We study the structure, morphology, growth and systematics of organisms and their interactions with each other and with the lithosphere, oceans and atmosphere.
Palaeobiology is the study of the history and evolution of life.
We study the structure, morphology, growth and systematics of organisms (taxonomy), and their interactions with each other (ecology) and with the lithosphere, oceans and atmosphere (geochemistry).
We work from the scale of microbes to trees. We interpret the nature of the fossil record through the lens of preservation (taphonomy).
Our researchers have made particular contributions to understanding:
- the early colonisation of Earth by plants and trees
- the role of preservational processes in interpreting the fossil record
- the history of life and chemistry in the early oceans
- the evolution of marine microorganisms.
Palaeobotany and early terrestrial ecosystems
The palaeobotany group studies the early stages in the colonisation of life on land. We describe the diversity of plant life on land through the Silurian and Devonian periods, and study their influence on environment, from the smallest land plants to the first trees and forests.
Global recognition is enhanced by collaborations worldwide, including in China and North and South America, and fieldwork in these areas and the Arctic.
We collaborate with developmental biologists and geneticists in assembling deep time phylogenies of land plants leading to an understanding of the evolution of extant terrestrial lineages. We also collaborate with vertebrate palaeontologists establishing the co-emergence of vertebrate life on land.
Biogeochemical chemical evolution of the Precambrian biosphere
Our research is focussed on the interplay between biology, palaeo-ocean chemistry and the biogeochemical evolution of the earliest geosphere.
A bulk of our research is inspired by an excellent understanding of modern marine biogeochemical processes to infer the mechanisms of formation of ancient marine banded iron formations, manganese deposition, palaeo-seawater nutrient cycling, ocean-atmosphere redox evolution and isotope biogeochemistry, linked to triggers and consequences of early Earth oxygenation history.
As a multidisciplinary discipline, we work extensively with microbiologists, geobiologists, geochemists, sedimentologists, palaeontologists and isotope geochemists.
Berry, C. (Principal Investigator) Earliest forests of woody trees in Svalbard. National Geographic. 2016, £15,000
ChiFru, E. (Principal Investigator) Coevolution of life and arsenic in Precambrian oceans. European Research Council
Edwards, D. (Principal Investigator)Resolution of anatomy, ontogeny and affinities of Siluro-Devonian Pachytheca. Leverhulme Trust. £22000
Edwards, D. (Co-Principal Investigator) The origin of plants. NERC Co PI. 2015, £60,000
Edwards, D. (Principal Investigator) Investigations on diversity in early land plants. Gatsby Foundation. 2014-2016 - £20,000, 2017 - £25.500
Pearson, P. (Principal Investigator) Expedition 363 West Pacific Warm Pool: planktonic foraminifer biostratigraphy and the evolution of Pulleniatina. NERC IODP Moratorium proposal, £43,720, inc. 2 months full time FEC plus 1 hour per week FEC
Pearson, P. (Co-Principal Investigator) Are adaptive zones important in macroevolution? NERC CoPI. 2015-2018, £70,000
Meet the team
- Wright, V. P. et al., 2018. Testing whether early diagenesis of skeletal carbonate is different in non-marine settings: contrasting styles of molluscan preservation in the Upper Jurassic of Portugal. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 492 , pp.1-9. (10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.11.014)
- Honegger, R. et al., 2018. Fertile Prototaxites taiti: a basal ascomycete with inoperculate, polysporous asci lacking croziers. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373 (1739) 20170146. (10.1098/rstb.2017.0146)
- Xu, H. et al., 2017. Unique growth strategy in the Earth's first trees revealed in silicified fossil trunks from China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (45), pp.12009-12014. (10.1073/pnas.1708241114)
- Wright, V. P. and Cherns, L. 2016. Leaving no stone unturned: the feedback between increased biotic diversity and early diagenesis during the Ordovician. Journal of the Geological Society 173 (2), pp.241-244. (10.1144/jgs2015-043)
- Berry, C. M. and Marshall, J. E. A. 2015. Lycopsid forests in the early Late Devonian paleoequatorial zone of Svalbard. Geology 43 (12), pp.1043-1046. (10.1130/G37000.1)
- Chi Fru, E. et al. 2015. Biogenicity of an Early Quaternary iron formation, Milos Island, Greece. Geobiology 13 (3), pp.225-244. (10.1111/gbi.12128)
- Pearson, P. N. and Wade, B. S. 2015. Systematic taxonomy of exceptionally well-preserved planktonic foraminifera from the Eocene/Oligocene boundary of Tanzania. Special Publication 45: Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research , pp.1-85.
- Pearson, P. N. and Coxall, H. K. 2014. Origin of the Eocene planktonic foraminifer Hantkenina by gradual evolution. Palaeontology 57 (2), pp.243-267. (10.1111/pala.12064)
- Pearson, P. N. and Ezard, T. H. G. 2013. Evolution and speciation in the Eocene planktonic foraminifer Turborotalia. Paleobiology 40 (1), pp.130-143. (10.1666/13004)
Macro-photography and imaging lab
This laboratory includes Nikon digital SLR studio photography with polarized light capability and tethered cameras, Leica Aristophot macrophoto stand, and a dedicated graphics computer with print format screens, Adobe Acrobat Pro and other graphics/desktop publishing software.
Light microscopy suite
This laboratory includes several binocular and compound microscopes with Leica image processing software for both biological and geological specimens.
Hydrofluoric acid laboratory
This laboratory is used for the specialist preparation of palynological and other samples by acid digestion of rocks.
Fossil preparation laboratory
The fossil laboratory includes equipment for the dirty preparation of fossil specimens, including dust extraction units and fume hoods, plastic resin embedding facilities, and a limited capability for precision sawing of small specimens.
Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM)
This is a high resolution ESEM allowing magnifications up to 500,000x on conventional coated/conducting samples but it also has the capability for high resolution ESEM of uncoated and even hydrated "wet" samples.