Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be an archaeologist. As soon as I was old enough, I went on archaeological excavations uncovering artefacts buried deep in the ground for hundreds of years. In secondary school I began to really enjoy science, and I even wrote a book review on genetics in archaeology. I then went on to study archaeological sciences at Durham University, where I learnt to apply scientific techniques to answer archaeological questions, such as ‘when was this object made?’, ‘where did it come from?’ and ‘how did it get here?’. It was at Durham that I first started to work with ancient DNA as part of my undergraduate project studying the movement of mountain hares to the Scottish Islands - a topic I am still studying to this day. To develop my skills as an archaeological scientist further I went on to do a master’s degree in bioarchaeology at the University of York, learning even more about ancient DNA techniques alongside other scientific applications to archaeology. Afterwards I took a break from studying where I spent a few years in Cambridge trying a few different jobs including researching algae for biofuels and working in a museum as a gallery attendant. My love of learning about the past still remained and so I was pulled back into the world of academia when I was offered my PhD position here at the University of Oxford. My research involves looking at how animals, including cats, were moved around by people in the past. What fascinates me is that, for such a well-loved pet, we know very little about its past. My research is only the start to us uncovering the mysteries of our furry friends.
My work on cats has taken me to various conferences around the world, and I take every opportunity to get involved in outreach events. While presenting an outreach talk at the Institute of Technology Sligo in Ireland, I was invited to talk on live Irish National radio, RTÉ Radio 1 which was a great experience.
When did cats arrive in Britain?
Sunning themselves outside or curled up on our sofas …many of us have a pet cat in our homes. But do we ever pause to wonder where our feline friends came from and how long they have been by our sides?