Dr Jason Hilton PhD

Dr Jason Hilton

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Reader in Palaeobiology
School Student Engagement Coordinator

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Hilton is a research focused palaeobotanist and evolutionary plant biologist with interests in palaeoenvironments and palaeoecology. His underlying goals are to increase the quantity of paleobotanical data included into evolutionary analyses and to provide a more detailed understanding of the past environments and climates in which fossil plants lived.  He has a broad background in Geobiology and Earth Systems Science, and is an active researcher across a number of fields closely allied to his specialisation.  Jason is an Associate Editor for Palaeontologica Electronica, member of the Editorial Advisory Committee for Acta Palaeobotanica, an Editorial Advisor for the Journal of Palaeogeography, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. In 2000 he received the President’s Award from the Geological Society of London for achievements in Geosciences.  Jason is currently Student Engagement Coordinator within the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. 


  • BSc (University of Sheffield)
  • PhD (Cardiff University)


2003– Lecturer (2003‒8), Senior Lecturer (2008‒11), Reader (2011‒present). School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham.
2000–03. Curator of Palaeobotany, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh; President’s Award, Geological Society of London (2000).
1998–2002. NERC Research Fellow, Cardiff University then National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh.
1997–98. Research Fellow (18 months), Botany Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.
1997. Post‒Doctoral Research Assistant, Department of Geology, Cardiff University.
1996–97. Research Assistant & Assistant Curator. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.


Dr Hilton is one of the core members of the Earth Sciences (Geology) teaching team.  He is module leader for the following modules:

  • Year 1 Field Skills (20 credits, 14 days fieldwork)
  • Year 2 Evolutionary and Environmental Palaeobiology (10 credits, lectures and practical classes)
  • Year 2 Resources of the Earth (10 and 20 credit variants, lectures and practical classes)
  • Year 2 Research Project Planning for Joint Honours (10 credits, lectures and small group tutorials)
  • Year 3 Geology and Archaeology Research Projects (40 credits, research projects)

In addition he contributes to the following modules:

  • Year 1 Topics in Geology (10 credit, essay instruction supervision, small group tutorials)
  • Year 2 Geological mapping training and fieldwork (20 credits, fieldwork supervision)
  • Year 3 Independent Research Projects (30 credits project supervision)
  • Year 4 Advances in Geology (10 credits, research essay supervision)
  • Year 3 and 4 Micropalaeontology (10 credits, lectures on pollen/spores)
  • Year 1 Earth History (10 credits, lectures on Palaeozoic stratigraphy and events)
  • Year 4 Advances in Geology (10 credits, research essay module)
  • Year 4 Advanced Projects (60 credits, project supervision)

Jason uses a range of methods within his teaching including traditinal lectures, specimen based practical classes, field geology, small group tutorials, seminars and interactive computer classes. 

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Hilton welcomes enquiries from prospective Doctoral Researchers and Research Fellows in his areas of interest, especially:

(1) Morphological and anatomical investigations of exceptionally well-preserved fossil plants.
(2) Physical characterisation of sedimentary depositional environments to understand environmental and climate change in deep time.
(3) Evolutionary analysis of plant groups.
(4) Fossil floras from China.


Jason Hilton is research focussed palaeobotanist and evolutionary plant biologist. His primary research foci are:

Seed plant evolution and phylogeny: The origin, early evolution, systematics, evolution and phylogeny of seed plants, and includes information from both living and extinct species.

Fossil plants and the environment: Fossil plants as indicators of past environmental and climate conditions, evaluating in deep time how plants changed the environments and climates in which they lived, assessing floral responses to periods of profound environmental and climatic change including mass extinctions.  

Fossil plants from China: Investigating plant evolution and community change from the fossil floras of China

In addition, Jason' secondary research actively researches a range of related topics including (i) sedimentary depositional systems to evaluate the formation, distributon and quality of natural resources, (ii) palaeoenvironmental change, (iii) palaeobiology, and (iv) taphonomy.

Other activities

Dr Hilton is an avid fossil collector and enjoys spending time in the field and reading, and avoiding tasks including cleaning cars and gardening.


