The palaeobiology research theme at Birmingham spans an extraordinary range of biological, temporal and spatial scales.
Our research theme includes world-leading systematists and palaeoecologists specializing in organisms ranging from single-celled algae to the largest vertebrates to have walked the Earth (as well as the plants they ate). Researchers have made fundamental contributions to understanding the evolution and diversity of life on Earth, such as the radiation of the earliest fish, the origins of terrestrial vegetation, patterns of dinosaur diversity and the long-term evolution of marine phytoplankton. We have strong synergies and overlap with palaeoenvironmental geochemists and paleoclimatologists with in the Geosystems research group and are actively pursuing research into the complex inter-relationships between the Earth’s biosphere, climate and environment.
Palaeoclimate research at Birmingham integrates sedimentologists, palaeontologists, geochemists and climate modelers to produce an integrated view of ancient palaeoenvironmental change.
Our time periods of study stretch from detailed investigations of the sedimentology and glacial process of Proterozoic “snowball earth” events, to super high-resolution speleothem reconstructions and General Circulation Model simulations of Holocene climate. Analytical facilities available to palaeoclimate researchers in the group include a new organic geochemistry suite dedicated to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction (GC-FID, GC-MS, GC-ir-MS, LC-APCI-MS) as well as trace metal (ICP-MS and –OES), stable isotope and nannoparticle characterisation facilities within the School. Researchers also benefit from significant recent investment in central University analytical capability including, SEM/TEM suite, Secondary Ionistation Mass Spectrometry (SIMS), state-of-the-art XRF and XRD suite. We also have a strong relationship with the NERC Ion Microprobe Facility at the University of Edinburgh with numerous successful grants in the past 2/3 years.
Research in this area includes a range of work on the evolution of rifted margins with a current focus on an international collaborative project involving 3-D seismic profiling of the Iberian margin. The work has important implications for the role of deeply ingressing water, through serpentinization, in guiding the structural history of margins.
Fundamental research on spatial and temporal scales of mantle convection, currently extensively supported by the Irish government, focuses on Cenozoic evolution of the north Atlantic and links to global climate via both modulation of deep-water flow around Iceland and uplift-associated dissocation of gas hydrate. The development of techniques for detecting and quantifying gas hydrates and emissions of methane has been a key aspect of shallow geophysical investigations on continental slopes over the past two decades, including major participation in European programmes as well as NERC support.