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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Glenn Brock

“I have now had the opportunity to take up a number of similar Fellowships around the world and I have to say that in terms of intellectual stimulation, collegiate atmosphere, and collaborative potential - the IAS Fellowship scheme is the best I have so far encountered”

Professor Glenn A. Brock, Macquarie University

IAS Fellow at Van Mildert College, Durham University (October - December 2013)

Glenn A. Brock is an Associate Professor of Palaeobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His interdisciplinary research program aims to untangle the roots of early animal evolution in order to obtain a better understanding of the origins and relationships of the major animal phyla. In particular, his research focuses on detailed exploration of the Cambrian “Explosion” of animal life which heralds the emergence and rapid diversification of the major animal body plans and the birth of animal-based ecosystems. He is currently a key member of the team excavating and describing the treasure trove of exceptionally preserved fossils, including rare soft-bodied animals, from the Emu Bay Shale on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Professor Brock leads a very strong, vibrant and effective Palaeobiology Research Group located within the Ecology and Evolution Centre of Research Excellence in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Professor Brock has published over 100 peer review papers, abstracts and book chapters focussed on revealing the geological and palaeontological heritage of Gondwana. Recent publications on Cambrian biotas from Australia, Antarctica and China have been published in leading scientific journals such as Nature, Geology, Biology Letters, Science Reports and Proceedings of Royal Society B. He recently co-authored a 50 page chapter called “Living Australia” which charts the evolution of life on the Australian continent over the last 4.5 billion years. This chapter was published in 2012 in new book called “Shaping a Nation - A Geology of Australia” published by ANU Press. Professor Brock is also the co-editor of a large thematic set of research papers focussed on the Cambrian and Ordovician system called Cambro-Ordovician Studies III (2009) published as Memoir 37 of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists. He is currently editing papers for Cambro-Ordovician Studies IV.

Professor Brock has made major contributions to his discipline including being sole editor (1996-2000) of Alcheringa, the Australasian journal of Palaeontology and serving as Vice-President and then President (2007-2010) of the Australasian Association of Palaeontologists (AAP), the peak body for the discipline in Australasia. On an international scale he is a very active member of the International Subcommission on Cambrian Stratigraphy and has made a major contribution to the organisation and successful leadership of a dozen major palaeobiological congresses – including co-chairing the 1st International Palaeontological Congress, held at Macquarie University in Sydney in 2002, which is now run every 4 years and represents the main international forum for presenting new ideas and research in all aspects of palaeobiology. Most recently, he co-convened the Martin Glaessner Symposium (Ediacaran-Cambrian transition) at the 34th International Geological Congress held in Brisbane in August, 2012.

Professor Brock has been a Visiting Research Scholar funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation at Uppsala University in Sweden in 2008 and 2013. In 2012, he was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal of the United States of America by the US National Science Foundation for exploration and achievement under the US Antarctic Program. He was awarded the 2005 “Outstanding Teaching Award” at Macquarie University for contribution to excellence in undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision.

While at the IAS at Durham, he plans to collaborate with staff in the department of Earth Sciences to complete manuscripts that will shed new light on diverse Early Cambrian – Ordovician fossil faunas from Australia and Antarctica. He will also undertake collaborative research with Professor David Harper to compare preservational modes, biogeography and skeletal acquisition in ancestral animals between the Early Cambrian Sirius Passet Biota from Greenland and the Emu Bay Shale Biota, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.


IAS Fellow's Lecture - Fossil treasures from the Cambrian of Gondwana: shedding light on early animal evolution

12th November 2013, 17:30 to 18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Professor Glenn Brock (Macquarie University)

The Cambrian Radiation of animal life heralded the emergence and rapid diversification of the major animal (especially bilaterian) body plans as well as the birth of animal-based ecosystems. Recent studies of exceptionally preserved fossil assemblages exemplify how important, and sometimes unexpected, details of anatomy, ontogeny, development and morphology are for understanding and deciphering how (and when) the key morphological features that define the major lineages of complex animals were assembled and evolved.

During this interval of expansive biotic radiation Australia and Antarctica where locked in a deep tectonic embrace near the equator, forming Cambrian East Gondwana. The sediments and fossils deposited during this interval provide ample evidence of a shared geological, palaeontological and palaeogeographic heritage. Using specific examples (published and unpublished) from the remarkable treasure trove of exceptionally preserved fossils from Cambrian East Gondwana (including spectacular new soft-bodied discoveries from the Emu Bay conservation Lagerstätte) Professor Brock will illuminate the importance of fossil evidence as a means to unravel the pattern of evolution within bilaterian body plans.

Professor Glenn Brock Publications

Brock, G.A. ( (2018) 'In the Cambrian light...' in Strang, V., Edensor, T., Puckering, J. (eds.) From the Lighthouse: interdisciplinary reflections on light. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 16-19.

Jacquet, S.M., Brougham, T., Skovsted, C.B., Jago, J.B., Laurie, J.R., Betts, M.J., Topper, T.P. & Brock, G.A. (2016). 'Watsonella crosbyi from the lower Cambrian (Terreneuvian, Stage 2) Normanville Group in South Australia', Geological Magazine, 154(5), pp 1088 - 1104 .

Jacquet, S.M., Brock, G.A. (2015)'Lower Cambrian helcionelloid macromolluscs from South Australia', Gondwana Research. doi:10.1016/j.gr.2015.06.012.

Jakobsen, K.G., Brock, G.A., Nielsen, A.T., Topper, T.P. & Harper, D.A.T. (2014). 'Middle Ordovician brachiopods from the Stairway Sandstone, Amadeus Basin, central Australia' Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, 38, pp 190-208.

Zhang, Z.-F., Li, G.-X., Holmer, L. E., Brock, G.A., Balthasar, U., Skovsted, C.B., Fu, D-J., Zhang, X.-L., Wang,H.-Z., Butler, A., Zhang, Z-L., Cao, C.-Q., Han, J., Liu, J.-N., Shu, D.-G (2014) 'An Early Cambrian Agglutinated Tubular Lophophorate with Brachiopod Characters', Scientific Reports, 4 (4682), doi:10.1038/srep046824.

Jakobsen, K.G., Brock, G.A., Nielsen, A.T., Mathieson, D.K. & Harper, D.A.T. (2014) 'Brachiopods associated with stromatoporoid mounds from the Middle to Upper Ordovician Cashions Creek Limestone, Tasmania', Memoirs of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists, 46, pp. 249-265