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Department of Earth Sciences



My work broadly investigates how animals interacted with the environments in which they lived through the study of their trace fossils (e.g. footprints, trackways and burrows) that are recorded in sedimentary rocks. Within this theme of 'ichnology' I have worked on several projects:

Understanding the theatre of terrestrialization: Silurian-Devonian sedimentary landscapes and continental ecosystems

Animals established permanent communities on land over 400 million years ago, although many questions surround the timing, locations, and mechanisms for the transition out of the oceans. Understanding how animal-sediment interactions changed over the course of this colonization of the continents formed the basis of my PhD research. Using field-based analysis and collection of primary sedimentological and trace fossil data from three continents, and supported by a database I am developing of ichnological characteristics for all global non-marine rock formations from the lower and middle Palaeozoic I have identified a global signature for the transition. This placed new spatial and temporal constraints on a key process in the history of animal life.

Silurian-Devonian Nearshore Sedimentary Environments

Through collaboration with Dr Martin Brazeau (Imperial College, London), I was invited on an expedition to the Canadian High Arctic in July 2018 as a team member with expertise in sedimentary geology and ichnology. The aim of this work was to understand the early diversification of jawed vertebrates into nearshore environments during the Late Silurian and Early Devonian. Beyond this, I investigated the changing trace fossil record in the reef and back-reef  carbonate environments that we studied to look for evidence of contemporaneous changes in invertebrate behaviour in these settings.

This project has formed the subject of an ongoing blog and podcast series on "Palaeocast", discussing the process of planning and undertaking fieldwork in an Arctic setting, and the results of this fieldwork. A link to this can be found here:

Within this, I performed video interviews in the field describing the process and importance of creating a sedimentary log, and discussing my experiences on during the early parts of the expedition:

Dinosaur-landscape interactions

Large animals are known to affect the environments that they live in by acting as geomorphic agents, and through analogy it is likely that dinosaurs would have had a similar impact in ancient environments. In collaboration with Dr Neil Davies, a large assemblage of exceptionally preserved dinosaur footprints that we discovered near Hastings was analysed to understand the community composition and what evidence there was that these dinosaurs changed the world that they lived in.

This work has recently been covered in the media, with interviews for national and international television, radio, newspapers and magazines. A link to an interview for "As it Happens" on CBC radio is provided below.


Key publications: 

Research Student
 Anthony P Shillito

Contact Details

Email address: 
N. 297
Downing Street
+44 (0) 1223 334173