Dr Nicki Whitehouse

Dr Nicki Whitehouse

Associate Professor (Reader) in Physical Geography

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science & Engineering)


I am a palaeoecologist and environmental archaeologist with a broad interest in late Quaternary environmental change. My expertise lies in the analysis of sub-fossil beetles in a variety palaeoenvironments, and I am primarily concerned with questions of environmental change, particularly over the late glacial and early-mid-Holocene, palaeoecology and biodiversity, understanding Holocene landscape structure and the development of the cultural landscape, especially the transition to the Neolithic. This research is funded via the Heritage Council (Ireland), NERC, AHRC, and British Academy.

Much of my recent work has been concerned with examining early Holocene landscape and woodland structure in response to natural and human-induced change and especially the transition to agriculture in the Neolithic, its chronology, effects on the landscape and the extent to which such activities impacted the cultural landscape and its implications for the British and Irish Neolithic. 

I am PI on the 'Cultivating Societies' project, which has been concerned with re-examining the transition and development of the Neolithic in Ireland. The project includes a publicly database of Irish plant macro fossils for the period. I am a founder member (together with Jane Bunting, University of Hull) of the 'Bridging the Gap' network, an informal group of ecologists, conservation managers and palaeoecologists interested in exploring the ways in which long term perspectives (considered as 100-10 000 year time spans) can contribute to understanding present ecosystems and ecosystem processes and to predicting future responses to environmental and management change.


BA Archaeology (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1988);

MSc Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy (University of Sheffield, 1993);
PhD University of Sheffield (1999);
Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHET) (2001);

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (FRES);

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA);
Association for Environmental Archaeologists (AEA);
Quaternary Research Association (QRA);
European Association for Archaeologists (EAA);

Roles on external bodies

President for INQUA Humans and Biosphere Commission HABCOMM (2011-2015) (International Union for Quaternary Research)

AHRC Peer Review College Member (2010-date)
Editorial Board Quaternary International (2011-date)
Committee Member, Association for Environmental Archaeology (2013-2016)

Teaching interests

I mostly teach in areas associated withpalaeoecology, long-term ecology, environmental change, environmentalarchaeology and Quaternary Science. My particular area of expertise is inQuaternary entomology (fossil beetles). I am happy to supervise dissertationstudents in any of these research areas.

I am currently module convener for threeundergraduate and MSc/MRes modules:


GGP320: Longterm ecology and conservation


EAR5101: Research Methods


SCI5201& SCI5301: MRes & MSc dissertations for Environmental and Marine ScienceMasters students


I also contribute teaching on the followingmodules:


Tutorials& key skills in Geography (GGX101)


Fieldworkskills in SW England: Bath (GGX102)


IntroducingPhysical Geography (GGP101)


Quaternaryenvironments and archaeology (GGP200)


Fieldworkin Geography (Brittany) (GGX2020)


Dissertationin Geography (GGX307)

Research interests

I have a broad interest in human-environment relationships with a particular focus at the interface between the physical sciences and humanities. 

My primary expertiselies in the analysis of sub-fossil insects (beetles) although I work with a range of proxy data and scientific techniques to further our understanding of the inter-relationships between archaeology, environmental and climatic change, changing biodiversity as a consequence of climate change and human impact, the development of the cultural landscape and in particular the transition to agriculture.

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

Fran Rowney (Plymouth University): Refining the climatic, landscape, and ecological context of early human occupation in the early Middle Pleistocene  (funded by Plymouth University studentship)(with R. Fyfe, Plymouth, D. Schreve, Royal Holloway), October 2013-Oct 2016.

Georgina Milne (QUB): Environmental niche evolution and ancestral niche reconstruction , University Strategic Studentship (DEL-funded) joint with Dr Alison Cameron, Biology. QUB, October 2012-Oct 2015.

Geoff Hill (QUB) : Can we determine open-ness inthe palaeoecological record? Interpreting Holocene landscapes using modern analogues (October 2011-Oct 2014). DEL-funded, supervised with Dr Helen Roe, QUB.

