Fieldwork has been undertaken this summer, with the support of a BSBI research grant, to start work on establishing a phytolith reference collection for southern coastal plant communities. Phytoliths are silica bodies that are produced within living plants and they can be used to identify plants deposited in archaeological and palaeoecological sediments. This summer’s work has concentrated on sampling the saltmarsh and grazing marsh communities found at Farlington Marshes, Portsmouth. Plants and soils have been collected and work is underway to find out what phytoliths are present in them. Identification criteria for indicator species will be established and new methods will be developed to distinguish plant communities from each other based on differences in mixed phytolith assemblages found in soil samples. These new findings can then be applied to archaeological samples to tell us more about plant use and landscape changes in the past.
I'm a postdoctoral researcher working in collaboration with Historic England. I specialise in archaeobotany (macro-botanical remains and phytoliths). I have a PhD from University College London in which I investigated prehistoric agricultural communities in Northern and Eastern India. My current project is to develop a new method for identifying plants found in archaeological and palaeoecological sediments in Britain to expand what we know about plant use in the past.