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Department of Earth Sciences



A focus of our research is the Cambrian "explosion," arguably the greatest transition in the history of life, a better appreciation of which will improve our understanding of the broader aspects of the evolutionary process. Our approach involves novel interrogation of the early fossil record combined with leading-edge phylogenetic and morphometric techniques, and recognition of the powerful interplay between biological and planetary evolution. We are also a major centre for vertebrate palaeontology, again integrating biology (e.g. functional biology) and geology (e.g. plate tectonics and palaeobiogeography).

Community Structure, Evolution and Organismal Interaction

  • The early evolution of eukaryotes, multicellularity and heterotrophy, particularly as they relate to ecological expansion through the Proterozoic and early Cambrian.
  • ‘Ecosystem engineering' feedback effects of biological evolution.
  • Ediacaran and Cambrian (especially Burgess Shale-type) faunas.
  • The evolution and palaeobiology of archosaurian reptiles.
  • Predator-prey interactions in marine communities.
  • Systematics and phylogeny of trilobites, early arthropods and ecdysozoans.
  • Recent and fossil bivalves with an eye to reconstructing their evolutionary history.
  • The mechanisms and palaeobiological implications of exceptional fossil preservation.
  • The development of combined phylogenetic and palaeobiogeographic techniques.
  • Convergence and contingency in biological evolution.
  • Studying the evolutionary origins of key avian features such as feathers, flight, and endothermy
  • Establishing accurate evolutionary timescales across the vertebrate tree of life
  • Inferring phylogenetic interrelationships using novel molecular, morphological, and fossil data
  • Improving biogeographic inferences using fossils, and studying the link between climate change and biogeographic range
  • Investigating macroevolutionary patterns across mass extinction events
  • Developing hard and soft tissue anatomical atlases for key vertebrate taxa using new visualization techniques
  • THe evolution and palaeobiology of archosaurian reptiles
  • The early evoulution and diversification of birds

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds in geology, zoology, biology and, when appropriate, physics or biomathematics.

Recent publications in this area.