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


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

Guo, B, Eley, Y, Hilton, J, Zhou, M & Wang, Q 2020, 'Carbon-isotope, petrological and floral record in coals: implication for Bajocian (Middle Jurassic) climate change', International Journal of Coal Geology, vol. 220, 103417, pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coal.2020.103417

Xu, X-T, Shao, L-Y, Lan, B, Wang, S, Hilton, J, Qin, J-Y, Hou, H-H & Zhao, J 2020, 'Continental chemical weathering during the Early Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE1b): a case study from the Fuxin fluvio-lacustrine basin, Liaoning Province, NE China', Journal of Palaeogeography, (in Chinese with English abstract), vol. 9, 12, pp. 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42501-020-00056-y

Lu, J, Zhang, P, Yang, M, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2020, 'Continental records of organic carbon isotopic composition (δ13Corg), weathering, paleoclimate and wildfire linked to the End-Permian Mass Extinction', Chemical Geology.

Wignall, P, Chu, D, Hilton, J, Dal Corso, J, Wu, Y, Wang, Y, Atkinson, J & Tong, J 2020, 'Death in the shallows: the record of Permo-Triassic mass extinction in paralic settings, southwest China', Global and Planetary Change, vol. 189, 103176, pp. 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2020.103176

Tan, J, Wang, Z, Wang, W, Hilton, J, Guo, J & Wang, X 2020, 'Depositional sedimentary environment and hydrothermal controls on organic matter enrichment in the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Shale reservoir, South China', American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin.

Wang, Z, Tan, J, Boyle, R, Hilton, J, Ma, Z, Wang, W, Lyu, Q, Kang, X & Luo, W 2020, 'Evaluating episodic hydrothermal activity in South China during the early Cambrian: implications for biotic evolution', Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 117, 104355. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2020.104355

Meade, L, Plackett, A & Hilton, J 2020, 'Reconstructing development of the earliest seed integuments raises a new hypothesis for the evolution of ancestral seed-bearing structures', New Phytologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16792

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

Scott, A, Hilton, J, Galtier, J & Stampanoni, M 2019, 'A charcoalified ovule adapted for wind dispersal and deterring herbivory from the late Visean (Carboniferous) of Scotland', International Journal of Plant Sciences, vol. 180, no. 9, pp. 1059-1074. https://doi.org/10.1086/705590

Wang, S, Shao, L, Wang, D, Hilton, J & Lu, J 2019, 'Controls on accumulation of anonymously thick coals: implications for sequence stratigraphic analysis', Sedimentology. https://doi.org/10.1111/sed.12670

Tan, J, Wang, Z, Wang, W, Hilton, J, Guo, J & Wang, X 2019, 'Depositional environment and hydrothermal controls on organic matter enrichment in the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Shale reservoir, South China', AAPG Bulletin.

Neregato, RODRIGO & Hilton, J 2019, 'Reinvestigation of the enigmatic carboniferous sphenophyte strobilus cheirostrobus scott and implications of in situ retusotriletes spores', International Journal of Plant Sciences, vol. 180, no. 8, pp. 811-833. https://doi.org/10.1086/704945

Review article

Coiro, M, Doyle, JA & Hilton, J 2019, 'How deep is the conflict between molecular and fossil evidence on the age of angiosperms?', New Phytologist, vol. 223, no. 1, pp. 83-99. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15708

View all publications in research portal