Inorganic Geochemistry

Inorganic ChemistryOur research focuses on determining how and why Earth’s climate, environments and oceans have changed in the past. We are particularly focused on the interactions between the different components of the Earth system, especially between the biosphere and climate.  

We utilise a diverse range of analytical techniques including stable isotopes and elemental concentrations, preserved in both historical and geological archives such as soils, fossils, speleothems and sediments/rocks.

We are active in testing the fidelity of known proxies and their carriers, to create more accurate palaeoreconstructions. We work closely with other members of the Palaeoclimate group bringing together numerical modeling, organic geochemistry and micropalaeontology, to better understand the operation of the Earth system through time.

Academic staff

Dr Rebecca Bartlett 

Rebecca is a biogeochemist, specialising in nutrient cycling and environmental change in modern and past environments. Her research focuses on the biogeochemistry of peats, soils and sediments during environmental disturbance; the subsurface microbial response to natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric sulphur deposition, temperature, storms and floods, mineral reactivity and chemical pollution. Using a combined field and laboratory approach, and stable isotopic techniques, Rebecca’s work examines the small-scale (local) consequences of long-term (global) changes to the environment, and subsequent impacts on pH, carbon dynamics, major nutrient cycles and water quality.


Ian BoomerDr Ian Boomer

Ian is a micropalaeontologist who studies calcareous benthic microfossils, particularly ostracods (microscopic Crustacea), but also foraminifera, to reconstruct past environments. His work spans much of the last 200 million years of earth history, with projects as diverse as the late-glacial history of lakes in Scotland to Mesozoic Ocean Anoxic Events.


Dr Thomas Dunkley JonesDr Tom Dunkley Jones

Tom is a micropalaeontologist and palaeoceanographer specialising in the study of fossil coccolithophore algae. Recent PhD students have developed new SIMS-based techniques for the determination of single coccolith Sr/Ca ratios (Prentice et al. 2014) and the application of the Sr/Ca proxy to understand algae growth rates across key events in the Cenozoic climate record. With students and post-doctoral fellows, he is currently working on Sr/Ca records through the Eocene/Oligocene transition (IODP Exp. 320) and the late Pliocene (IODP Exp. 363).


edgar-kirstyDr Kirsty Edgar

Kirsty is a micropalaeontologist and palaeoceanographer, specialising in planktic foraminifer and foraminifer-based geochemical records. She is interested in understanding the timing and nature of the interaction between global climate, geochemical cycling and the marine plankton. 


Professor Ian Fairchild 

Ian Fairchild is a geoscientist with broad interests in the geochemistry of the Earth’s surface, climate change and Quaternary and Neoproterozoic earth history. He employs this breadth of knowledge in teaching, in public outreach, and professional activities such as examining and research assessment. He is equally at home in the field and the laboratory with a wealth of experience in glacial environments, caves, rock successions and at national and international geochemical research facilities. Ian chairs NERC's Isotope Geosciences Facility Steering Committee and is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, and the Cryogenian Commission group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. He is an Emeritus Professor at Birmingham.


sarah-greeneDr Sarah Greene

Sarah is a palaeoclimatologist, geobiologist, and numerical modeller studying the biogeochemical cycling of carbon between the atmosphere, the ocean, and marine sediments. Particular research interests include mass extinctions and other rapid carbon cycle perturbations, multi-mullion year carbon cycle trends (co-evolution of life and the carbon cycle), and how biogeochemical cycling within marine sediments influences the rock record. Sarah also studies microbially-mediated carbonate rocks, such as stromatolites, to gain insight into past climates and environments. 


Dr Matt O’Callaghan

Matt’s is an entomologist interested in the impacts of changing climate on ecosystem functioning.  He uses mass spectrometry methodologies to investigate resource selection and transfer processes across terrestrial and aquatic ecotones.  As Experimental Officer, he is responsible for the management and day to day running of the GEMS facility.  Prior to this role, he was Senior Lecturer (Ecology) at the University of South Wales and Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham (NERC –DriStream).


sansom-ivanDr Ivan Sansom

Ivan specialises in the evolution and diversification of Palaeozoic non-tetrapod vertebrates, including conodonts, with a particular focus on the earliest skeletonising fish and the origin of the sharks. Current research primarily focuses on patterns of dispersal within early vertebrates and the influence of their palaeoecology on diversity and extinction.


Dr James WheeleyDr James Wheeley  

James' research focuses on utilising conodont oxygen isotopes to elucidate conodont palaeoecology and seawater temperature changes, particularly for the Ordovician. Recent work has been on material from Anticosti and Newfoundland, Canada. Limestone samples collected from Anticosti have also been analysed for uranium isotopes; these tell us about global ocean redox conditions during the end Ordovician mass extinction. 

Honorary academic staff

David Dominguez-VillarDr David Dominguez-Villar

David researches speleothem and tufa science and climate history especially in Spain and Croatia.

