Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates Research Group

The Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates Group has a wide range of research programmes that focus on Palaeozoic and Mesozoic organisms and exceptionally preserved fossil biotas (lagerstätten), with the aim of enhancing understanding of the processes and patterns of the evolution of life, and the interactions between the biosphere and other elements of the Earth system.

Leicester's Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates Group has an international reputation for initiatives elucidating the taphonomy and palaeobiology of globally important Palaeozoic lagerstätten, especially the Cambrian Chengjiang (China), Ordovician Soom Shale (South Africa) and Silurian Herefordshire (UK) faunas. Staff are leaders in the fields of the palaeobiology and evolutionary relationships of conodonts and other early fish, ostracods and related arthropods, pterosaurs, and in determining preservational pathways for the decay and preservation of soft-bodied organisms.

Coated Cast

Palaeobiology, Palaeoenvironments and Palaeoclimates Group members have acknowledged expertise in the application of microfossils, including phytoplankton, and macrofossils in high resolution biostratigraphy and in interpreting deep time (Palaeozoic and Cenozoic) ocean/atmosphere systems and palaeoclimate; they are centrally involved in work on the Anthropocene paradigm. Vertebrate research also includes 3D textural analysis of tooth microwear to investigate the trophic ecology of fishes, dinosaurs and mammals.

The group publishes in journals of the highest international quality, and has strong links with palaeontology laboratories and geological surveys world-wide. Its research is supported by NERC, The Royal Society, The Leverhulme Trust, the British Geological Survey and Industry, and its staff hold leading positions in learned Palaeontological societies and Stratigraphic Commissions.

Academic Staff

NameName
Professor Sarah Gabbott Dr David Unwin
Dr Tom Harvey Professor Mark Williams
Dr Tom Fletcher Professor David Siveter (Emeritus)
Professor Mark Purnell Professor Jan Zalasiewicz

Research Staff and Students

NameName
Mr Jordan Bestwick
Mr Michael Morton
Mr Thomas Clements Mr Christopher Nedza
Mr Joseph Emmings Miss Leah Nolan
Mr Robert Goodall Mr Christopher Stocker
Mr Thomas Hearing Mr Zardasht Taha
Miss Yujing Li Dr Thijs Vandenbroucke (now at Lille)
Dr Victoria McCoy Miss Yasmin Yonan
Miss Laura McLennan

Research Visitors

NameLocation
Dr Changshi Qi Yunnan University, China
Professor Hou Xian-guang Yunnan University, China
Dr Zheng Xiguang Yunnan University, China
Prof Nigel Hughes University of California Riverside

Group Alumni

NamePhD Project TitleWhat are they doing now?
Dr Mark Evans Evolution of Jurassic Plesiosauria Currently curator of Natural History, New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester
Dr Jawad Afzal Palaeocene-Eocene Foraminifera of the Indus Basin, Pakistan Currently working as biostratigrapher for Fugro Robertson
Dr Irfan Jan Investigating the palaeoenvironments and narrow palaeoclimate zones of the Palaeotethyan Permo-Carboniferous icehouse: the boulder beds of the Salt Range, Pakistan Currently Assistant professor National Centre for Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar, Pakistan
Dr David Baines Tooth microwear in fishes Currently at Natural History Museum, London
Dr Carys Bennett Lower Carboniferous ostracods and isotopes of the Midland Valley, Scotland: testing for the ecological shift into non-marine environments Currently Postdoc at University of Lille
Ben Davies Functional morphology and locomotion of early vertebrates (MPhil)
Dr David Jones Exploiting the palaeobiological potential of conodonts: evolutionary trends, patterns and processes (PhD). Tooth wear and ecological constraints on isotopic & biostratigraphic analyses using conodonts (PDRA) Went on to postdoc positions in Leicester and Bristol
Dr Xiaoya Ma The Lower Cambrian Chengjiang Biota, Yunnan, China Postdoc at Natural History Museum, London
Dr David Riley
Taphonomy of the Herefordshire Lagerstätte Currently working for Chemostrat Ltd
Dr Alex Page Graptolitic mudrocks and the taphonomy of organic fossils Currently teaching
Dr Rowan Whittle Problematic fossils from the Late Ordovician Soom Shale lagerstätte, South Africa Currently working for British Antarctic Survey
Dr Vince Williams Tooth microwear, diet and feeding in ornithischian dinosaurs Currently teaching

Experimental/Technical Staff

NamePosition
Miss Lin Marvin-Dorland Scanning Electron Microscope Technician

Honorary Research Staff

NameLocation
Dr Philip Donoghue Bristol University
Dr Mike Howe British Geological Survey
Dr Stewart Molyneux British Geological Survey
Dr Gary Mullins Fugro Robertson Ltd
Dr Philip Wilby British Geological Survey

Current and Recent Projects

  • Chengjiang Lagerstätte, Cambrian, China (Royal Society)
  • Comley Lagerstätte, Cambrian, UK (NERC)
  • Herefordshire Lagerstätte, Silurian, UK (NERC & Leverhulme Trust)
  • Soom Shale Lagerstätte, Ordovician, South Africa
  • Eramosa Lagerstätte, Silurian, Canada (Royal Ontario Museum and NERC)
  • Experimental decay of onychophorans - lobopodian anatomy and arthropod origins (NERC)
  • Decay and preservation of chordates, and vertebrate origins (NERC)
  • Silurian phytoplankton and oceanic change (Leverhulme Trust)
  • Origins, ecology and paleobiology of ostracods and related arthropods (Royal Society and Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science)
  • Palaeobiology of conodonts
  • Bridging the gap between ecological and evolutionary timescales: tooth wear, niche differentiation and speciation in living and fossil fishes (NERC)
  • Systematics locomotion and palaeobiology of pterosaurs
  • Palaeoclimate of the Neogene and Holocene (USGS PRISM paleoclimate group and the British Antarctic Survey)
  • Tooth wear and ecological constraints on conodonts (NERC)
  • Provenance of lowland Iron Age ceramics using micropalaeontology (Nuffield and NERC)
  • Early Palaeozoic climates
  • The Anthropocene – a new epoch of time characterised by humans (British Geological Survey)

Awards and Prizes

NameMedal/Award
Prof Richard J. Aldridge Coke Medal, Geological Society of London, 2012
Prof Richard J. Aldridge Lapworth medal of Palaeontological Association, 2011
Prof Mark Purnell and Dr Sarah Gabbott Shortlisted for Times Higher Awards Research Project of the Year, 2011
Dr Rob Sansom SET for Britain, Bronze Medal (Biological Science) 2011
Mr Laurent Darras Palaeontological Association Best Poster prize, 2010
Prof Mark Purnell and Prof Paul Hart (Biology) Shortlisted for Times Higher Awards Research Project of the Year, 2008
Prof Mark Purnell Hinde Medal of the Pander Society, 2006

Collaborations

  • Yunnan University, China
  • China University of Geosciences, Wuhan
  • Ulm University, Germany
  • Lyon University, Lille University, France
  • Ghent University, Belgium
  • Tartu University; Institute of Geology, Tallin, Estonia
  • Yale University, USA
  • University of Bath, UK
  • University of Bristol, UK
  • University of Central London, UK
  • Oxford University, UK
  • British Geological Survey
  • Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Royal Ontario Museum, Canada
  • United States Geological Survey, PRISM paleoclimate group

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