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Palaeontology and Environmental Change research

Researching the Earth’s history, biodiversity and environments

Based in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences, our work examines biodiversity, environments, climate, and landscapes over the past half a billion years of Earth’s history.

Our collective research interests explore the following topics

  • the reconstruction of ancient organisms and ecosystems
  • understanding timing, rates and impacts of climate change on past environments
  • the origins of major anatomical innovations
  • elucidating the evolutionary patterns and processes of diversification and extinction events

We achieve this through our expertise in vertebrate anatomy and palaeontology, micropalaeontology, palynology, trace fossils, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, tephrochronology, palaeoglaciology, sedimentology and geochemistry.

Publication highlights

Current projects

Our research projects are divided into research themes: 

  • Vertebrate anatomy and palaeontology (Nizar Ibrahim, Roy Smith)
    • Using comparative anatomy, phylogenetics, and digital tools, we reconstruct extinct vertebrates and their evolutionary history, with a particular focus on crocodile-like predators, flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and dinosaurs.
    • We work with researchers from many different fields (bioinformatics, genetics, developmental biology), in an effort to integrate developmental genetic and anatomical data. This work involves creating, defining, and curating hundreds of anatomical terms, which are valid across all anatomical disciplines (effectively replacing narrow-focus terms from human, veterinary, and avian terminology).
  • Organism-substrate interactions (Nicholas Minter)
    • We use experimental taphonomy to analyse the effects of sedimentary processes on the preservation potential of different organisms and test whether or not assemblages of body fossils are faithful representations of the communities that once lived on the Earth.
    • We conduct macroevolutionary analyses of in-situ trace fossil assemblages to investigate how ecospace occupation and ecosystem engineering have changed through time and in response to diversification events and mass extinctions.
  • Palaeozoic palaeoenvironments and stratigraphy (David Loydell, Anthony Butcher)
    • We use graptolites and chitinozoans to produce high-resolution biostratigraphical studies of primarily Silurian strata, enabling interpretations of sea-level and climate change, extinctions, and palaeogeography.
    • Our work is frequently integrated with geochemical studies, for example as part of the Sedimentary Geochemistry and Paleoenvironments Project
  • Palaeoceanography, palaeoclimate, and environments of the past (Sabine Wulf, Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero, Mark Hardiman, Clare Boston, Harold Lovell)
    • We use terrestrial and marine sedimentary records, multi-proxy evidence, and tephrochronology to reconstruct past environments and climate variability at different timescales throughout the Quaternary Period.
    • We use geomorphological and geochronological evidence of past glaciation to reconstruct glacial environments and their associated palaeoclimatic conditions.

Members

Academic staff

Clare Boston Portrait

Dr Clare Boston

Senior Lecturer

clare.boston@port.ac.uk

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Anthony Butcher Portrait

Dr Anthony Butcher

Programme Lead (Geosciences)

Anthony.Butcher@port.ac.uk

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Mark John Hardiman Portrait

Dr Mark Hardiman

Senior Lecturer

mark.hardiman@port.ac.uk

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Nizar Ibrahim Portrait

Dr Nizar Ibrahim

Senior Lecturer

Nizar.Ibrahim@port.ac.uk

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Harold Lovell Portrait

Dr Harold Lovell

Senior Lecturer

harold.lovell@port.ac.uk

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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David Kendrick Loydell Portrait

Dr David Loydell

Reader in Stratigraphy

David.Loydell@port.ac.uk

PhD Supervisor

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Nicholas John Minter Portrait

Dr Nic Minter

Reader in Analytical and Experimental Palaeontology

Nic.Minter@port.ac.uk

PhD Supervisor

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Pilar Mariem Saavedra Pellitero Portrait

Dr Mariem Saavedra Pellitero

Senior Lecturer

Mariem.Saavedra-Pellitero@port.ac.uk

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Roy Eames Smith Portrait

Dr Roy Smith

Lecturer

Roy.Smith@port.ac.uk

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Sabine Wulf Portrait

Dr Sabine Wulf

Reader in Environmental Change

sabine.wulf@port.ac.uk

PhD Supervisor

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Emeritus and honorary researchers

  • Prof Andy Gale 
  • Prof David Martill
  • Prof Robert Scaife (Visiting Professor)

Postgraduate students (PhD)

  • Laura Devine (Supervisors: Nicholas Minter, Steve Mitchell, Anthony Butcher) 
  • Evelyn Horsfall (Supervisors: Sabine Wulf, Mark Hardiman, Robert Scaife)
  • Catherine Hudson (Supervisors: Harold Lovell, Phil Soar)
  • Megan Jacobs (Supervisors: Nizar Ibrahim, Andy Gale)
  • Jeremy Lockwood (Supervisors: David Martill, David Loydell)
  • Simon Penn (Supervisors: Anthony Butcher, David Loydell, Steve Sweetman)

Explore more of our research

Crustal Evolution And Tectonics Research Group

At Portsmouth our group is particularly focussed on the development of Plate Tectonics throughout Earth history. We are addressing fundamental questions with respect to the Earth system such as when did Plate Tectonics begin operating and what changes can be documented in the style and rate of plate movement and subduction through time.

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Peace, Conflict and Security Research Group

We're researching the complex reality of the struggles over the meaning of security, citizenship and rights.

A lone soldier with a gun stands in a desolate landscape
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