A ‘pure’ geologist by training (graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 1998), I became interested in palaeontology as a tool for solving geological problems both during my degree and subsequent postgraduate/postdoctoral research. My specialisation into micropalaeontology is particularly well-suited for such tasks, as described in more detail below.
I am the Course Leader for our BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree course, and also the Outreach and Public Engagement Coordinator for the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences (SEES).
I both teach on and coordinate various units within SEES, including geological mapping and field techniques, micropalaeontology/palynology, invertebrate palaeontology, and laboratory/analytical techniques.
As a biostratigraphical palynologist, I use organic-walled microfossils to establish both the age of geological strata and their environment of deposition - these data can then be applied to solving geological problems. A particular area of specialisation is the use of chitinozoans (an extinct group of marine plankton) for the dating of Palaeozoic strata, and the recognition of Silurian hydrocarbon source rocks. Palynology is an extremely versatile type of micropalaeontology and can be used not only to date strata, but also as a proxy for sea level change, climate, ecology, and salinity in the geological past.
Given its application to the hydrocarbon industry, I am able to introduce my research into several of the units that I teach, giving students the opportunity to see how what they are learning in class can be applied in the real world, and how it can boost their employability.
I have also become active in palaeobotanical research, using new cutting-edge techniques to re-analyse some of the earliest land plant fossils.