I am an archaeobotanist and environmental archaeologist, and my research focuses on the archaeology of Scotland, North-West Europe and the North Atlantic islands. I am particularly interested in the changing nature of people-plant interactions during the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture.
I completed my PhD on Mesolithic-Neolithic plant use in Scotland in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK in 2013, and I was subsequently employed as a Post-doctoral Research Associate for the Uig Landscape Project in the same department.
As part of my doctoral research, I co-directed small-scale excavations of the first Mesolithic site discovered in the Western Isles, at Northton, Harris, and was a key member of the team discovering a further four sites: Temple Bay, Harris, Tràigh na Beirigh I and II and Pabaigh Mòr on Lewis (PI and co-director Prof. Mike Church, Durham University, UK). I also conducted post-doctoral research on the Mesolithic plant remains from the site at Northton as part of a University College Dublin (PI: Prof. Graeme Warren, UCD, Ireland) funded project to investigate the importance of edible roots and tubers in hunter-gatherer subsistence.
From 2016-2018, I was an Irish Research Council Post-doctoral Fellow in the School of Archaeology at UCD in Dublin, Ireland (research mentor: Prof. Graeme Warren). My research project used novel laboratory and field experiments to elucidate the major preservation biases and taphonomic processes affecting different plants in Mesolithic-Neolithic archaeobotanical assemblages in North-West Europe.
In 2019, I returned to Durham University to conduct archaeobotanical research on a Mesolithic-Neolithic transition site on Shetland at West Voe (PI: Prof. Mike Church, Durham University) and on a project using stable isotope techniques on modern and archaeological hazelnuts to assess past diets and soil health in North-West Europe (PI: Prof. Mike Church, Durham University). I also conducted research on the archaeobotanical report for Balbridie, an early Neolithic site in Aberdeenshire which produced one of the largest Neolithic assemblages of cereals in Britain (PI: Prof. Ian Ralston, University of Edinburgh).
I recently moved to the Museum of Archaeology at the University of Stavanger in Norway to take up a position as Associate Professor in Palaeobotany, where I will be analysing archaeobotanical samples from the museum’s excavations, which date from the Mesolithic period to the Medieval period, as well as continuing to undertake my own research on Scotland, North-West Europe and the wider North Atlantic region.
I am actively involved in several ongoing excavation and post-excavation projects in Scotland, including the early Neolithic settlement at the Braes of Ha’Breck, Orkney where an internationally important assemblage of cereal grain was uncovered spread across a house floor (excavations directed by Dr Antonia Thomas and Dan Lee, UHI/ORCA, Orkney, UK; see http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/features/orkneys-first-farmers.htm). I have also conducted archaeobotanical research on a number of other prehistoric sites in the UK, including Mesolithic samples from Geldie Burn, Cairngorms for Professor Graeme Warren (UCD, School of Archaeology), Cramond, Edinburgh for John Lawson (City of Edinburgh Council Archaeology Service), and Flixton House School, North Yorkshire for Dr Barry Taylor (University of Chester), as well as Viking/Norse samples from Iceland (Aðalstræti, Reykjavík and Gásir in Northern Iceland) for the Icelandic Institute of Archaeology in Reykjavík.
I am a member of the Board of Editors for the Journal of the North Atlantic, and a member of the European Land-use Group which forms part of the PAGES LandCover6K project (http://pastglobalchanges.org/ini/wg/landcover6k/intro). The PAGES LandCover6K project aims to link land cover (pollen) data and land use data (archaeological, historical) to generate maps which will inform models of climate change.