UCL Earth Sciences



Palaeoclimate, Palaeobiology, and Palaeoenvironments, the study of sediment and fossil archives using complimentary techniques (stratigraphy, sedimentology, geobiology, geochemistry, palaeontology)

Palaeoclimate, Palaeobiology, and Palaeoenvironments
Our research is focussed on the study of sediment and fossil archives using complimentary techniques (stratigraphy, sedimentology, geochemistry, palaeontology) and shared laboratories. Our aim is to understand the history of Earth’s life and climate, and the interactions between the two in both the marine and terrestrial realms. In particular, we are interested in (i) understanding the controls on rapid climate change and the effects on evolutionary rates, biodiversity and biogeography, (ii) the development and application of proxies for documentation of climatic, oceanographic and environmental change, including the geochemistry of biominerals, (iii) the development of new stratigraphic techniques that provide high-resolution correlative tools and primary data for geological time-scale construction, and (iv) modern and ancient sediment transport and deposition with its environmental (management of coastal and dune environments), economic (hydrocarbon industry), and planetary applications. 



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Research highlights include:

  • Reconstruction of ancient latitudinal biodiversity patterns. (Upchurch: Manion et al. 2012b2014
  • Analysis of dinosaurian evolutionary history: diversity (Upchurch: 2011); body mass (Benson et al. 2014) and monographic description of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs (Upchurch: Mannion et al. 2012a2013D'Emic et al 2013Poropat et al 2014Xu et al. 2012).
  • Determining the provenance and residence time of dune sand in the great sand seas of Namibia, Arabia and China using a combination of sedimentary petrography, detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology, and cosmogenic nuclide dating. (Vermeesch)
  • The first examination of the response of ocean chemistry to extreme post-Snowball Earth global warming, using calcium and magnesium isotopes. (Pogge von Strandmann: Kasemann et al., 2014)
  • Detailed nanoscale geochemical and petrographic analysis of the microfossiliferous Doushantuo phosphorite (China) suggest that cyanobacteria were thriving after a snowball Earth event and may have played an important role in phosphogenesis. (Papineau: 2013)
  • The first estimates of high-resolution nannoplankton species extinction and origination rates from the PETM that show increased extinction over the duration of the event related to extreme warming and acidification of photic zone habitats (Bown)
  • Refinement, to the point-of-use, of Mg/Ca palaeo-thermometry with belemnites: its application yielded the first quantitative evidence for the existence of polar ice-caps in the Cretaceous greenhouse world (McArthur)
  • The codification and issue of a calibration standard for Phanerozoic Sr-isotope stratigraphy that has been adopted by >100 bodies worldwide (McArthur)
  • Quantification of temperature, productivity, pCO2 and biotic response at the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (Wade)