Dr Lil Stevens

Lil Stevens
  • Curator
  • Earth Sciences department
  • Invertebrates and Plants Division
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road

NHM Projects

Indian and Indo-Pacific Oceans Coral Project 2011

Earlier in 2011 two exciting new curation projects started in the Zoology and Palaeontology departments. Both projects involve working on corals and will hep researchers gauge coral diversity in the recent and not-so-recent past. Recent corals from the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean and fossil corals and other shallow marine organisms collected in Indonesia make up two very large and important collections at the NHM.Two curators are working on these collections, Natalina Bonassera from the Zoology Department and first me and now Lyndsey Douglas from palaeo. 

The Chagos Islands corals were collected in the 1970s from and area in the Indian Ocean that was extremely diverse in shallow marine organisms. The corals could provide valuable data for climate change studies and are currently being prepared for research. The collections are described in more detail here: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/historical-marine-collections/nhm-collections/coral/index.html.

The Throughflow Project is being carried out by the Indo-Pacific Ancient Ecosystems Group (www.ipaeg.org) and is focussed on reef organisms and environments from the Miocene/Oligocene epochs (around 20 million years ago) in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. If you followed our expedition to Indonesia last winter (see our blog at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/blogs/borneo) you will know that we collected thousands of fossils and rock samples that will help us work out what organisms lived in the reefs, how they lived and how they dealt with environmental and climate changes.


Palaeobotany Collections

The palaeobotany collections of the NHM are amongst the most important in museums worldwide in respect of their geographic, stratigraphic and historical range. They span the Archean to the Recent and in addition to plants contain cyanobacteria and fungi. The collection is particularly rich in fossils from the British coal measures, Yorkshire Jurassic, Eocene London Clay and some ex-British colonies such as Australia, S. Africa, India and Canada. Over 1100 type specimens are found in the collection of around 250,000 hand specimens and 30,000 slide preparations and fossils that range in size from microscopic cuticle preparations to a 15m long tree. The museum holds many palaeobotanical collections of historic importance, including those made by Charles Darwin, Marie Stopes, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, W.H. Lang, W.C. Williamson, W. Hemingway, F.W. Oliver, and D.H. Scott. The Seward Library contains a comprehensive set of reprints, monographs, general palaeobotany textbooks, theses and archives.

Special projects in 2010

London Clay flora - conserving and databasing a collection of the Eocene fossil seeds

Green River plants - identification and amalgamation into the collection of these new acquisitions

Lyme Regis Tempskya - accessioning and describing an interesting new specimen to the collections

Marie Stopes coal balls - monitoring oxygen levels after conservation at the PCU

Needham tree - finishing the 3D scanning and analysing the data


Employment history

2011 Curator, Palaeontology Vertebrates Curation Group

2011 Project Officer, Indian and Indo-Pacific Coral Project, Natural History Museum

2011 Research Assistant, Palaeozoic floras of east Asia, Natural History Museum

2010 Curator of Palaeobotany (Temp. cover), Natural History Museum.

2009-2010 Project Worker, Lower Devonian plants, Natural History Museum.

2005-2009 PhD student, undergraduate teacher and demonstrator, UCAS guide, Lapworth Museum volunteer, University of Birmingham.

2002-2003 Volunteer Palaeobotanist, Royal Museums of Scotland.

1997-2000 Research Assistant, Department of Occupational Medicine, Brompton Hospital.


2005-2009 PhD ‘Plant palaeobiology of late Palaeozoic terrestrial lagerstätten from Britain and China’, University of Birmingham.

Central chapters:

  •  A Permian palaeofloristic succession in central Shanxi, China: influence of  palaeoenvironment
  •  Influence of palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment on leaf physiognomy in Chinese Permain sphenopsids
  •  Ontogeny and ecology of the filicalean fern Oligocarpia gothanii  (Gleicheniaceae) from the middle Permian of China
  •  Palynological and floristic correlation of the Mississippian plant-bearing sequence at Loch Humphrey Burn, Scotland
  •  Systematics, phylogeny and reproductive biology of Flemingites arcuatus sp. nov., partial reconstruction of an exceptionally preserved Carboniferous arborescent lycopsid.

1997-2001 BSc Honours Plant Sciences 2:1, University of Edinburgh



Palaeozoic plant biology, ecology and diversity

using diversity data to detect changes in environment or climate
exploring new techniques for characterising plants, e.g. 3D scanning, morphometrics
interaction between plants and their environment, and finding ways of measuring this in extinct plants

Flemingites arcuatus


Stevens, L. G., Hilton, J., Bond, D. P. G., Glasspool, I. J. and Jardine, P. E. 2011. Radiation and extinction patterns in Pennsylvanian-Permian floras from North China as indicators for environmental and climate change. Journal of the Geological Society of London, 168(2): 607-619.

Stevens, L. G., Hilton, J., Rees, A. R., Rothwell, G. W. & Bateman, R. M. 2010. Systematics, phylogenetics, and reproductive biology of Flemingites arcuatus sp. nov., an exceptionally preserved and partially reconstructed Carboniferous arborescent lycopsid. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 171(7): 783-808.

Bond, D. P. G., Hilton, J., Wignall, P. B., Ali, J. R., Stevens, L. G., Sun, Y. & Lai, X. 2010. The Middle Permian (Capitanian) mass extinction on land and in the oceans. Earth Science Reviews, 102: 100-116.

Stevens, L. G. and Hilton, J. 2009. Ontogeny and ecology of the filicalean fern Oligocarpia gothanii  (Gleicheniaceae) from the middle Permian of China. American Journal of Botany, 96:  475-486.

Wang, S-J., Hilton, J., Liang, M-M., & Stevens, L. 2006. Permineralised seed plants from the late Permian of southern China: a new species of Cardiocarpus. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 176: 1247-1257.

Hilton, J., Wang, S-J., Galtier, J., Glasspool, I. and Stevens, L. 2004. An Upper Permian permineralized plant assemblage in volcaniclastic tuff from the Xuanwei Formation, Guizhou Province, southern China, and its palaeofloristic significance. Geological Magazine, 141: 661-674.

Hilton, J., Stevens, L. and Glasspool, I. J. 2003. TBA: Two Biosignificant Assemblages from the Upper Permian of China. Newsletter of the Linnean Society Palaeobotany Specialist Group, 20: 5.


Published abstracts

Stevens, L. G. and Cleal, C. 2008. Experimental morphometrics using Chinese Permian sphenopsids as proxies for climate. Terra Nostra 2, IPC-XII / IOPC-VIII Bonn, Germany.

Stevens, L. G. and Hilton, J. 2007. Morphology and provenance of a mysterious lycopsid with exceptional preservation. 51st Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting, Uppsala, Sweden.

Stevens, L. G. 2006. Morphology, ontogeny and ecology of the Palaeozoic whole plant fern Oligocarpia gothanii Halle. 50th Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting, Sheffield, UK.

Grant awards

2006 and 2008 Scanlan Fund for conference travel.

2006 and 2007 Synthesys funding for 5-week research visits to the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

2006 Geological Society of London funding for fieldwork and museum visits in Scotland.

2006 Systematics Association funding for fieldwork in Scotland