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Dr Bronwen Whitney

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

Department: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Originally from Canada’s east coast, my interest in past environmental change was sparked as an undergraduate when I learned of the rapid climate and vegetation shifts that occurred in the North Atlantic region.

Bronwen WhitneyI studied for my PhD at the University of Edinburgh (2005 – 2009) where I examined climate and vegetation change from the last glacial period until present in the world’s largest tropical wetland.  From there, I continued my research into human and climatic causes of tropical environmental change and I joined Northumbria University in January 2015

Campus Address

Ellison Building A207

0191 349 5934


  • PhD, BSc Biology, BA Anthropology
  • HEA fellow

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research contributes to understanding the climatic and human influences on tropical biome distribution, species abundance, and biodiversity. Using pollen and other microfossils preserved in sedimentary environments, such as algal remains and microscopic charcoal, I analyse how tropical plant communities have responded to historical disturbances.  My research also extends as far back as the
last ice age to gauge how tropical biomes have responded to high magnitude
climate change

Current/Recent Projects

  • Elucidating patterns of Pre-Columbian land-use in South and Central America using empirical and modelling approaches
  • Investigating origin of biodiversity hotspots in the central Andes
  • Exploring tropical peat formation and vegetation dynamics in Mesoamerica and Amazonia

Key Publications

Whitney BS, Cárdenas ML (2017) Legacies of Pre-Columbian land use on Latin American ecosystem composition and diversity: A case for paleoecology. Past Global Changes Magazine 25 (2), 84-85

Power MJ, Whitney BS, Mayle FE, Neves DM, de Boer EJ, Maclean KS (2016) Fire, climate and vegetation linkages in the Bolivian Chiquitano seasonally dry tropical forest. Philsophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371(1696), p.20150165.

KL Fornace, BS Whitney, V Galy, KA Hughen, FE Mayle (2016) Late Quaternary environmental change in the interior South American tropics: new insight from leaf wax stable isotopes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 438, 75-85

Whitney BS, Dickau R, Mayle FE, Walker JH, Soto JD, Iriarte J (2014) Pre-Columbian raised-field agriculture and land use in the Bolivian Amazon. The Holocene, 24: 231-241

Carson JF, Whitney BS, Mayle FE, Iriarte J, Prümers H, Soto JD, Watling J (2014) Environmental impact of geometric earthwork construction in pre-Columbian Amazonia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(29): 10497-10502.

BS Whitney, FE Mayle, MJ Burn, R Guillén, E Chavez, RT Pennington (2014) Sensitivity of Bolivian seasonally-dry tropical forest to precipitation and temperature changes over glacial–interglacial timescales. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 23 (1), 1-14                

My Northumbria Research Link can be found here

My Google Scholar Link can be found here

Postgraduate Supervision

Adam Bermingham (2016 – 2019)

Topic: Determining the legacy of long-term anthropogenic impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Belize


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