Completed PhD’s:

Dr Stephen Clarke (QUB) Irish Court Tombs: Structure,Morphology and Landscape Setting’

Dr Jenny Watson (QUB), “Quantifying climate change across northern Europe during the Last Glacial-Interglacial Transition (10-15ka BP) using two insect proxies” (with Steve Brooks, Natural History Museum, London; DEL funded) 

Dr Lauren Mansell (QUB) Floodplain-mire interactions and palaeoecology: implications for wetland ontogeny and Holocene climate change”.(with Dr Helen Roe, QUB and Dr Ben Gearey, UCC; DEL funded) 

Dr Simon Morton (QUB), “Rates of spread of populations of plants and animals in response to climate change” (with Prof Keith Bennett QUB, APG studentship to Prof  Bennett). 

Grants & contracts

Funded Research Projects:

AHRC Celtic Connections and Crannogs: A new Study of Lake Settlements Across the Irish Sea

3 year AHRC funded project (2015-2018) which I am Co-I on explores the role of crannogs,island dwellings that weretypically located in lakes and mires and have a distribution centred around theNorthern Irish Sea (‘Celtic’ distribution across the north of Ireland andScotland). Many were constructed during the Iron Age, ca. 2500 years ago and usedup until the Medieval Period. The project is concerned with understanding therole of crannogs in societies – were they long-lived, restricted to a short periodof use, permanent (year-round) settlements, seasonally occupied or ‘boltholes’?Were they functional and/or ritual sites or did they have a defensive/protectivefunction for the elite? Questions around the role of crannogs in the spread ofChristianity through the Celtic world, isolated from Roman Britain are also ofconcern. 

Reconstructing the ‘Wildscape’;Thorne and Hatfield Moors Hidden Landscapes (Wildscape HHLP) 

5 yearproject (October 2016 –Sept 2021) HLF funded project (£130,000). PI: N.Whitehouse, Co-I’s: B.G. Gearey, H. Chapman. The project is concerned with revealing the pasthidden ‘wildscape’ landscape (archaeological, palaeoecological) in theHumberhead Levels. Building upon existing scientific knowledge and newcommunity projects, the work is intended to provide an improved sense of‘place’ and understanding of archaeological narratives to local communities aswell as long-term ecological insights into land management of wetland areasundergoing restoration and to create policybriefings that take into consideration the long durée character of culturallandscapes. The work builds uponalmost 2 decades of mine and collaborators previous research in this region.

Fragility and sustainability inrestricted island environments: adaptation, cultural change and collapse inprehistory (FRAGSUS): This5 year (2013-2018) 2.5m ERC funded project is a collaborativeproject with QUB (PI), the University of Cambridge, University of Malta andUniversity of Plymouth (Co-I), involving 19 academics and 12 researchers. Theproject explores the rise and fall of civilisations within an island context (Malta)and focuses on the particular conditions and circumstances that make societieschange, adapt and become sustainable. Understandingbetter those mechanisms of resilience may resonate with issues in our modernworld, as well as the world of prehistory. 

CultivatingSocieties: Assessing the Evidence for Agriculture in Neolithic Ireland (funded viaINSTAR research programme 2008 – 2010, £210,000, Heritage Council, Republic ofIreland – Whitehouse, PI). The project has provided internationally importantdata for understanding the context of the Neolithic and transition to agricultureacross Europe and offers opportunities to expand this approach across to otherareas of the British Isles and into Continental Europe. 

