Dr Stewart Finlayson, PhD

Dr Stewart  Finlayson, PhD Image

University of Gibraltar:

Research Associate
Natural Sciences & Environment

Research Background

Stewart Finlayson is the Director of the Gibraltar National Museum’s Natural History Department and has just completed his PhD at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (UK). Stewart’s PhD is in Life Sciences, Evolutionary Biology, specifically looking at the relationship between Neanderthals and birds, how Neanderthals exploited these animals, what species, in specific, were being used, and for what reason. Stewart is also working on birds as climate indicators, trying to establish what habitats looked like based on the bird species found in the fossil record across Europe.

Stewart’s passion has always been wildlife, and he has been involved from a very young age, in various studies working with birds around Iberia alongside Professor Clive and Professor Geraldine Finlayson; his parents.

Stewart heads a study of Chiroptera in Gibraltar since 2013. The study, aptly named Gib-Bats, has looked at the population status of bats within Gibraltar and identified which species have gone locally extinct, and also identified new species, which had not been described for Gibraltar before. Gib-Bats is now the advising entity to Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar on all aspects to do with bats and is actively creating awareness of bats, in Gibraltar, running yearly bat nights (The Eurobats bat night) at which over 300 people, including many young children, come to find out about these nocturnal animals. He also works closely with the Education Officer at the museum on the annual education programme in collaboration with the Department of Education in Gibraltar.

Stewart holds a grade 7 bat handling license issued by Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar Department for the Environment. Grade 7 is the highest level license issued and allows the holder to train other individuals.

This study has expanded its reach and since 2016 Stewart is leading a study, alongside his colleagues at the Estacion Biologica de Doñana (CSIC) Spain, Professors Javier Juste and Carlos Ibañez. Here they are looking at the spatial and temporal dynamics of Miniopterus schreibersii in Gibraltar, southern Spain and North Africa. Stewart and his colleagues are marking these bats, using either bands (rings), microchips or occasionally VHF, to find roost entrances, and are attempting to piece together the movements of this highly migratory species and answer the question ‘Do bats cross the Strait of Gibraltar’. To answer this question, DNA samples are also being taken of individuals to see if there is fluid movement between the North African, and southern European populations.

Stewart holds a Spanish ‘Anillador experto’ license (Expert level license), the highest level license issued by the Spanish Ministerio de Medio Ambiente.

In 2017, Stewart was unanimously voted into the ‘Directiva’ (committee) of SECEMU ( – the Spanish National Association for the study and conservation of bats. A post which he still holds. In December 2018, Stewart organized the 7th SECEMU national bat conference; the second time it had been held outside Spain, and the first time in Gibraltar. It was a huge success with the highest turnout to date, with 111 students and professionals coming together from across the globe to discuss different aspects to do with the conservation of these animals.

In 2019, Stewart was also made a member of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group. He is the representative for Gibraltar and works with his counterparts in Spain and Portugal advising on species status in the Iberian Peninsula amongst other things.

Stewart is also a successful Wildlife Photographer, member of the Royal Photographic Society and has published his works in various books and magazines. Stewart is co-author of ‘A Guide to Wild Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar’ published by Santana books and lead author of ‘Lost World’ Secrets of a World Heritage Site’ published by the Gibraltar National Museum. He is currently in the process of writing his third book, this time with Pelagic Publishing.

Research Interests

His current research interests include Evolutionary Biology, Zoology, Ecology and Biogeography.

Selected Publications

Finlayson, S., Finlayson, G., Giles Guzman, F., Finlayson, C. 2019. Neanderthals and the cult of the Sun Bird. Quat Sci Rev. DOI:10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.04.010

Finlayson, S., Finlayson, C. 2016. The birdmen of the Pleistocene: On the relationship between Neanderthals and scavenging birds. Quaternary International, 421::78-84

Finlayson, C., Finlayson, S., Giles Guzman, F., Sanchez Marco, A., Finlayson, G., Jennings, R., Giles Pacheco, F., Rodriguez Vidal, J. 2016. Using birds as indicators of Neanderthal environmental quality: Gibraltar and Zafarraya compared. Quaternary International, 421: 32-45

Olalde, I, et al., 2019. The genomic history of the Iberian Peninsula. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4040

Rodríguez-Vidal, J., d’Errico, F., Giles Pacheco, F., Blasco, R., Rosell, J., Jennings, R. P., Queffelec, A., Finlayson, G., Fa, D. A., Gutiérrez López, J. M., Carrión, J. S., Negro, J. J., Finlayson, S., Cáceres, L. M., Bernal, M. A., Fernández Jiménez, S., Finlayson, C. 2014. A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (37), 13301-13306.

Muñiz, F., Caceres, LM., Rodriguez-Vidal, J., Neto de Carvalho, C., Belo, J., Finlayson, C., Finlayson, G., Finlayson, S., Izquierdo, T., Abad, M., Jimenez-Espejo, F., Sugisaki, S., Ruiz, F. 2019. Following the last neanderthals: Mammal tracks in Late Pleistocene costal dunes of Gibraltar. Quat Sci Rev. DOI:

Carrión, J. S., Ochando, J., Fernández, S., Blasco, R., Rosell, J., Munuera, M., Amorós, G., Martín-Lerma, I., Finlayson, S., Giles, F., Jennings, R., Finlayson, G., Giles-Pacheco, F., Rodríguez-Vidal, J., Finlayson C. 2018. Last Neanderthals in the warmest refugium of Europe: Palynological data from Vanguard Cave. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 259 (2018) 63–80

Carrión, J. S., Finlayson, C., Fernandez, S., Finlayson, G., Allué, E., et al., 2008. A coastal reservoir of biodiversity for Upper Pleistocene human populations: Palaeoecological investigations in Gorham’s Cave (Gibraltar) in the context of the Iberian Peninsula. Quat. Sci. Rev., 27, 2118-2135.

Blasco, R., Finlayson, C., Rosell, J., Sanchez Marco, A., Finlayson, S., Finlayson, G., Negro, J.J., Giles Pacheco, F., Rodriguez Vidal, J., 2014. The earliest pigeon fanciers. Sci. Rep. 4, 5971; DOI: 10.1038/srep05971.

Giles Guzman, FJ., Giles Pacheco, F., Gutierrez Lopez, JM., Reinoso del Rio, MC., Finlayson, C., Finlayson, G., Rodriguez Vidal, J., Finlayson, S. 2017. Bray, una cueva sepulcral de la edad del bronce en el peñón de Gibraltar. SAGVNTVM. DOI: 10.7203/SAGVNTVM.49.10658

Pomeroy, E., Grant, J., Ward, D., Benady, S., Reinoso del Rio, MC., Gutierrez Lopez, JM., Mata Almonte, E., Leon, JR., Rodriguez, LC., Finlayson, G., Finlayson, S., Finlayson C., Lane, K. 2019. Death in the sun: the bioarchaeology of an early post-medieval hospital in Gibraltar. Post-Med Arch. DOI: 10.1080/00794236.2018.1515402

Full Publications List