My research focuses on speleothems as palaeoclimate archives and early hominin palaeoecology in Africa.
Techniques used include:
- stable isotopes and trace elements
- annual-band counting
- fluid-inclusion analysis
- U-Th and U-Pb dating
- Palaeodietary analysis
Current research areas
Currently my work is split into the two following fields of research:
Plio-Pleistocene climate in relation to early hominin evolution in Africa
- Reconstructing the climatic history of Africa is the key to improving our understanding of the tropical climate system; is it also important as the environmental context of early hominin evolution. This research attempts to bridge the fields of palaeoclimatology and palaeoanthropology.
Current projects include:
- Annually resolved Plio-Pleistocene climate record from Buffalo Cave, South Africa
- New program of dating and environmental work at Taung, South Africa
- Stable isotopes in fossil carnivores as time-averaging indicators
- Quality of the hominin fossil record
Late Pleistocene and Holocene climate of the UK
- Quaternary speleothems can be precisely dated using U-series methods and often contain annually-resolved climate proxy data. This makes speleothems ideal for the study of rapid climate change events such as the 8.2 ka event or the Younger Dryas. Current projects include:
- Late Pleistocene speleothem records from northern England
- Comparison with climate model output
- Climatic context of archaeological caves in the UK
- 2012-2013 National Geographic Research Grant (€22,000) ‘Exploring the palaeoanthropological potential of the Dart and Hrdlicka Pinnacles at Taung, South Africa, in light of their re-interpretation as land-surface deposits’.
- 2011-2014 NERC New Investigator Grant (£98,000) ‘Influence of Orbital Forcing on ENSO variability – new insights from an annually laminated speleothem’
- 2010-2011 National Geographic Fieldwork Grant ($18,000) 'The Environmental and Chronological context of the Taung Child, South Africa'
- 2010-2011 NERC Small Grant (£26,000) with Randy Parrish (NIGL) 'Dating the ‘Taung Child’ Australopithecus africanus type specimen through U-Pb measurement of associated calcite crystals'
- 2010-2012 Co-Investigator on NSF Grant ($84,939) with Justin Adams (GVSU) 'Exploring Hoogland, Haasgat and the Plio-Pleistocene landscape of the Schurveberg Mountain Region, South Africa'
- 2009-2010 Leakey Foundation Grant ($22,000) 'Hominins, Climate Change and Thermo-regulation: Temperature reconstruction using speleothem fluid-inclusions'
- 2009-2010. PI on NERC NIGL facilities grant (£23,000) 'Uranium-lead dating of an oxygen isotope monsoon rainfall record from South Africa'