skip to content

Department of Zoology



My interests are in malacology in general, but especially the use of non-marine Mollusca in reconstructing environments and climates during the Quaternary and Tertiary periods. Recent work has focused on their use in distinguishing between different interglacials in NW Europe and in their value as a dating material, especially for aminostratigraphy. I also work on the Holocene from which detailed molluscan successions can be tied to firm chronologies by means of radiocarbon dating. In this way it is possible to provide historical perspectives on the development of modern communities in different regions. In many Holocene sequences it is possible to recognize signs of human disturbance, such as episodes of forest clearance, and so evaluate the environmental impact of early human populations. I was recently a member of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which over the last 10 years has shed much new light on the age and environment of the earliest human populations in Britain during the Pleistocene. My research on the collections in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, is currently focusing on an important collection of land snails collected during the early 19th century by William Benson mostly from the Indian Subcontinent. This important collection contains many type specimens, which are being imaged.  Other projects include work on the notebooks and collections of the Rev. Leonard Jenyns, an important 19th century naturalist and friend of Charles Darwin (see link).


Key publications: 
  • White, T.S., Preece, R.C. & Whittaker, J.E. (2013).  Molluscan and ostracod successions from Dierden’s Pit, Swanscombe: insights into the fluvial history, sea-level record and human occupation of the Hoxnian Thames.  Quaternary Science Reviews 70, 73-90.
  • Penkman, K.E.H., Preece, R.C., Bridgland, D.R., Keen, D.H., Meijer, T., Parfitt, S.A., White, T.S. & Collins, M.J. (2013). An aminostratigraphy for the British Quaternary based on Bithynia opercula.  Quaternary Science Reviews 61, 111-134.
  • Preece, R.C. & Parfitt, S.A. (2012). The Early and early Middle Pleistocene context of human occupation and lowland glaciation in Britain and northern Europe. Quaternary International 271, 6-28.
  • Penkman, K.E.H., Preece, R.C., Bridgland, D.R., Keen, D.H., Meijer, T., Parfitt, S.A., White, T.S. & Collins, M.J. (2011). A chronological framework for the British Quaternary based on Bithynia opercula. Nature 476, 446-449.
  • Parfitt, S.A., Ashton, N.M, Lewis, S.G., Abel, R.L., Coope, G.R., Field, M.H., Gale, R., Hoare, P.G., Larkin, N.R., Lewis, M., Karloukovski, V., Maher, B., Peglar, S.M., Preece, R.C., Whittaker, J.E. & Stringer, C.B. (2010). Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe. Nature 466, 229-233.
Other publications: 
University Reader & Curator of Malacology, University Museum of Zoology (Emeritus)

Contact Details