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.
BA Archaeology (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1988);
Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (FRES);
Roles on external bodies
President for INQUA Humans and Biosphere Commission HABCOMM (2011-2015) (International Union for Quaternary Research)
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)
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.
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:
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 highlightedJournals
Heritage Council, INSTAR Programme, Cultivating Societies Project Pages:
ERC funded FRAGSUS Project Pages:
Editorial Board of Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports