Dynamic Hazard Map of the Campi Flegrei Caldera.

Congratulations to Danielle Charlton, our PhD student (UCL Hazard Centre), who has won first prize for her dynamic hazard map of the Campi Flegrei caldera at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS).


Oxygen Levels were Key to Early Animal Evolution.

A recently graduated doctoral student from our department has just published strong evidence that oxygen levels were key to early animal evolution. Dr Rosalie Tostevin (now at Oxford University) was supervised by Professor Graham Shields-Zhou in a project studying some of the world’s oldest animal-based reef ecosystems in Namibia. Over the course of her PhD, she looked at various chemical tracers of oxygen, before settling on a unique combination of iron speciation, rare earth elements and sulphur isotopes. The study has been widely reported as the first one that is able to distinguish between bodies of water with low and high levels of oxygen (not simply distinguishing oxic from anoxic waters).  Rosalie shows in her work, published in Nature Communications, that poorly oxygenated waters did not support the complex life that evolved immediately prior to the Cambrian Period, suggesting the presence of oxygen was a key factor in their appearance. More...

News from the Earth Sciences

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Precambrian Research Group

The Precambrian is the informal name for the first 90% of Earth history during which life began its incredibly long journey towards biological complexity. 

This journey culminated in the appearance and diversification of animals between about 750 and 540 million years ago. Sedimentary rocks become increasingly scarce the further back in time one looks. For this reason, Precambrian studies are multidisciplinary by necessity, piecing together clues from a range of fields: geochemistry, palaeobiology, biochemistry, sedimentology, genetics and a range of earth system models (atmospheric, ocean circulation, climate and biogeochemical).

Our research group primarily uses the chemical, mineral and isotopic composition of sedimentary rocks to reconstruct earth system evolution during the two billion year interval from the end of the Archaean Eon (about 2500 million years ago) to the beginning of the Phanerozoic Eon (about 540 million years ago). During this Proterozoic Eon, extraordinary perturbations occurred to our planet’s surface environment. Some disturbances were extreme but transient, such as the ‘Snowball Earth’ intervals of global glaciation. Others caused irreversible changes that shaped the modern earth system, such as the ‘Great Oxidation Event’ and the ‘Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event’ without which we would not be here today.