Our research in Micropalaeontology covers all the major marine microfossil groups - foraminifera, coccolithophores, dinoflagellates, condonts and ostracods – as well as terrestrial pollen and spore communities.

We use these to reconstruct long-term macroevolutionary patterns, short-term ecosystems perturbations and the relationship between climate, environments and life.

Research expertise spans from the early Palaeozoic through to the modern system. There are close links with the Palaeontology research theme and many projects are based on material recovered from major international scientific drilling programs (e.g., IODP, ICDP).

Academic staff

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. His research interests are focused on coccolithophore palaeoecology, geochemistry and macroevolution. 


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. 


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

bailey-haydon2Dr Haydon Bailey

Haydon is a world-leading expert in the Mesozoic micropalaeontology of the NW European shelf and chalk seas. With many years of applied industrial biostratigraphy, he has worked across the globe and throughout the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. He is a Director of Network Stratigraphic consultants and an Associate Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, contributing to the MSc in Applied and Petroleum Micropalaeontology. 



gregory-johnDr John Gregory

John is co-owner/director of PetroStrat and is a world-leading industrial expert in Mesozoic to Cenozoic micropalaeontology with global experience covering NW Europe, Africa, Middle East, N & S America, Greenland, Caribbean, Russia and South-East Asia. John’s  particular expertise is Jurassic to Cenozoic micropalaeontology, including siliceous microfossils (radiolaria, diatoms & silicoflagellates)  and foraminifera. John remains active in academic circles, he was President of TMS & Chief Editor of the Journal of Micropalaeontology (6 years) and has served on several committees of the Geological Society including the Stratigraphy Commission. He is Honorary lecturer at the University of Birmingham (MSc course), a Natural History Museum Scientific Associate and has co-supervised a number of MSc and PhD students (incl MedGate).


harrington-guy2Dr Guy Harrington

Guy is a palynologist with world-leading expertise in Cenozoic fossil pollen and spores. With extensive experience in both academic and industrial micropalaeontology, Guy has held positions at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC and, most recently as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham. He is currently a Senior Stratigrapher at Petrostrat, as well as an Associate Lecturer contributing to the MSc in Applied and Petroleum Micropalaeontology. 


wyn-hughes-110x146Dr Wyn Hughes

Wyn has expertise in thin-section foraminiferal micropalaeontology and microfacies studies of the Upper Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Tertiary through his work in the Solomon Islands Geological Survey and senior consultant for Robertson Research and for Saudi Aramco. He gained MSc, PhD and DSc degrees from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has worked extensively in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Wyn is a Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum, Director of Applied Microfacies Limited, Adjunct Professor at King Fahd University, Honorary Lecturer supporting the University of Birmingham’s MSc in Applied and Petroleum Micropalaeontology and Honorary Lecturer at the Urbino School of Micropalaeontology.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero Pilar Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero staff profile photo

Mariem is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow with a scientific background in Earth Sciences and Geology. She is a micropalaentologist specialised in coccolithophores (tiny marine haptophyte algae) and calcareous nannoplankton (their fossil remains), which she uses to reconstruct palaeoproductivity and palaeoceanographic changes at different timescales, with actual links to palaeoclimate and plankton ecology.

Research students and research 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 foraminifera. Journal 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. doi.org/10.1093/plankt/fbz002/10.1093/plankt/fbz002
  • 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).

Castaneda-juanJuan Pablo Castañeda (JPC672@student.bham.ac.uk)

Juan Pablo’s research focuses on the response of the Foraminifera to major global changes during the Early Cretaceous. He aims to investigate the role that changes in climate and marine ecosystems may have played in the diversification of this major group of microfossils.

Phoot of research student Hannah BirdHannah Bird (HCB352@student.bham.ac.uk)

Hannah's doctoral research focuses on geochemical and biodiversity studies of ichthyoliths (fish and shark teeth, scales and otoliths) from deep sea sediments originating at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (~56 million years ago) - our best analogue for modern and future climate change. This underutilised resource aims to provide a holisitic overview of palaeoceanographic changes and its subsequent impacts upon marine vertebrate communities, as well as the wider effects upon marine trophic webs. Ultimately, this may yield an insightful indication for modern fishing industry practices coping with climate change and link to conservation palaeobiology efforts.

