Earth history

The Earth's long and rich history is a key resource that enables us to investigate how the Earth system has responded to environmental change under conditions that might vary to a greater or lesser extent to those of the present day, and at a range of scales including those beyond direct observation.

At the BGS we are undertaking an active laboratory-based research programme aimed at understanding environmental change at key periods in Earth history, by studying the rich archive of fossil and geochemical environmental proxies locked up in sedimentary rock records.

For example, benthic foraminiferal stable isotopes and assemblage analyses are helping to constrain oceanographic change in the sub-Arctic North Pacific region during the Mid-Pleistocene transition; dinoflagellate cyst assemblages and bulk sediment stable isotope analyses are aiding towards a better understanding of the large environmental changes in the Jurassic; analysis of spore and pollen assemblages is being carried out over critical intervals of environmental change in the Carboniferous/Permian; and biodiversity and geochemical proxies are being analysed to understand changes to Earth's system during the Mid-Palaeozoic revolution.

Selected research

Thornton Force, Ingleton, YorkshireEstablishing metamorphic history from clay minerals

Recent XRD mineralogy results reveal the metamorphic evolution of Palaeozoic rocks in Yorkshire.

Photomicrograph of laminae in mudstones in the PETM interval. Their composition and lateral continuity suggests that they represent annual cyclesThe Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum

Tracing Palaeocene-Eocene climate variations through investigations of North Sea rock cores.

Irish Sea sediment coresHolocene climate events in the central Irish Sea

Chemical, isotopic and micropalaeontological investigations of the Holocene history of the Irish Sea.

Cathodoluminescence image of Woodland brachiopodFarfield effects of Namurian glaciation

Timing glacial onset from stable-isotopic responses in Carboniferous sediments.

Palaeoenvironmental change in flora and stable isotopes through the Permian deglaciation in OmanPermian deglaciation in Oman

Evidence for Palaeozoic postglacial climate change.