Professor Jason Hilton PhD

Professor Jason Hilton

Life and Environmental Sciences
Professor of Palaeobotany and Palaeoenvironments
School Health and Safety Coordinator (fieldwork)

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Hilton is a research focused palaeobotanist and evolutionary plant biologist with wide-ranging interests in palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates through Earth history. 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 including investigations on mass extinctions, hyperthermal events, and the consequences of large igneous provinces volcanism on the bio- and geospheres.  


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


2003– Lecturer (2003‒8), Senior Lecturer (2008‒11), Reader (2011‒2021) and Professor (2021-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.


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

  • Year 1 Introductory Field and Research Skills (20 credits, lectures and tutorial group supervision)
  • Year 2 Earth Resources, Environmental Impacts and Sustainability (20 credits, lectures, seminars, practicals)

 In addition, he contributes to the following modules:

  • Year 2 Palaeoecology (20 credits, taphonomy and terrestrial biotas and proxies)
  • Year 3 Independent Research Projects / Dissertations (40 credits project supervision)
  • Year 4 Earth Science Research (60 credits project supervision)
  • Year 1 Earth Systems (20 credits, lectures on Palaeozoic stratigraphy and events)
  • Year 3-4 Professional Placements (20 credits)

Jason uses a range of methods within his teaching including traditional 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

Professor 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


Zhang, P, Yang, M, Lu, J, Jiang, Z, Zhou, K, Xu, X, Wu, L, Zhang, Y, Chen, H, Zhu, X, Guo, Y, Hilton, J & Shao, L 2024, 'Different wildfire types promoted two-step terrestrial plant community change across the Triassic-Jurassic transition', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 12, 1329533.

Zhang, P, Yang, M, Lu, J, Jiang, Z, Vervoort, P, Zhou, K, Xu, X, Chen, H, Wang, Y, He, Z, Bian, X, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2024, 'Four volcanically driven climatic perturbations led to enhanced continental weathering during the Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 626, 118517.

Qin, Y, Xiao-Yuan, H, Hilton, J, Wang, S-J & Dai, J 2024, 'Panxianopteris taeniopteroides gen. et sp. nov., an anatomically preserved taeniopterid leaf from the upper Permian of Guizhou Province, China', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology.

Hua, F, Shao, L, Wang, X, Jones, T, Zhang, T, Bond, D, Yan, Z & Hilton, J 2024, 'The impact of frequent wildfires during the Permian-Triassic transition: Floral change and terrestrial crisis in southwestern China', Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, vol. 641, 112129.

Li, D, Wan, M, Liu, L, Hilton, J, Wu, Y & Wang, J 2023, 'A pioneering riparian community dominated by Nystroemiaceae gymnosperms from the Guadalupian (middle Permian) of China', Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, vol. 316, 104918.

Hua, F, Shao, L, Zhang, T, Bond, D, Wang, X, Wang, J, Yan, Z, Lu, J & Hilton, J 2023, 'An astronomical timescale for the Permian-Triassic mass extinction reveals a two-step, million-year-long terrestrial crisis in South China', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 605, 118035.

Zhang, P, Yang, M, Lu, J, Bond, D, Zhou, K, Xu, X, Wang, Y, He, Z, Bian, X, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2023, 'End-Permian terrestrial ecosystem collapse in North China: Evidence from palynology and geochemistry', Global and Planetary Change, vol. 222, 104070.

Zhang, P, Yang, M, Lu, J, Jiang, Z, Zhou, K, Liu, H, He, Z, Wang, Y, Bian, X, Shao, L, Hilton, J & Bond, D 2023, 'Middle Jurassic terrestrial environmental and floral changes linked to volcanism: Evidence from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China', Global and Planetary Change.

Zhou, K, Yang, M, Lu, J, Gao, R, Tong, L, Yin, L, Zhang, P, Wang, W, Liu, H, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2023, 'Palaeoclimatic influence on lake palaeoenvironment and organic matter accumulation in the Middle Jurassic Shimengou formation (Qaidam basin, NW China)', Geoenergy Science and Engineering.

Zhou, W, Xiao-Yuan, H, Wang, S-J, Pšenička, J, Rossler, R, Rothwell, GW, Galtier, J, Hilton, J & Wang, J 2023, 'Proposal to conserve the name Botryopteris Renault (fossil Pteridophyta) against Botryopteris C. Presl (Ophioglossaceae)', Taxon, vol. 72, no. 6, pp. 1377-1379.

Fu, W, Turner, P, Clements, T, Spencer, ART, Yu, J, Yang, Y, Guo, B, Ning, Z, Zhuo, Z, Riley, M & Hilton, J 2023, 'Taphonomic and diagenetic implications of reduction spot formation in Cretaceous red beds from the Jiaolai Basin, Eastern China', Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, vol. 243, 105533.

Wang, Z, Tan, J, Hilton, J, Dick, J & Wen, Z 2023, 'Trace element enrichment mechanisms in black shales during the early Cambrian (ca. 521–514 Ma), South China', Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 149, 106083.

Wang, Y, Lu, J, Yang, M, Yager, J, Greene, S, Sun, R, Mu, X, Bian, X, Zhang, P, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2023, 'Volcanism and wildfire associated with deep-time deglaciation during the Artinskian (early Permian)  ', Global and Planetary Change, vol. 225, 104126.

Lu, J, Wang, Y, Yang, M, Zhang, P, Bond, D, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2022, 'Diachronous end-Permian terrestrial ecosystem collapse with its origin in wildfires', Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, vol. 594, 110960.

Review article

Zhang, P, Yang, M, Lu, J, Jiang, Z, Zhou, K, Xu, X, Wang, Y, Wu, L, Chen, H, Zhu, X, Guo, Y, Ye, H, Shao, L & Hilton, J 2023, 'Floral response to the Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 11, 1199121.

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