I received a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MSc in Archaeological Science at the University of Oxford. I completed my DPhil in Archaeological Science, entitled ‘Fruits of the Forest: Human stable isotope ecology and rainforest adaptations in Late Pleistocene and Holocene Sri Lanka’ at the same institution. This focused on using stable isotope analysis of human and faunal fossil remains to elucidate Late Pleistocene human rainforest adaptations in Sri Lanka, and the relationship of this data to wider debates regarding the viability of rainforest habitats for long-term foraging by our species.

My thesis stimulated a wider interest in human adaptations to tropical forest environments and in 2019 I completed the first global archaeological review of human relationships with these environments in a book entitled 'Tropical Forests in Human Prehistory, History, and Modernity', published in Oxford University Press. This book ranges from analysing the relationship of our earliest hominin ancestors with tropical forests resources, through to the development of ancient urban settings in these environments, and onto 21st century conservation issues.

I am passionate about bringing archaeology and palaeoenvironmental science to bear on modern policy and conservation (both heritage and environmental) priorities and I have taken part in UNESCO symposia that bring together archaeologists and anthropologists together to discuss potential solutions for the conservation of ecological and cultural heritage in the tropics. Such work is also the more pressing given the fragile status of tropical forests, some of the oldest terrestrial environments on the face of the planet.

I am a keen proponent of using multidisciplinary approach in the study of the human past, including application of LiDAR remote sensing, palaeoenvironmental archives, historical records, Earth's systems modelling, and archaeobotany and archaeozoology. As Group Leader and Director of the Department of Archaeology’s stable isotope research group, I am particularly committed to applying stable isotope methods within diverse research programmes that are focused on human palaeoclimates, palaeoenvironments, palaeodiets and palaeomobility.

​As part of my Senior Research Fellow position at the University of Queensland, I am advising various members from the School of Social Sciences on their Archaeological Science projects and the potential set-up of a pretreatment laboratory for stable isotope analysis.

I have a number of international peer-reviewed publications that use stable isotope analysis in a variety of archaeological research contexts: from reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions in East and South Africa, South Asia, and Saudi Arabia associated with human habitation of these regions during the Pleistocene to dietary complexities in 18th and 19th century historical populations. Beyond human-tropical forest interactions, my other primary interests include early human cognition, hominin dispersals, megafaunal extinctions, and the relationship between climate change and cultural change in our species.



Until very recently, tropical forests were thought to be barriers to human settlement and dispersal. I have been applying stable isotope analysis to human and animal tissues from across Africa, Asia, and the Americas in order to demonstrate that this is not the case and understand how humans have differentially relied on environments once thought to have been 'pristine', from our evolution c. 300,000 years ago until the industrial era. Collaborators include the University of Exeter, Australian National University, University of Otago, the Department of Archaeology, Government of Sri Lanka, and Griffith University, Australia.


Climatic and environmental change has always had impacts on human society. In turn, humans have influenced the climate and environment around them. I am committed to promoting palaeoenvironmental proxies developed in natural archives and archaeological sites to produce new, multi-resolution insights into the interaction between our species, vegetation, animals, and precipitation and temperature, in different parts of the world at different points in the past. I ask how did different societies respond to climate changes? Did different subsistence, economic, and political structures provide greater resilience?


The 'Anthropocene' concept states that we have now entered an epoch in which human activity is the dominant impact on the operation of earth systems. Tropical forests sit at the heart of the water cycle, the regulation of atmospheric composition, soil nutrient cycling, and have a biased proportion of the world's biodiversity. As a result, combined local human impacts can have cascading effects on regional and even global scales. With this in mind, did pre-industrial impacts on tropical forests initiate earth systems changes? If so, how did they lay the groundwork for the processes of change we experience today?