Danielle Schreve

Professor, Head of Department

  • TW20 0EX

Personal profile

Personal profile

The focus of my research is on the fossil mammal record from the last 2.6 million years (the Quaternary), combining elements of biostratigraphy (the use of fossil assemblages as a dating tool) and the reconstruction of past environments, with the investigation of palaeobiological aspects such as evolutionary change and the interaction of past mammalian communities with early humans. I have proposed new models for the understanding of the climates and environments of the last half a million years, using the evidence from mammalian biostratigraphy to identify discrete climatic episodes.


I have four current foci: (i) mammalian responses to long-term patterns of interglacial climate forcing, (ii) responses to abrupt climate change over the last glaciation, (iii) multiproxy investigation of palaeodiet in mammals and early humans, through the application of dental microwear (with Dr Roula Pappa of the Natural History Museum) and stable isotope analysis (with Dr Angela Lamb of the British Geological Survey) and (iv) the integration of palaeontological data into modern conservation strategies, particularly with respect to identifying source populations for rewilding, understanding the effects of large herbivores on the landscape and providing an enhanced, longer-term view of mammalian species distribution and behaviour.  


Outside the UK, I have extended my research into the correlation of Pleistocene faunas of France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain.  The framework I proposed now forms the established basis for our understanding of glacial-interglacial mammalian faunal turnover in the UK, thereby permitting correlations with other parts of continental Europe, and is widely employed by stratigraphers, palaeontologists, geochronologists and archaeologists.  I have further collaborated with geochronologists to permit faunal turnover and distribution shifts to be more accurately dated.  This has allowed a higher degree of resolution to be recognised than attained previously and is now setting the future agenda for analysing and understanding the finer-scale variations within and between interglacials.  I am an active fieldworker and lead excavations at key cave sites in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, as well as providing palaeontological input into projects led by Professors Mark White and Paul Pettitt (Durham University) at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire and Kents Cavern in Devon.    


A major beneficiary of my research is the field of archaeology.  As a Principal Specialist in the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain projects I-III (2000-2011), funded by the Leverhulme Trust for over £3.2 million, I have applied my knowledge to multiple Palaeolithic archaeological sites both in the UK and overseas, both from a dating perspective and also from the point of view of subsistence practices and human responses to environmental change.  Most recently, I have led the British component of an Anglo-French grant (funded by l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche) to study the emergence of handaxe cultures in NW Europe.  Outside Europe, I have an established research collaboration based in Turkey, which has led to the discovery of the oldest humanly-worked stone tool in Anatolia.


The external impact of my work can be summarised as follows:

(1) Engagement with the aggregates and construction industries: commercial extraction of sands and gravels can have enormous benefits for geology, palaeontology and archaeology but is a necessarily destructive process – much is lost without record and has no legal protection.  My former role as Regional Manager of the National Ice Age Network (NIAN) project in the SE of England involved extensive interaction with the aggregates industry, raising awareness directly with quarry operators and through high-level negotiations with the Mineral Products Association (the trade association for the industry), English Heritage (now Historic England) and Natural England, regarding the formulation of future monitoring protocols. This has also involved contract work, funded by Natural England, at various quarry sites and participation as an invited specialist to High Speed 2 meetings organised by W.S. Atkins and HS2. In 2017, I co-authored a book (winner of the Best Archaeological Book at the 2018 British Archaeological Awards) on the archaeological outcomes of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, aimed at industry and professional archaeologists.


(2) Governmental policy in the heritage sector. The Palaeolithic is a growth area in archaeology but is frequently poorly understood by archaeological professionals (consultants, contractors and planning authorities).  I have served as an invited specialist for Historic England in contributing to the policy document “Research and Conservation Framework for the British Palaeolithic”, which identified primary research themes and strategic research/conservation themes for national implementation and the forthcoming policy document "Scientific Dating of Pleistocene Sites: Guidelines for Best Practice".  My work also engages heavily with the broad topic of geoconservation. I was invited by Natural England to participate in their Geological Conservation Review of the Palaeolithic and by Essex County Council to be an expert reviewer of their “Managing the Essex Pleistocene” project. I am currently undertaking a specialist review for Natural England as part of the Geological Conservation Review of important Quaternary vertebrate sites in Britain.  I have also provided hands-on training and specialist palaeontological advice to county and independent archaeological units.


