Lilian Unger

PhD Student

Contact details

About me

I am a current PhD student working with UCL and WWT. Growing up in London, nature documentaries and garden wildlife, especially my pond, sparked an interest in the natural world and conservation. This led me to do my undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Bristol, which gave me a great, broad foundation of knowledge. By the end of my time at Bristol, I realised my research interests were more specialised, and I wanted to focus on the conservation of freshwater habitats specifically. To pursue this, I continued my studies with a master’s degree in Aquatic Science (now known as Aquatic Conservation, Ecology and Restoration) at University College London. This is where I discovered the power of Palaeolimnology as a technique to study lake systems and I decided to stay within the department to do my PhD.

My project

Lakes deposit layers of sediment over time. These layers of mud contain plant and animal remains, as well as geochemical information, which can indicate what conditions were like in the past. Palaeolimnology works by taking a record of these layers and conducting different analyses, to determine how the lake and its surrounding area has changed. I will be using palaeolimnology to determine the effects of different human impacts over the last few hundred years, on lakes related to the Madagascar Pochard. I will be able to give WWT an idea of what the lakes were like before these impacts, and how they might be able to restore them to these states. You can read more about the work WWT is doing to save the Madagascar pochard and more about my project.

Experience and interests

  • Fieldwork – I have been on two trips to collect lake sediment cores and, conduct modern ecological surveys in Madagascar so far.
  • Laboratory work – I must also analyse the samples that I collect back in the lab, including the identification and counting of organism remains under the microscope.
  • Data analysis – I will analyse and explore the resultant data in various statistical programmes.
  • Project management – I am ensuring the project is well planned and completed on time.
  • Networking and outreach – I am using effective networking and outreach to allow my research to benefit from the sharing of information between researchers and input from different stakeholders.


Cadd, Haidee R., John Tibby, Cameron Barr, Jonathan Tyler, Lilian Unger, Melanie J. Leng, Jonathan C. Marshall et al. "Development of a southern hemisphere subtropical wetland (Welsby Lagoon, south-east Queensland, Australia) through the last glacial cycle." Quaternary Science Reviews 202 (2018): 53-65.

Return to meet the team