John Flenley is an innovative, natural scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to social science. His work on Quaternary palynology in Britain prepared him for pioneering the study of Quaternary interactions between humans and the environment in the Pacific region, a field in which he is a leading figure. His research concerns the prehistory of interactions between people and the environment, and in particular the impact of colonisation, a novel feature being the proxy evidence of human impact on vegetation. His work on Rapa Nui/Easter Island helped create a new field of environmental archeology. Professor Flenley has also contributed to methodological developments in palynology, most recently involving scanning electron microscopy.