Key publications are highlighted

Langford H, Boreham S, Briant RM, Coope GR, Horne DG, Penkman KEH, Schreve DC, Whitehouse NJ & Whittaker JE 2017 'Evidence for the early onset of the Ipswichian thermal optimum: palaeoecology of Last Interglacial deposits at Whittlesey, eastern England' Journal of the Geological Society PEARL
Schulting R, Sheridan A, McClatchie A, McLaughlin R, Barratt P & Whitehouse N 2017 'Radiocarbon dating of a multi-phase passage tomb on Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow' Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society PEARL
McClatchie M, Bogaard A, Colledge S, Whitehouse NJ, Schulting RJ, Barratt P & McLaughlin TR 2016 'Farming and foraging in Neolithic Ireland: an archaeobotanical perspective' ANTIQUITY 90, (350) 302-318 Author Site
Wohlfarth B, MUSCHITIELLO F, Greenwood S, Andersson A, Kylander M, SMITTENBERG R, STEINTHORSDOTTIR M, Watson J & Whitehouse N 2016 'Hässeldala – a key site for Last Termination climate events in northern Europe' Boreas PEARL
Lancelotti C, Zurro D, Whitehouse NJ, Madella M, Kramer K, García-Granero JJ & Greaves R 2016 'Resilience of small-scale societies’ livelihoods: a framework for studying the transition from food gathering to food production' Ecology and Society 21(4): 8, , DOI PEARL
McLaughlin TR, Whitehouse NJ, Schulting RJ, McClatchie M, Barratt P & Bogaard A 2016 'The Changing Face of Neolithic and Bronze Age Ireland: A Big Data Approach to the Settlement and Burial Records' World Prehistory 29, (2) 117-153 , DOI PEARL
McClatchie M, Bogaard A, Colledge S, Whitehouse NJ, Schulting R & Barratt P 2016 'The introduction of agriculture into Ireland: a review of the plant macro-remains evidence' Antiquity 90, (350) 302-318 , DOI PEARL
Muschitiello F, Pausata FSR, Watson J, Smittenberg R, Abubakr AM, Brooks SJ, Whitehouse NJ, Karlatou-Charalampopoulou A & Wolfarth B 2015 'Fennoscandian freshwater control on Greenland hydroclimate shifts at the onset of the Younger Dryas' Nature Communications 6, , DOI PEARL
Grant MG, Stevens CJ, Whitehouse NJ, Norcott D, Macphail RI, Langdon C, Cameron N, Barnett C, Langdon PG & Crowder J 2014 'A palaeoenvironmental context for Terminal Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic activity in the Colne Valley: offsite records contemporary with occupation at Three Ways Wharf, Uxbridge' Environmental Archaeology 19, (2) 131-152 , DOI
Smith DN, Nayyar K, Schreve D, Thomas R & Whitehouse NJ 2014 'Can dung beetles from the palaeoecological and archaeological record indicate herd concentration and the identity of herbivores?' Quaternary International , DOI
Elias S & Whitehouse NJ 2014 'G. Russell Coope: papers honouring his life and career' Quaternary International , DOI
Mansell, L, Whitehouse NJ, Gearey B, Barratt P & Roe H 2014 'Holocene Floodplain Palaeoecology of the Humberhead Levels; implications for regional wetland development' Quaternary International (in press) , DOI
Seddon A, Mackay A, Baker A, Birks HJB, Bremen E, Buck C, Ellis EC, Froyd CA, Gill J & Gillson L 2014 'Looking forward through the past. Identification of fifty priority research questions in palaeoecology' Journal of Ecology 102, (1) , DOI
Langford HE, Boreham S, Briant BM, Coope GR, Horne DJ, Schreve DC, Whittaker JE & Whitehouse NJ 2014 'Middle to Late Pleistocene palaeoecological reconstructions and palaeotemperature estimates for cold/cool stage deposits at Whittlesey, eastern England' Quaternary International in press 2014, , DOI
Whitehouse NJ, Schulting RJ, McClatchie M, Barratt P, McLaughlin TR, Bogaard A, Colledge S, Marchant R, Gaffrey J & Bunting MJ 2014 'Neolithic agriculture on the European western frontier: the boom and bust of early farming in Ireland' Journal of Archaelogical Science 51, 181-205 , DOI