Research students and assistants

ulrike-baranowski2Ulrike Baranowski

Ulrike’s research is focused on palaeoclimate and environmental reconstructions of extreme warmth during the Early Eocene Climate Optimum (EECO). Based on planktonic foraminifera and organic biomarker geochemistry she is generating new sea surface temperature proxy data from a site with exceptionally preserved calcareous microfossils from the Rockall Trough, NE Atlantic.

  • Trommer, G., Siccha, M., Rohling, E.J., Grant, K., van der Meer, M.T.J., Schouten S., U. Baranowski, U. and Kucera, M. (2011) Sensitivity of Red Sea circulation to sea level and insolation forcing during the last interglacial. Climate of the Past, 7, 941-955. doi:10.5194/cp-7-941-2011
  • Fenton, I.S., Baranowski, U., Boscolo-Galazzo, F., Cheales, H., Fox, L., King, D.J., Larkin, C., Latas, M., Liebrand, D., Miller, C.G., Nilsson-Kerr, K., Piga, E., Pugh, H., Remmelzwaal, S., Roseby, Z., Smith, Y.M., Stukins, S., Taylor, B., Woodhouse, A., Worne, S., Pearson, P.N., Poole, C.R., Wade, B.S. and Purvis, A. (2018) Factors affecting consistency and accuracy in identifying modern macroperforate planktonic foraminiferaJournal of Micropalaeontology, Vol. 37(2), 431-443. doi:10.5194/jm-37-431-2018.
  • Meilland, J., Siccha, m., Weinkauf, M.F.G., Jonkers, l., Morard, R., Baranowski, U., Baumeister, A., Bertlich, J., Brummer, G-J., Debray, P., Fritz-Endres, T., Groenveld, J., Magrel, L., Munz, P., Rillo, M.C., Schmidt, C., Takagi, H., Theara, G. and Kucera, M. (2019) Highly replicated sampling reveals no diurnal vertical migration but stable species-specific vertical habitats in planktonic foraminifera. Journal of Plankton Research, Volume 00, pp. 1-15.
  • Hsiang, A.Y., Brombacher, A., Rillo, M.C., Mleneck-Vautravers, M.J., Conn, S., Lordsmith, S., Jentzen, A., Henehan, M.J., Metcalfe, B., Fenton, I,. Wade, B.S., Fox, L., Meilland, J., Davis, C.V., Baranowski, U., Groeneveld, J., Edgar, K.M., Movellan, A., Aze, T., Dowsett, Harry J., Miller, C.G., Rios, N. and Hull, P.M. Endless Forams: >34,000 modern planktonic foraminiferal images for taxonomic training and automated species recognition using convolutional neural networks. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology. doi: 10.1029/2019pa003612 (2019).

Emma HansonEmma Hanson (

Emma’s research aims to set up an automated image analysis system for rapid biostratigraphic data collection (focussing on calcareous nannofossils), initially using sediments spanning the past 10 million years, recovered from the Browse Basin on the NW Australian shelf. She will also use novel methods to gain a greater insight into the palaeoclimate of the area, using geochemical techniques and assemblage data.

nicola-kirby-110x146Nicola Kirby (

Nicola’s doctoral research involves reconstructing climate and ocean circulation across key greenhouse intervals in the past, e.g. the early Paleogene and the Cretaceous, when CO2 levels were higher than today. Her focus is on material recovered during IODP Expedition 369, in the Indian Ocean off the southwest coast of Australia. She uses these records to assess the relative influences of ocean circulation and tectonic change, related to the opening of the Tasman Passage, on global climate. In particular, to assess what drove global cooling following peak warmth in these greenhouse intervals. Her methods include foraminiferal micropaleontology, and sediment and foraminiferal geochemistry to reconstruct past climate and ocean circulation.


Michael McKnightMichael McKnight (

Mike’s research focuses on constructing a biostratigraphic and palaeoclimatic history for the equatorial Atlantic region across the Eocene-Oligocene transition utilizing well preserved calcareous microfossils from the Foz Do Amazonas basin in the Amazon Fan and Mossy Grove, Mississippi coast. This work will be integrated with global records of past environment and fill a key data gap in existing palaeoclimate models.



Kate NewtonKate Ashley (née Newton)

Kate's doctoral research involved working with organic geochemistry, and sedimentological and physical property datasets to reconstruct the Holocene record of East Antarctic Ice Sheet dynamics.

Clément Bourdin (PDRA, 2014-2016)

On the NERC funded project SCENT (Soil Carbon Export characterized by Novel Tracers).

Edward Fleming (PhD 2010-2014)

NERC funded project on the dynamics of a “Snowball Earth” glaciation deduced from magnetic and microstructural analyses of diamictites.

Jonathan Dredge (PhD, 2010-2014)

NERC funded student studying Aerosol contributions to speleothem chemistry.

Emily McMillan (PDRA, 2010-2013)

On the NERC funded project “The Svalbard example of Neoproterozoic glaciation”.


Analytical facilities include a trace metal suite (ICP-MS and –OES), stable isotope and nanoparticle characterisation facilities. Researchers also benefit from central University analytical capability including, SEM/TEM suite, state-of-the-art XRF and XRD suite.