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...

EarthSciences Arctic Meeting

Understanding the Arctic.

The Arctic has undergone some of the most rapid transformations over the past 50 years, with global implications for the Earth’s climate. A dramatic indicator of Arctic climate change is the shrinking summer sea ice cover. Recently Arctic sea ice loss has accelerated with the ten lowest minima sea ice extents (SIE) all occurring in the last ten years, and the Arctic is now expected to become ice-free during summer at some point this century.  More...

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Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory

Experimental & theoretical rock physics, ice mechanics & petrologyapplied to planetary dynamics, geohazards, sub-surface reservoirs & ice sheets

The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory (RIPL) at UCL is a major research facility which forms part of the Earth Sciences Department. RIPL has over 15 members and consists of 11 laboratories, housing over £4M of research equipment., supported by over £2 million of current peer-reviewed funding. The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory has a unique breadth of experience and ability to design and build its own experimental apparatus.


We study the physical behaviour of ice and rocks that make up the surface and interior of the Earth, and other solid bodies in the solar system, so as to constrain the dynamic, tectonic and environmental processes of planetary evolution. Our research is nationally unique and multi-disciplinary, being based on experiment and theory.