mizen, A., Akbari, A., Lyons, R.A., Stratton, G., White, J., Rodgers, S.E. (2022). Cohort Profile: The Green and Blue Spaces (GBS) and mental health in Wales e-cohort. International Journal of Epidemiology https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyac080

Kurganskiy, A., Creer, S., de Vere, N., Griffith, G.W., Osborne, N.J., Wheeler, B.W., McInnes, R.N., Clewlow, Y., Barber, A., Brennan, G.L., Hanlon, H.M., Hegarty,M., Potter, C., Rowney, F.M., Adams-Groom, B., Petch, G.M., Pashley, C.H., Satchwell, J., de Weger, L.A., Rasmussen, K., Oliver, G., Sindt, C., Bruffaerts, N., The PollerGEN Consortium, Skjøth, C.A. (2021). Predicting the severity of the grass pollen season and the effect of climate change in Northwest Europe. Science Advances https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abd7658

Rowney, F.M. & Brennan, G.L., Skjøth, C.A., Griffith, G.W., McInnes, R.N., Clewlow, Y., Adams-Groom, B., Barber, A., de Vere, N., Economou, T., Hegarty,M., Hanlon, H.M., Jones, L., Kurganskiy, A., Petch, G.M., Potter, C., Rafiq, A.M., Warner, A., The PollerGEN Consortium, Wheeler, B.W., Osborne, N.J.,Creer, S. (2021). Environmental DNA reveals links between abundance and composition of airborne grass pollen and respiratory health. Current Biology https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.02.019

Brennan, G.L., Potter, C., de Vere, N., Griffith, G.W., Skjøth, C.A., Osborne, N.J., Wheeler, B.W., McInnes, R.N., Clewlow, Y., Barber, A., Hanlon, H.M., Hegarty, M., Jones, L., Kurganskiy, A., Rowney, F.M., Armitage, C., Adams-Groom, B., Ford, C.R., Petch, G.M., The PollerGEN Consortium, Creer, S. (2019) Temperate airborne grass pollen defined by spatio-temporal shifts in community composition. Nature Ecology and Evolution https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0849-7



Other academic activities

Organised SoGEES Research Seminar Series (2021-2022)

Additional information

In the past, I have been involved with ecological survey, practical nature reserve management and natural history outreach as a volunteer.

Related articles on the University website