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.
Flume experiments reveal flows in the Burgess Shale can sample and transport organisms across substantial distances
Bath Enright OG, Minter NJ, Sumner EJ, Mángano MG & Buatois LA (2021) Communications Earth and Environment 2, 104.
Quantifying ecospace utilization and ecosystem engineering during the early Phanerozoic – the role of bioturbation and bioerosion
Buatois LA, Mángano MG, Minter NJ, Zhou K, Wisshak M, Wilson MA & Olea R (2020) Science Advances 6, eabb0618.
Re-interpretation of ‘hummocky moraine’ in the Gaick, Scotland, as erosional remnants: Implications for palaeoglacier dynamics.
Chandler BM, Boston CM, Lukas S & Lovell H (2021) Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 132, 506-524.
Davies BJ, Darvill CM, Lovell H, Bendle JM, Dowdeswell JA, Fabel D, ... & Thorndycraft VR (2020) Earth-Science Reviews 204, 103152.
Fabbri M, Navalón G, Benson RB, Pol D, O’Connor J, Bhullar BAS, [11 other authors] & Ibrahim, N. (2022) Nature, 603, 852-857.
Ibrahim N, Maganuco S, Dal Sasso C, Fabbri M, Auditore M, Bindellini G, Martill DM, Zouhri S, Mattarelli D, Unwin DM, Wiemann J, Bonadonna D, Amane A, Jakubczak J, Joger U, Lauder GV & Pierce SE (2020) Nature 581, 67-70.
Ecological and wildfire responses to rapid landscape changes within the last ~900 years on the South Haven Peninsula, Dorset (southern England).
Howlett D, Wulf S, Wharram S, Hardiman M & Byrne H (2022) . Quaternary 5, 27.
Coupled coccolith-based temperature and productivity high-resolution reconstructions in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific during the last deglaciation and the Holocene
Saavedra-Pellitero M, Hernández-Almeida I, Cabarcos E, Baumann K-H, Dunkley Jones T, Sierro FJ and Flores J-A (2022) Frontiers in Marine Science 9, 865846.
Osmium and lithium isotope evidence for weathering feedbacks linked to orbitally paced organic carbon burial and Silurian glaciations.
Sproson AD, Pogge von Strandmann PAE, Selby D, Jarochowska E, Frýda J, Hladil J, Loydell DK, Slavík L, Calner M, Maier G, Munnecke A & Lenton TM (2022) Earth and Planetary Science Letters 577, 117260.
Stockey RG, Cole DB, Planavsky NJ, Loydell DK, Frýda, J & Sperling, EA (2020) Nature Communications 11, 1804.
Distribution of coccoliths in surface sediments across the Drake Passage and calcification of Emiliania huxleyi morphotypes.
Vollmar NM, Baumann K-H, Saavedra-Pellitero M, Hernández-Almeida I (2022) Biogeosciences 19, 585–612.
Satow C, Gudmundsson A, Gertisser R, Bronk Ramsey C, Bazargan M, Pyle D.M., Wulf S., Miles AJ & Hardiman M. (2021) Nature Geoscience 14, 586–592.
Defining the Upper Nisyros Pumice (57.1 ± 1.5 ka) as new tephra isochrone for linking early MIS-3 palaeoenvironmental records in the Aegean-Black Sea gateway: new evidence from the Sea of Marmara
Wulf S, Cagatay MN, Appelt O, Eris KK & Henry P (2021). Quaternary Science Reviews 274, 107285.
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.
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.
Peace, Conflict and Security Research Group
We're researching the complex reality of the struggles over the meaning of security, citizenship and rights.