Michelle Taylor Smithsonian Coral

Deciphering the geological record to reveal the history of life, and addressing key issues facing our modern lives

We explore the origin, evolution, distribution and extinction of living organisms throughout geological time, hunting for records of life in terrestrial – and extra-terrestrial – environments. We:

  • study how the ancient ocean circulated;
  • probe whether there has ever been life on Mars;
  • characterise organic matter in meteorites;
  • reconstruct three-dimensional models of fossils;
  • model global environmental change; and
  • map out major observed patterns in species evolution and biodiversity.

Our modelling of fluid and air flows and work on sustainability helps us to tackle issues facing our lives today – from how pollution disperses through urban environments to impact human health to developing greener forms of energy that will help safeguard our future on Earth and support a Transition to Zero Pollution.

If you are interested in one of the projects listed below, we encourage you to contact the primary project supervisor or the alternative contact person for further information.

Current projects

Biomagnetic Monitoring as an Urban Air Quality Assessment [Info Sheet - Muxworthy Green Dust]

Supervisors: Professor Adrian Muxworthy, Dr David Green (School of Public Health, Imperial)

Accelerating Scientific Discovery of Complex Scientific Applications with Process-Guided Deep Learning: Aquatic Eco-Dynamics in Lakes [Info Sheet - Piggott Lakes]

Supervisors: Professor Matthew Piggott, Dr R. Iestyn Woolway (University of Reading), Professor Stephen Maberly (UK CEH)

Cadmium enrichment in cocoa beans – a stable isotope investigation of Cd sources and mitigation strategies [Info Sheet - Rehkamper Cd in Cocoa]

Supervisors: Professor Mark Rehkämper, Professor Laurence Maurice (Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar, Quito, Ecuador; IRD & GET, Université de Toulouse)

Novel applications of trace metal stable isotopes in medical research [Info Sheet - Rehkamper Isotope Biochem]

Supervisor: Professor Mark Rehkämper

Biodiversity and the Evolving Earth: New Data, New Methods, New Insights [Info Sheet - Roberts Biodiveristy]

Supervisors: Dr Gareth Roberts, Dr Conor O'Malley, Dr Philip Mannion (UCL), Dr Mark Sutton, Dr Jan Hackel (Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew)

Astrobiology and meteorites from the early Solar System [Info Sheet - Sephton Astrobiology]

Supervisors: Professor Mark A. Sephton, Dr Jonathan Watson, with collaboration opportunities (Dr Christian Potiszil, Okayama University Japan)

Extracting Records of Life on Mars [Info Sheet - Sephton Life on Mars]

Supervisors: Professor Mark A. Sephton, Dr Jonathan Watson

Life Detection at Jupiter's Icy Moon Europa [Info Sheet - Sephton Europa]

Supervisors: Professor Mark A. Sephton, Dr Jonathan Watson

Organic Preservation in Jezero Crater – Site of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover [Info Sheet - Sephton Jezero Crater]

Supervisors: Professor Mark A. Sephton, Dr Jonathan Watson

Recognising Life in Samples Returned from Mars [Info Sheet - Sephton Life Detector]

Supervisors: Professor Mark A. Sephton, Dr Simon Davis, David Bell (Protium)

Leveraging emerging numerical models from engineering to support coral reef conservation [Info Sheet - Sutton Coral Reef Conservation

Supervisors: Dr Mark Sutton, Dr Yves Plancherel, Dr Catherine Head (ZSL)

Understanding Modern Biogeochemical Cycles in the context of the international GEOTRACES project – Lead, cadmium, neodymium [Info Sheet - van de Flierdt Marine Isotope Cycles]‌

Supervisors: Professor Tina van de Flierdt, Dr Yves Plancherel, Professor Mark Rehkämper

Arsenic Contamination of Drinking Water [Info Sheet - Weiss Arsenic Contamination]

Supervisor: Professor Dominik Weiss

Geochemistry of Non-Traditional Stable Isotopes [Info Sheet - Weiss NTSI]

Supervisor: Professor Dominik Weiss

Micronutrient cycling in submerged soils and uptake into rice [Info Sheet - Weiss Micronutrient Cycling]

Supervisor: Professor Dominik Weiss