Google Scholar page

Jonathan HallJonathan Hall

Jonathan’s research aims to generate new palaeoenvironmental, palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic understandings of the Neogene NE Atlantic. It focuses on the multi-proxy environmental analysis of several industrial and scientific boreholes on the NW European continental margin, with a particular focus on the impact of long-term oceanic gateway morphology on NE Atlantic oceanography and climate. 

Emma HansonEmma Hanson (exh601@student.bham.ac.uk)

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.

Google Scholar page

jones-amy2Amy Jones 

Amy’s research focuses on the identifying potential climate and environmental drivers of macroevolutionary change in tropical coccolithophore communities (calcareous phytoplankton). In particular, Amy is studying the two major phases of global cooling and ice sheet expansion of the Cenozoic: the Eocene-Oligocene transition (Java) and the late Neogene transition into bipolar glaciation (IODP Expedition 363 Site U1482 and U1483, NW Australian Shelf). 

Google Scholar page

nicola-kirby-110x146Nicola Kirby (njk883@student.bham.ac.uk)

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 CO2levels 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 (MJM797@student.bham.ac.uk)

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.


Recent alumni

ridha-danaDana Noory Ridha (PhD, 2015-2020)

Dana’s research  used benthic microfossil assemblages (foraminifera and ostracods) to trace deep-water circulation changes and ventilation history associated with long-term cooling in the Indian Ocean during the Neogene. Dana has returned to Autonomous region of Kurdistan, Iraq to take up a faculty position at the University of Salahaddin, Erbil.


Zainab RawahiZainab Al Rawahi (PhD, 2015-2020)

Zainab’s PhD research focused on the biostratigraphy and palaeoenvironments of the Late Cretaceous Natih Formation of Oman. Sponsored by PDO (Petroleum Development Oman), this research developed a revised bio-chronostratigraphic framework using new nannoplankton biostratigraphy and chemostratigraphy integrated with existing micropalaeontological biozones. Zainab has returned to her position as a Stratigrapher at PDO.


Marcelo MotaMarcelo de Lira Mota (PhD, 2015-2020)

Marcelo’s research documented sea level and ecological perturbations associated with global cooling at the Eocene-Oligocene transition. This research used exceptionally preserved palynomorphs preserved in the late Eocene Yazoo Clay succession of Jackson Mississippi, and bulk sediment geochemistry. Marcelo went on to take up as a role as an Assistant Researcher at the Technological Institute of Micropalaeontology, University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS), Brazil.


KateNewtonKate Ashley (née Newton) (PhD, 2014-2020)

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.


Azrin AzmiAzrin Azmi (PhD 2014-2018)

Azrin’s research focused on the benthic faunas of Early Jurassic successions from Northern Ireland, with the aim of providing new biostratigraphies as well as palaeoenvironmental, palaeogeographic and palaeoclimate information. Azrin now holds an academic position at the National University of Malaysia.


Carlos D’Apolito (PhD 2012-16) 

Carlos’ research is focused on the Neogene environmental history of the Amazon, using palynology to provide long-term estimates of tropical plant diversity. Carlos is currently studying the Neogene and Quaternary formations of western Amazonia. 

Nursufiah Sulaiman (PhD 2012-16)

Sufiah’s research focused on coccolithophore assemblage changes through the late Eocene-early Oligocene of the Mossy Grove core, Mississippi, and the development of palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of the late Eocene Gulf Coast.

  • Facilities

The group has a suite of research-quality microscopes and imaging facilities including three transmitted light Zeiss AxioScopes, Zeiss and Leica stereoscopes, as well as a Phenom ProX desktop SEM and Philips XL30, both with EDS capability. Within the School we have access to stable isotope (IRMS) and trace metal (ICP-OES, ICP-MS) facilities for the analysis of geological carbonates.