Dr Angela Self

Dr Angela Self

Quantitative Ecologist/ Statistician

Department: Life Sciences
Division: LS Insects
Contact: email


phenology; climate change; Chironomidae; palaeolimnology


My main areas of interest are examining the extent and impacts of past and present climate change on mid to high latitude ecosystems using biological proxies and data generated by the Natural History Museum’s digitisation programme. The Natural History Museum collections contain millions of specimens collected over the past 100 – 250 years. These collections have the potential to provide valuable information on the seasonal or phenological response of organisms to climate change. This is particularly useful for those species for which few data otherwise exist, but also to extend time series to the period before other observational data are available (Brooks et al. 2014). I am currently using data from UK butterflies and orchids to examine their response to climate variables and possible phenological changes. In my research I also use chironomid midges preserved in lake sediments to make quantitative estimations of past climate. Chironomidae is a family of two-winged flies (Insecta: Diptera), often referred to as chironomids or non-biting midges, and they are sensitive indicators of past climates. The winged adults disperse widely and lay their eggs in water bodies. If the environmental conditions are suitable the eggs hatch and develop through larval and pupal stages before emerging as adults. In many freshwater systems their larvae are abundant and diverse, there are 10000 described species and up to 15000 species may exist in total. The larval head capsules are usually well-preserved in lake sediments and most specimens are identifiable at least to generic level. Many species are stenothermic (only capable of surviving within a narrow temperature range) so a small change in temperature can lead to a different assemblage of larvae within the lake. Analysing subsamples from lake sediment cores enables the chironomid assemblages to be recorded over time and from this data the changes in environmental conditions can be estimated. Holocene climate reconstructions from arctic and subarctic Russia For my Ph.D. and postdoctoral research I investigated the response of chironomids to past and present environmental change in arctic and subarctic Russia. Average arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the rate of the rest of the world over the last 100 years (IPCC 2007) and this trend is predicted to continue as high latitudes are predicted to warm by 4 - 7°C in the next century (ACIA 2004, 2005). Arctic Russia is often poorly represented in the global perspective of climate trends and their effects on ecosystems due to the scarcity of observational or proxy records. Working in collaboration with Larisa Nazarova, Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, and David Porinchu, Ohio State University, USA, we compiled a data set of lakes from northern European Russia to the Russian Far East and developed chironomid-based regional inference models to reconstruct July air temperature in northern arctic Russia (Self et al. 2011) and the Russian Far East. These models have been applied by the palaeolimnological research community to interglacial and Holocene sequences from central and NW Europe. I applied these models to lake cores from the Pechora Basin, North-east European Russia, and Putorana Plateau, western Siberia, to produce estimates of changes in July air temperature over the past 11,500 years as part of the EU-funded CarboNorth project (Jones et al. 2011; Salonen et al. 2011). More recently I have been investigating Holocene climate change in Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, as part of a multi-proxy project including chironomids, oxygen isotopes, diatoms and pollen to improve our understanding of the climate teleconnections between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific.



Ph.D. (Geography), Environmental Change Research Centre, University College London (UCL), NERC-funded CASE award with NHM, United Kingdom, 2005 - 2010

M.Sc. by Research, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, 2004 - 2005

B.Sc. (Honours) Geology, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, 2001 - 2004

Employment history


Associate lecturer, Open University, Environment, Earth and Ecosystems, United Kingdom, 2009 - 2014


Quantitative ecologist, Natural History Museum, Life Sciences, 2013 - ongoing

Postdoctoral researcher, Natural History Museum, Entomology, 2010 - 2013

Research technician, Natural History Museum, Entomology, 2009 - 2010


Self AE, Jones VJ, Brooks SJ (2015) Late Holocene environmental change in arctic western Siberia. The Holocene, 25 (1): 150 - 165. doi: 10.1177/0959683614556387

Ross AJ, Self A (2014) The fauna and flora of the Insect Limestone (late Eocene), Isle of Wight, UK: introduction, history and geology. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 104 : 233 - 244. doi: 10.1017/S1755691014000073

Engels S, Self AE, Luoto TP, Brooks SJ, Helmens KF (2014) A comparison of three Eurasian chironomid–climate calibration datasets on a W–E continentality gradient and the implications for quantitative temperature reconstructions. Journal of Paleolimnology, 51 (4): 529 - 547. doi: 10.1007/s10933-014-9772-8

Brooks SJ, Self A, Toloni F, Sparks T (2014) Natural history museum collections provide information on phenological change in British butterflies since the late-nineteenth century. International Journal of Biometeorology, 58 (8): 1749 - 1758. doi: 10.1007/s00484-013-0780-6

Mackay AW, Bezrukova EV, Leng MJ, Meaney M, Nunes A, Piotrowska N, SELF A, Shchetnikov A, Shilland E, Tarasov P, Wang L, White D (2012) Aquatic ecosystem responses to Holocene climate change and biome development in boreal, central Asia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 41 : 119 - 131. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.03.004

Płóciennik M, Self A, Birks HJB, Brooks SJ (2011) Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera) succession in Żabieniec bog and its palaeo-lake (central Poland) through the Late Weichselian and Holocene. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 307 (1): 150 - 167. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.05.010

Jones VJ, Solovieva N, Self AE, McGowan S, Rosén P, Salonen JS, Seppä H, Väliranta M, Parrott E, Brooks SJ (2011) The influence of Holocene tree-line advance and retreat on an arctic lake ecosystem: a multi-proxy study from Kharinei Lake, North Eastern European Russia. Journal of Paleolimnology, 46 (1): 123 - 137. doi: 10.1007/s10933-011-9528-7

Self AE, Brooks SJ, Birks HJB, Nazarova L, Porinchu D, Odland A, Yang H, Jones VJ (2011) The distribution and abundance of chironomids in high-latitude Eurasian lakes with respect to temperature and continentality: development and application of new chironomid-based climate-inference models in northern Russia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 30 (9): 1122 - 1141. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.01.022

Salonen JS, Seppä H, Väliranta M, Jones VJ, SELF A, Heikkilä M, Kultti S, Yang H (2011) The Holocene thermal maximum and late-Holocene cooling in the tundra of NE European Russia. Quaternary Research, 75 : 501 - 511.

Self A, Brooks S (2010) Diptera in glacial and post-glacial lake sediments.. , Chandler P, A Dipterist's Handbook.. Amateur Entomologists' Society.