Dr James Wheeley PhD

Dr James Wheeley

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Sedimentary Geology
School Deputy Head of Education

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

James Wheeley is a teaching-focused lecturer in sedimentary geology and sedimentary basin analysis. His research interests lie in carbonate sedimentology and applied micropalaeontology (especially conodont isotopes) which he is using to address deep time (Palaeozoic) palaeoclimatic and palaeoecological problems. 


  • PhD Carbonate Sedimentology (Cardiff University 2007)
  • MSc (with Commendation) Palaeobiology (University of Bristol 2002)
  • BSc (Hons) Geology (University of Durham 2000)


James completed his initial teacher training at the University of Gloucestershire in Geography (2006-2007). He completed his PhD on Ordovician limestones of Jämtland, Sweden, at Cardiff University in 2006 having previously studied for an MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol (2001-2002). His undergraduate degree is in Geology (University of Durham; 1997-2000). James joined the School as a Teaching Fellow in 2007 and in 2012 was appointed to a Lectureship in Sedimentary Geology. He was awarded his Senior Lectureship in 2016. James is a Fellow of The Higher Education Academy.


James Wheeley teaches sedimentary geology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels on all GEES Geology programmes. He advises Geology students on their mapping projects and each year he is a supervisor on a number of MSci projects in sedimentary geology. James contributes to the Geology fieldwork programme including trips to Scotland and SE Spain.

Postgraduate supervision

  • 2011-2015 Rosemary Dartnall. Gwna Mélange sedimentology. Principal supervisor: Prof. Ian Fairchild, co-supervisor: Dr J.R. Wheeley. External supervisors: Prof. Paul Smith (Oxford), Dr David Schofield (BGS).
  • 2012–2015 Ban To Wan. Using Geological Information in Quantitative Prediction of Contaminant Movement in Groundwater Systems. Principal supervisor: Prof. John Tellam, co-supervisor: Dr J.R. Wheeley and Dr Alan Herbert.


Current / Recent Research

Current research focuses on elucidating conodont oxygen isotopes for seawater palaeotemperature, palaeoclimate and palaeoecological reconstruction (with Prof. Paul Smith and Dr Ian Boomer). The NERC ion microprobe at the University of Edinburgh is being used to measure oxygen isotopes of individual conodont elements and bulk silverphosphate samples are processed through Birmingham’s isotope facility (SILLA). Further oxygen isotope work on vertebrate hard tissues is being undertaking in co-operation with Birmingham’s Sea Life centre (with Dr Ivan Sansom).

Research Cluster / Group Affiliation


Research Interests

  • Carbonate sedimentology and diagenesis, sequence stratigraphy
  • Conodont isotope records
  • Early Palaeozoic climate change/palaeoceanography

Other activities

Administrative Responsibilities in Earth Sciences

  • Deputy Head of Education

Panel Membership/Review work

  • Member of The Royal Society's Research Grants Scheme Physical Sciences Board (1 Jan 2013 - 31 December 2018)

Professional affiliations

  • The Geological Society of America
  • SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
  • The Pander Society



Key Publications

17. Wheeley, J.R. and Smith, M.P. 2018. Paleoecologic and paleoceanographic interpretation of δ18O variability in Lower Ordovician conodont species: REPLY Geology (2018) 46 (9): e452. https://doi.org/10.1130/G45433Y.1

16. Bartlett, R., Elrick, M., Wheeley, J.R., Polyak, V., Desrochers, A., and Asmerom, Y. 2018. Abrupt ocean anoxia during the Late Ordovician-Early Silurian detected using uranium isotopes of marine carbonates PNAS,115 (23), 5896-5901.https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1802438115  

15. Wheeley, J.R., Jardine, P.E., Raine, R.J, Boomer, I and Smith, M.P. 2018. Paleoecologic and paleoceanographic interpretation of δ18O variability in Lower Ordovician conodont species. Geology, 46,467–470. https://doi.org/10.1130/G40145.1  

14. Fry, C., Ray, D., Wheeley, J.R. Boomer, I. and Jarochowska, E. 2017. The late Homerian (Sillurian) Mulde carbon isotope excursion within graptolitic successions on the Midland Platform (Avalonia), UK: implications for regional and global comparisons and correlations. GFF,139,301–303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/11035897.2017.1388280

13. Blain, J.A., Ray, D.C. and Wheeley, J.R. 2016. Carbon isotope (δ13Ccarb) and facies variability at the Wenlock–Ludlow boundary (Silurian) of the Midland Platform, UK. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53, 725–730.

12. Cherns, L.  Wheeley, J.R., Popov, L.E. Ghobadi Pour, M. Owens, R.M. and Hemsley, A.R. 2013. Long period orbital climate forcing in the early Palaeozoic? Journal of the Geological Society, London, 170, 707-710.

11. Price, G.D., Twitchett, R.J., Wheeley, J.R. & Buono, G. 2013. Isotopic evidence for long term warmth in the Mesozoic. Scientific Reports 3, 1438; DOI:10.1038/srep01438

10. Wheeley, J.R., Smith, M.P. and Boomer, I. 2012. Oxygen isotope variability in conodonts: implications for reconstructing Palaeozoic palaeoclimates and palaeoceanography. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 169, 239-250.

9. Hao Wang, Longyi Shao, Liming Hao, Pengfi Zhang, Glasspool, I.J., Wheeley, J.R., Wignall, P.B. and Hilton, J. 2011. Palaeoenvironments, stratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy of the Lopingian (Permian) coal measures in southwestern China. International Journal of Coal Geology 85, 168-183.

8. Cherns, L., Wheeley, J.R., and Wright, V.P. 2011. Taphonomic bias in shelly faunas through time: Early aragonite dissolution and its implications for the fossil record. In Allison, P.A. & Bottjer, D.J. (eds.) Taphonomy, Second Edition: Process and Bias Through Time. Topics in Geobiology 32. Springer, pp. 79-105.

7. Cherns, L. and Wheeley, J.R. 2009. Early Palaeozoic cooling events: peri-Gondwana and beyond. In Bassett, M.G. (ed.) Early Palaeozoic Peri-Gondwanan Terranes: New Insights from Tectonics and Biogeography. The Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 325, 256-278.

6. Cherns, L., Wheeley, J.R. and Wright, V.P. 2008. Taphonomic windows and molluscan preservation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 270, 220-229.

5. Wheeley, J.R., Cherns, L. and Wright, V.P.2008. Provenance of microcrystalline carbonate cement in limestone-marl alternations: Aragonite mud or molluscs? Journal of the Geological Society, London165, 395-403.

4. Cherns, L. and Wheeley, J.R. 2007. A pre-Hirnantian (Late Ordovician) interval of global cooling The ‘Boda event’ re-assessed. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology251, 449-460.

3. Cherns, L.,* Wheeley, J.R.* and Karis, L. 2006. Tunneling trilobites: habitual infaunalism in an Ordovician carbonate seafloor. Geology 34, 657-660. (*joint first authors)

2. Wheeley, J.R. and Twitchett, R.J. 2005. Palaeoecological significance of a new Griesbachian (Early Triassic) gastropod fauna from Oman. Lethaia 38, 37-45.

1. Twitchett, R.J., Krystyn, L., Baud, A., Wheeley, J.R. and Richoz, S. 2004. Rapid marine recovery after the end-Permian extinction event in the absence of marine anoxia. Geology 32, 805-808.

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