Recent publications


Yu, J, Pang, X, Fu, W, Hilton, J, Liang, M, Jiang, Z, Zhao, X, Qiao, W, Shi, S, Zhang, D, Cao, H, Jia, H, Wang, Y, Hu, X & Zhang, R 2021, 'A high-resolution timescale for the Miocene Shanwang diatomaceous shale lagerstätte (China): development of Wavelet Scale Series Analysis for cyclostratigraphy', Geosciences Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12303-020-0055-2

Wang, J, Hilton, J, Pfefferkorn, H, Wang, S-J, Zhang, Y, Bek, J, Pšenička, J, Seyfullah, L & Dilcher, D 2021, 'Ancient noeggerathialean reveals the seed plant sister group diversified alongside the primary seed plant radiation', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 118, no. 11, e2013442118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2013442118

Xiao-Yuan, H, Hilton, J, Wang, S-J & Cheng, X-S 2021, 'Exploring the stem to crown group transition in Marattiales: a new species of frond from the late Permian of China with features of the Psaroniaceae and Marattiaceae', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology.

Cleal, C, Pardoe, H, Berry, C, Cascales-Miñana, B, Davis, B, Diez, J, Martina, F-M, Hiesecke, T, Hilton, J, Ivanov, D, Susanne, L, MacElwain, J, Opluštil, S, Popa, M, Seyfullah, L, Stolle, E, Thomas, B & Uhl, D 2021, 'Palaeobotanical experiences of plant diversity in deep time. 1: How well can we identify past plant diversity in the fossil record?', Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, vol. 576.

Pardoe, H, Cleal, C, Berry, CM, Cascales-Miñana, B, Davis, B, Diez, J, Martina, F-M, Giesecke, T, Hilton, J, Ivanov, D, Kustacher, E, Susanne, L, MacElwain, J, Opluštil, S, Popa, M, Seyfullah, L, Stolle, E, Thomas, B & Uhl, D 2021, 'Palaeobotanical experiences of plant diversity in deep time. II: How to measure and analyse past plant biodiversity', Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Meade, L, Plackett, A & Hilton, J 2021, 'Reconstructing development of the earliest seed integuments raises a new hypothesis for the evolution of ancestral seed-bearing structures', New Phytologist, vol. 229, no. 3, pp. 1782-1794. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16792

Lu, J, Wang, Y, Yang, M, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2021, 'Records of volcanism and organic carbon isotopic composition (δ13Corg) linked to changes in atmospheric pCO2 and climate during the Pennsylvanian icehouse interval', Chemical Geology, vol. 570, 120168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2021.120168

Wang, SJ, Wang, J, Liu, L & Hilton, J 2021, 'Stem diversity of the marattialean tree fern family Psaroniaceae from the earliest Permian Wuda Tuff Flora', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2021.104378

Lu, J, Zhang, P, Dal Corso, J, Yang, M, Wignall, P, Greene, S, Shao, L, Lyu, D & Hilton, J 2021, 'Volcanically driven lacustrine ecosystem changes during the Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic)', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Zhou, W, Wan, S, Wan, M, Hilton, J, Pšenička, J & Wang, J 2020, 'Yangopteris ascendens (Halle) gen. et comb. nov., a climbing alethopterid pteridosperm from the Asselian (earliest Permian) Wuda Tuff Flora', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2020.104282

He, X, Zhou, W, Li, D, Wang, S, Hilton, J & Wang, J 2020, 'A 298-million-year-old gleicheniaceous fern from China', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2020.104355

Zhou, W, Chen, B-Y, Sun, W, He, X, Hilton, J & Wang, J 2020, 'A new gigantopterid genus from the late Permian of the Daha Coalfield, Tibetan Plateau and its implication on plant-insect interactions', Historical Biology. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2020.1860033

Pšenička, J, Wang, J, Hilton, J, Zhou, W, Bek, J, Opluštil, S & Frojdová, J 2020, 'A small, heterophyllous vine climbing on Psaronius and Cordaites trees in the earliest Permian forests of North China', International Journal of Plant Sciences, vol. 181, no. 6, pp. 616–645. https://doi.org/10.1086/708814

He, X-Y, Wang, S-J, Hilton, J, Galtier, J & Jiang, H-G 2020, 'An anatomically advanced species of the fern Botryopteris Renault from the Permian of southwestern China', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, vol. 273, 104136, pp. 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.104136

Other contribution

Greene, S, Antell, G, Atterby, J, Bhatia, R, Dunne, E, Giles, S, Groh, S, Hanson, E, Hilton, J, Knight, H, Kraftl, P, Morgan, E, Rhodes, I, Rockey, F, Singh, S, Stevenson, C, Sun, S, Warren, B, Wheeley, J & Yamoah, K 2021, Safety and Belonging in the Field: A Checklist for Educators.. https://doi.org/10.31223/x53p6h

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