McClatchie M, Bogaard A, Colledge S, Whitehouse NJ, Schulting RJ, Barratt P & McLaughlin TR 2014 'Neolithic farming in north-western Europe: archaeobotanical evidence from Ireland' Journal of Archaeological Science: 51, 206-215 , DOI
Smith DN, Whitehouse NJ, Bunting MJ, Chapman & H. 2010 'Can we characterise ‘open-ness’ in the Holocene palaeoecological record? Modern analogue studies from Dunham Massey deer park and Epping Forest, England' The Holocene 12, (2) 215-229 , DOI
Watson J, Brooks S, Whitehouse NJ, Reimer PJ, Birks HJB & Turney CSM 2010 'Chironomid-inferred Late-Glacial Summer Air Temperatures From Lough Nadourcan, Co. Donegal, Ireland' Journal of Quaternary Science 25, (8) 1200-1210 , DOI
Whitehouse NJ & Smith D 2010 'How fragmented was the British Holocene wildwood? Perspectives on the “Vera” grazing debate from the fossil beetle record' Quaternary Science Reviews 29, (3-4) 539-553 , DOI
Whitehouse NJ, McClatchie M, Barratt P, Schulting RJ, McLaughlin TR & Bogaard A 2010 'INSTAR – Cultivating Societies' Archaeology Ireland 24, (2) 16-19
Plunkett G, Whitehouse NJ, Hall VA, Charman D, Blaauw M & Kelly E 2009 'A multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental investigation of the find spot of an Iron Age bog body from Old Croghan, Co. Offaly, Ireland' Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 265-277
Whitehouse NJ, Langdon PG, Bustin R & Galsworthy S 2008 'Fossil insects and ecosystem dynamics in wetlands: implications for biodiversity and conservation' Biodiversity and Conservation 17, (9) 2055-2078 , DOI
Plunkett G, Carroll F, Hartwell B, Whitehouse NJ & Reimer P 2008 'Vegetation history at the multi-period prehistoric complex at Ballynahatty, Co. Down, Northern Ireland' Journal of Archaeological Science 35, (1) 181-190
O'Neill J, Plunkett G & Whitehouse NJ 2007 'Archaeological and palaeoecological investigations of a Middle Bronze Age settlement at Ballyarnet Lake, Co. Derry' Ulster Journal of Archaeology 66, 39-49
Turney CSM, van den Burg K, Wastegård S, Davies SM, Whitehouse NJ, Pilcher JR & Callaghan C 2006 'North European last glacial-interglacial transitions (LGIT; 15-9 ka) tephrochronology: extended limits and new events' Journal of Quaternary Science 21, (4) 335-345
Whitehouse NJ 2006 'The Holocene British and Irish ancient woodland fossil beetle fauna: implications for woodland history, biodiversity and faunal colonisation' Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 1755-1789
Smith DN & Whitehouse NJ 2005 'Beetle faunas, woodland history and palaeoenvironment' Landscape Archaeology and Ecology 5, 82-85
Whitehouse NJ & Smith DN 2004 '“Islands” in Holocene forests: implications for forest openness, landscape clearance and “culture-steppe” species' Environmental Archaeology 9, (2) 203-212
Plunkett GM, Whitehouse NJ, Hall VA, Brown DM & Baillie MGL 2004 'A precisely-dated lake-level rise marked by diatomite formation in northeastern Ireland' Journal of Quaternary Science 19, (1) 3-7 , DOI
Plunkett G, Whitehouse NJ, Hall VA, Brown DM & Baillie M 2004 'Diatomite formation marked by Hekla 4 tephra in NE Ireland lake catchment' Journal of Quaternary Science 19, (1) 3-7
Whitehouse NJ, Murphy EM & Plunkett G 2004 'Human Exploitation and Biota of Islands' Environmental Archaeology 9, (2) 113-115 , DOI
Whitehouse NJ & Smith DN 2004 ''Islands' in Holocene Forests: Implications for Forest Openness, Landscape Clearance and 'Culture-Steppe' Species' Environmental Archaeology 9, (2) 199-208 , DOI