(3) Cultural enrichment and public engagement. I am deeply committed to improving public understanding of science through multiple outreach activities. My work has received widespread print, radio and television coverage in local, national and international arenas, for example appearances on Radio 4’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, Channel 4’s Birth of Britain series, BBC2’s Prehistoric Autopsy series, BBC Radio 4’s inside Science and The Infinite Monkey Cage. I have delivered a prestigious Burlington House lecture on behalf of the Geological Society and, in 2020, the Boyd Dawkins Lecture at the University of Manchester. I continue to lecture extensively to local/regional special interest societies in natural history, geology and archaeology. Past talks include to: the Bucks Geology Group, the Camberley and Bagshot Metal Detectorists group, the Cumberland Geological Society, the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society, the Essex Field Club, the Essex Rock and Mineral Society, the Farnham Geological Society, the Harrow and Hillingdon Geological Society, the Hertfordshire Geological Society, the Lyme Regis Festival of Fossils, the Mendip Society, the Mendip Hills AONB, the Mole Valley Geological Society, the Oxford Geology Group, the Reading Geological Society, the Ravensbourne Geological Society, the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society, the South West Hertfordshire Archaeological and Historical Society, the Spelthorne U3 group, the Stamford Geological Society, the West Sussex Geological Society and the Yorkshire Geological Society. Since 2013, I have contributed annually to the “Explore Ebbor” day of the “Mendip Rocks!” geology festival, leading talks and walks in Ebbor Gorge for members of the public, and to Mendip Society outreach events in Westbury Quarry, Somerset.


The National Ice Age Network project united the public, archaeological and heritage professionals, national policy makers, quarry operators and other stakeholders, providing diverse academic and outreach activities (newsletters, website, a travelling exhibition, lectures, a practical guide to working in quarries, artefact and fossil handling sessions and bespoke ‘recognition sheets’ of stone tools and fossils. These remain a legacy of the project and can be downloaded free via www.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk. I advise museums in the development of exhibitions and other activities, such as the Natural History Museum’s “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story” exhibition, recent and ongoing work with Wells and Frome Museums and undertake specialist reviews of collections (eg. Leeds Museum’s Geoblitz project).


My work is profiled in ongoing collaborations with graphic artists Sean Harris (for his MUSE: Makers in Museums project at Wells Museum and the Museum of Somerset) and former Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence at Royal Holloway, Flora Parrott. My interests in rewilding have also extended into working with performance makers to examine societal responses to nature, climate change and the reintroduction of (extirpated) large mammals. 

Current PhD students:

  • Rina Quinlan, RHUL Living Sustainably Catalyst-funded, “Reintroduction of bison and elk to Britain: ecological impacts, legal context and public engagement”, 2022- (lead supervisor, with Dr Sarah Papworth, RHUL Biological Sciences, and Prof. Jens Christian Svenning, Aarhus University)
  • Mollie Mills, London NERC DTP, “A dhole’s tale: Using the Pleistocene fossil record of the dhole (Cuon alpinus, Pallas 1811) to understand modern threats and future conservation challenges”, 2021- (joint supervisor with Prof. Simon Blockley, RHUL, and Dr David Redding, Institute of Zoology and Natural History Museum)
  • Laura Hemmingham London NERC DTP, “Dietary Flexibility, Niche Differentiation and Ecological Resilience in the Quaternary Cervidae”, 2020- (joint supervisor with Dr Roula Pappa, Natural History Museum)                
  • Bethan Lloyd Worthington “The Arts of Climate Science” Private benefactor-funded “Kate and Gareth Griffith Scholarship in Quaternary Science”, 2019- (joint supervisor with Prof. Harriet Hawkins)

Eleven successfully completed PhDs:

  • London NERC DTP: Emily Wiesendanger: The Late Pleistocene Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus, Linnaeus, 1758) of Britain and Western Europe: Past migrations, Seasonality, and Palaeodiet, 2017- (joint supervisor with Prof. Ian Candy, RHUL)
  • London NERC DTP: David Arnold: Assessing the extent of semi-arid environments in Late Quaternary Eurasia using mammalian evidence: implications for understanding ecological and human responses to abrupt climate change, 2016-2020 (joint supervisor with Prof. Simon Blockley, RHUL)
  • London NERC DTP: Angharad Jones. The palaeodietary and ecomorphic responses of Pleistocene spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta Erxleben 1777) in Europe, 2015-2019 (joint supervisor with Dr Chris Carbone, Institute of Zoology)
  • London NERC DTP: Elizabeth Peneycad: Oxygen isotopes in small and large mammal dental carbonates: investigating their use as a proxy for reconstructing Quaternary climate variability, 2015-2019 (joint supervisor with Prof. Ian Candy, RHUL)
  • NERC Algorithm: Melissa Marr. Faunal response to abrupt climate change: the history of the British fauna from the Lateglacial to the early Holocene, 2013-2017 (joint supervisor with Profs. Ian Barnes and Norm McLeod, Natural History Museum)
  • Royal Holloway part-funded College studentship: Spyridoula Pappa: Climate, diet and migration: reconstructing Late Pleistocene carnivore adaptations through stable isotopes and morphology, 2012-16 (Sole supervisor)
  • AHRC: Jennifer Sherriff: Exploring hominin dispersal: Constructing a multiproxy framework for Marine Isotope Stage 11, 2011-2015 (joint supervisor with Prof. Ian Candy and Dr Adrian Palmer, RHUL)
  • Royal Holloway Reid Studentship: Lucy Flower: Palaeodiet and body mass change: the Pleistocene evolution of the wolf (Canis lupus, 1759), 2009-13 (Sole supervisor)
  • Leverhulme Trust funded: Mark Ruddy: The Palaearctic evolutionary history of the water vole (Arvicola), 2006-10 (Sole supervisor)
  • AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (Partner: Museum of London): Caroline Juby: London Before London: reconstructing a Palaeolithic landscape, 2006-10 (Joint supervisor with Dr Jon Cotton, MoL)
  • NERC Open CASE award (Partner: Natural History Museum): Barnaby Crocker: The evolution and palaeoecology of the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) 2004-8 (Joint supervisor with Mr A. Currant, Natural History Museum)  


I currently teach across all three undergraduate years, including first year small-group tutorials, a second-year Biogeography course (GG2043) and a third-year course on Mammals in a Changing World (GG3046). I also co-lead the second-year residential fieldtrip to Sicily.

On the MSc Quaternary Science programme, I contribute to core teaching in the first term on GG5291 Palaeoclimatology, GG5232 Palaeoecology, Dating & Quantification, and GG5201 Sedimentology & Stratigraphy.  I also teach a specialist option course GG5223 Quaternary Mammals


Current external activities:

London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership: Management Board member 2013-

Editor, Quaternary Science Reviews 2015-

Member of the Editorial Boards of Quaternaire, 2003-; Journal of Quaternary Science 2006-

Mentor for Royal Society postdoctoral fellows

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, 2010-

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, 2006-

International Committee member of the European Quaternary Mammal Research Association 2001-

Member of the Prehistoric Society, Quaternary Research Association, Geologists’ Association and the Mendip Society


External Examiner for the Department of Geography, Durham University, 2014-2017

Committee member for Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) national review of physical geography, 2015-2017 Member of the editorial board of Biology Letters 2014-2016

Mentor for the Leadership Foundation’s Aurora Programme (national women-only leadership programme), 2014-2015

Vice President of the Quaternary Research Association 2013-2016

President of the Geologists’ Association, 2008-10 (Vice-President 2007-8 and 2010-11) and Chair of the GA Curry Fund (2008-2010)

Quaternary Research Association Executive Committee Member 2000-3 and Awards Officer 2003-2006

Full Member of INQUA Commission on Palaeoecology & Human Evolution, 2003-11; Co-leader of INQUA International Focus Group on “Late Quaternary faunal events in Eurasia”, 2007-2011

Member of NERC Peer Review College, 2008-2012

Faunal contributor to the EU-funded COST project INTegrating Ice core, MArine and TErrestrial records - 60,000 to 8000 years ago (INTIMATE), 2011-2014

Member of Steering Group for £2 million NERC initiative “Environmental Factors in the Chronology of Human Evolution and Dispersal”

Biostratigraphy sub-theme Coordinator for UNESCO-funded IGCP 449 ‘Global Correlation of Cenozoic Fluvial Deposits’, 2000-4; IGCP 518 ‘Fluvial sequences as evidence for landscape and climatic evolution in the Late Cenozoic’, 2004-6

Member of Steering committee on Research Frameworks for Palaeolithic and Quaternary, English Heritage/Natural England

Quaternary Editor for Proceedings in Physical Geography, 2009-2012

Academic Reviewer for NERC and University of Cambridge postdoctoral fellowship applications, reviewer for RGS-IBG Peter Fleming award applications, reviewer for Journal of Quaternary Science, Journal of Human Evolution, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Quaternary International, Quaternary Newsletter, Quaternary Research, Quaternary Science Reviews, Mammal Review, Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, Palaeontographica, Palaeo3, Proceedings of the Geological Association and Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia

PhD Examiner for the University of London (UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, UCL Institute of Education, Royal Holloway Departments of Earth Sciences and School of Biological Sciences) and Helsinki University

Examiner for Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches, Université de Lille, France, 2012

Chair of appointment panel for Professor in Archaeozoology, University of Bergen (Norway), 2014

Invited referee for appointments to Reader and Professor at the University of Leicester and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece

Reviewer for Humboldt Fellowship application 2023, Germany


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

External positions

Patron, Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre


  • Quaternary, Mammals, Palaeontology, Palaeolithic archaeology, Biostratigraphy, Taphonomy

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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