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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Palaeoecosystems Research Group

Our research focuses on the systematics and palaeoecology of fossil invertebrates. By integrating data from exceptionally-preserved macrofossils with the carbonaceous and mineralized microfossil record, we generate a phylogenetically and stratigraphically informed perspective on the changing nature of ecosystems through time, with a particular emphasis on the Lower Palaeozoic.

By addressing the fluctuating compositions, diversities and structures of ecosystems through the past billion years, we aim to understand how life has both responded to and contributed to global environmental and climatic changes. We have developed and applied a range of numerical, computer-based techniques to the description and analyses of fossils and their distributions in deep time.

Our interdisciplinary research programs, supported by an international network of collaborators, include:

  • Early Palaeozoic Lagerstätten
  • Palaeozoic ecosystems, including origin, diversifications and extinctions
  • Reconstruction of climate in deep time
  • Approaches to reconstructing evolutionary history

Our research is strongly grounded in geological fieldwork in spectacular locations ranging from the Arctic wastes of North Greenland to the roof of the world in Tibet. Our funders include the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Agouron Institute, the Danish Council for Independent Research, the petroleum industry, and charities.

Staff

Academic Staff

Research Staff

Research Student

Journal Article

  • Brazeau, M. D., Guillerme, T. & Smith, M. R. (2019). An algorithm for morphological phylogenetic analysis with inapplicable data. Systematic Biology 68(4): 619-631.
  • Harper D.A.T., Hammarlund E.U., Topper T.P., Nielsen A.T., Rasmussen J.A., Park T-Y.S. & Smith M.P. (2019). The Sirius Passet Lagerstätte of North Greenland: a remote window on the Cambrian Explosion. Journal of the Geological Society 17(6): 1023-1037.
  • Park, Tae-Yoon S., Kihm, Ji-Hoon, Woo, Jusun, Park, Changkun, Lee, Won Young, Smith, M. Paul, Harper, David A. T., Young, Fletcher, Nielsen, Arne T. & Vinther, Jakob (2018). Brain and eyes of Kerygmachela reveal protocerebral ancestry of the panarthropod head. Nature Communications 9(1): 1019.
  • Moysiuk, J., Smith, M.R. & Caron, J.-B. (2017). Hyoliths are Palaeozoic lophophorates. Nature 541: 394-397.
  • Vinther, J. Stein, M. Longrich, N.R. & Harper, D.A.T. (2014). A suspension-feeding anomalocarid from the Early Cambrian. Nature 507(7493): 496-499.
  • Topper, T.P., Skovsted, C.B., Harper, D.A.T. & Ahlberg, P. (2013). A Bradoriid and Brachiopod Dominated Shelly Fauna from the Furongian(Cambrian) of Västergötland, Sweden. Journal of Paleontology 87(1): 69-83.
  • Smith, M.P. & Harper, D.A.T. (2013). Causes of the Cambrian Explosion. Science 341(6152): 1355-1356.