Whitehouse NJ 2004 'Mire ontogeny, environmental and climate change inferred from fossil beetle successions from Hatfield Moors, eastern England' The Holocene 14, 79-93
Whitehouse NJ 2004 'Mire ontogeny, environmental and climatic change inferred from fossil beetle successions from Hatfield Moors, eastern England' HOLOCENE 14, (1) 79-93 Author Site , DOI
Boswijk G & Whitehouse NJ 2002 'Pinus and Prostomis: a dendrochronological and palaeoentomological study of a study of a mid-Holocene woodland in Eastern England' The Holocene 12, (5) 585-596
Whitehouse NJ 2000 'Forest fires and insects: palaeoentomological research from a sub-fossil burnt forest' Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 164, 231-246
Whitehouse NJ & Kirleis W 2014 'The world reshaped: practices and impacts of early agrarian societies' Journal of Archaeological Science: , DOI
Editorial comments
Bogaard A & Whitehouse NJ 2010 'Early agriculture in uncertain climates: themes and approaches' Environmental Archaeology 15, (2)
Bunting MJ & Whitehouse NJ 2008 'Adding time to the conservation toolkit: palaeoecology and long term wetland function dynamics' Biodiversity and Conservation 17, (9)
Whitehouse N; Roe H; McCarron S; Knight J 2008 North of Ireland; field guide.
Murphy E; Whitehouse NJ 2007 Environmental Archaeology in Ireland.
Whitehouse NJ 2015 'Coleoptera analysis' in Kelly EP; Mulhall I Bog Bodies Research Project. National; Museum of Oreland
Plunkett G, Hall VA, Whitehouse NJ, Charman D & Blaaw M 2015 'Overview and conclusion of palaeoenvironmental research' in Kelly EP; Mulhall I Bog Bodies Research Project Dublin National Museum of Ireland
Chapman H, Gearey B, Whitehouse NJ & Marshall P 2013 'Archaeological investigations of a late Neolithic site on Hatfield Moors,' in Chapman H; Gearey B Modelling archaeology and palaeoenvironments in wetlands: the hidden landscape archaeology of Hatfield and Thorne Moors, eastern England. Oxford Oxbow Press 119-130
Whitehouse NJ, Gearey B, Chapman H, Marshall P & Whitehouse N 2013 'Modelling, dating and contexualising palaeoenvironmental records' in Chapman H; Gearey B Modelling archaeology and palaeoenvironments in wetlands: the hidden landscape archaeology of Hatfield and Thorne Moors, eastern England Oxbow Oxbow Press 77-98
Kenward H & Whitehouse NJ 2010 '21. Insects' in O'Connor T; Sykes N Extinctions and Immigrations: a social history of British fauna Oxford Windgather Press 181-189
Whitehouse NJ 2010 'Conservation Lessons from the Holocene Record in “Natural” and “Cultural” landscapes' in Hall M Restoration and History; the search for a usable environmental past. Routledge, Taylor & Francis 87-97
McClatchie M, Whitehouse NJ, Schulting RJ, Bogaard A & Barratt P 2009 'Cultivating societies: new insights into agriculture in Neolithic Ireland' in Danaher E; Eogan J; Stanley M Dining and Dwelling. Dublin National Roads Authority 1-8
Whitehouse NJ 2007 'Fossil insect remains in environmental investigations' in Murphy E; Whitehouse NJ Environmental Archaeology in Ireland Oxford Oxbow Books 136-163
Smith DN & Whitehouse NJ 2005 'Not seeing the woods for the trees; a palaeoentomological perspective on woodland decline' in Brickley M; Smith D “The fertile ground”; Papers in Honour of Susan Limbrey. Oxford Oxbow Books 136-161
Conference Papers
Whitehouse NJ, Dinnin MH & Lindsay RA 1998 'Conflicts between palaeoecology, archaeology and nature conservation: the Humberhead Peatlands SSSI' //0 //0 70-78


Heritage Council, INSTAR Programme, Cultivating Societies Project Pages:


ERC funded FRAGSUS Project Pages:


Editorial Board of Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports