Mr Dave Arnold

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Research interests

My research interests are primarily in using mammalian vertebrates from fossil sites to reconstruct past environments from the Quaternary (last 2.6 millions years). Fossil mammals are often found in abundance from fossil sites throughout the Quaternary, and alongside using traditional palaeontological and palaeoecological techniques to reconstruct habitats I am interested in using fossil mammals to quantify environmental variables such as precipitation. I have a keen interest in archaeozoology to aid understanding of hominin societies specifically the evolution and eventual demise of the Neanderthals. I also have broad interests in palaeoenvironmental science, sedimentology, glaciology, periglacial environments and chronology.


PhD research

My PhD research was funded by the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership and focuses on developing the use of the crown height of teeth (hypsodonty) of herbivores as an indicator of rainfall and other climate variables, both in the past and present. The research reassesses the modern relationship between ungulate hypsodonty index and climate variables acorss the globe, and also investigates intraspecific variation in hypsodonty. This resulted in the creation of a very large database of modern ungulate hypsodonty measurements from well-provenanced museum specimens. The results indicate that, contrary to previous work, correlations between hypsodonty index and climate variables are not particularly strong. This highlights not only the complex nature of hypsodonty and its possible controls but also indicates that (1) scale and rate of change in individual and community hypsodonty index need to be considered both temporally and spatially, and (2) that current models are not robust enough for further application.

In order to establish whether the method could detect abrupt climatic and environmental change during the Late Pleistocene, hypsodonty index data was collected from seven well-dated Late Pleistocene Mediterranean cave sites.  Mean hypsodonty index of fossil mammal communities through these sequences was compared to existing palaeoecological and geochemical proxies to validate its utility in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. It is clear that the method’s validity is highly dependent on presence, availability and condition of the fossil material and that low sample sizes and differential resolutions between proxies drastically reduce reliability.


MSc research

Dissertation Title: Vertebrate Response to Climatic Deterioration in MIS sub-stage 5a: Evidence from Banwell Bone Cave, Somerset.

Educational background

2015-2019 PhD (Quaternary Science), Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London

2013-2014 MSc Quaternary Science, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London

2010-2013 BA (Hons) Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Southampton


I currently teach small group Physical Geography tutorials on GG1001/2 Physical Geography 1 & 2 and demonstrate in the field and laboratory on GG1011/3: Geographical Techniques and on the international fieldtrip to Spain (GG1032/4).

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