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Research Interests

The research interests in the Sperling Lab are Earth history and the evolution of life, and the interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere. As such this research can generally be considered paleontology, insofar as paleontology encompasses all aspects of the history of life.

Consequently, we define our research agenda by the questions we are interested in, rather than the tools used. This research incorporates multiple lines of evidence, and multiple tools, to investigate questions in the history of life. These lines of evidence include fossil data, molecular phylogenetics, sedimentary geochemistry, and ecological and physiological data from modern organisms. Ultimately, the goal is to link environmental change with organismal and ecological response through the lens of physiology.

Information on the Sedimentary Geochemistry and Paleoenvironments Project (SGP) can be found here:



Malcolm Hodgskiss has published a paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters on his research on the Belcher Group, in the Belcher Islands, Nunavut, Canada. These strata cover the Orosirian Period (2050 to 1800 Ma) and include the first unambiguous cyanobacterial fossils. In this paper, Malcolm incorporated 13C carbonate carbon isotope chemostratigraphy and high-precision U-Pb geochronology to place the first constraints on these fossil and the Orosirian carbon cycle. The paper can be accessed here:

Congratulations to Hailey Deres for winning the Miller-Marsden Prize for Innovative Research on the Environment at Stanford's School of Earth Science graduation ceremony. Hailey's undergraduate thesis focused on how temperature, oxygen, and body size interact to limit the aerobic habitable range of red abalone in the California Current ecosystem. 

Congratulations to the Historical Geobiology lab members who have received external and internal grants this spring!