Nicki Whitehouse

I'm writing a new lecture for my students!

Favourite Thing: I love to use a microscope to look at sub-fossil beetles! I study these to investigate past ecosystems and climates



Broadwater Comprehensive, Surrey; Godalming 6th Form College; Newcastle University; University of Sheffield


BA (Archaeology); Msc in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy; PhD

Work History:

I have worked at Exeter University; Queen’s University Belfast and now at Plymouth University

Current Job:

Associate Professor in Physical Geography


Plymouth University

Me and my work

I am an environmental archaeologist and palaeoecologist – I study past species, communities and ecosystems over the last 450,000 years. This includes interactions with humans! A large component of my work concerns the beginnings of early agriculture and its ecological impacts

Much of my work is very much at the interface between the sciences and humanities. I really love being able to move between different approaches. I get bored quite easily and being an academic allows me to explore loads of things that I find fascinating! Thats the great thing about being a scientist – I am paid to investigate interesting, cool stuff! I am hugely privileged to be able to do this

My Typical Day

Most of my days are very different! Typically, I would start with checking my emails, writing to research colleagues, my PhD students and undergraduate students. I will often have a teaching session to give and prepare, have meetings with students and colleagues. This keeps me pretty busy. Quite frequently, about once a month, I travel away to research meetings or fieldwork. I am involved in several large research projects that require me to undertake fieldwork. For instance, recently I came back from a meeting in Malta; I am involved in a large research project looking at the temple civilisations there and why they collapsed 4000 years ago.

What I'd do with the money

I would donate the funds to help a science communication project that is designed to help create public awareness of archaeology, heritage and environmental change issues within Uganda.

This project is being run by one of my colleagues in Uganda and is designed to help provide new skills to Ugandan archaeologists in the study of past environments and archaeology. There are currently less than ten trained archaeologists and palaeo- scientists in the country with only one PhD graduate in archaeology. This aspect of the work is being funded through an organisation I am involved with, INQUA. However, this is only part of the issue; the other difficulty concerns raising awareness of the archaeological record and its potential for understanding long term human-environment interactions in Uganda within the wider general public. As part of a field school, there will be a community outreach and education initiative, with students visiting local community groups (e.g. selected schools, local council members) to explain the importance of the archaeological research activity. In addition, it is envisages that local communities will be actively incorporated into the fieldwork through a programme of interviews and oral history collection by the research students.

The funds from this award would be donated to help facilitate the public outreach aspects of this work. To me, communicating the importance of what we do is integral to science and I believe funds donated to this cause would provide valuable funding to a project which has important aspirations around science communication that are highly relevant within my field of research. Archaeology is also hugely exciting and tells us about who we are and where we have come from!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Passionate, committed, scietist

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Maroon 5

What's your favourite food?

Pasta (I grew up in Italy!)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Going on a snowmobile in the high arctic!

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be an archaeologist and I’ve pretty well much ended up doing this. I work on the sciences side of things which was perhaps a surprise since I was rubbish at science (and maths) at school!

Were you ever in trouble at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?

Probably ancient history and classical civilisations; I also really liked Geography and to my surprise I now work in a Geography department!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I love identifying fossil beetles that are thousands of years old…

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My supervisor, Prof Paul Buckland, was hugely inspirational and encouraging

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Probably a business woman, running my own cheese or jewellery shop!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Be happy, be healthy and spend loads of time with my little boy!

Tell us a joke.

An ant eater walks into a shop; why the long face?, says the shop-keeper.

Other stuff

Work photos: