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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:



Six members of the Historical Geobiology Lab traveled to Bozeman, MT, for the 27th Annual Stanford Project on Deepwater Depositional Systems (SPODDS) meeting and field workshop. The meeting started with a day-long shale geochemistry short course led by Erik Sperling, followed by a field trip to the Devonian-Carboniferous Sappington Formation, a day-long technical review by SPODDS students, and a field trip to the Mesoproterozoic LaHood Formation in beautiful Jefferson Canyon. 

Posted 9/21/2019

Much of the fieldwork by the Historical Geobiology Lab is done in Yukon and Northwest Territories, but this summer the lab took a break from big hills and Backpacker's Pantry to primarily work at west coast marine stations. The goal for this work was to conduct respirometry measurements on invertebrate groups represented in the fossils record (brachiopods, crinoids, bivalves, gastropods, sea urchins, etc.).

Lab member Malcolm Hodgskiss has published a paper in PNAS titled "A productivity collapse to end Earth’s Great Oxidation." The work focused on rocks of the Belcher Group, from his main thesis area in the Belcher Islands, Hudson Bay, Nunavut, Canada. The Belcher Group was recently dated by Malcolm to ~2018 Ma, in the direct aftermath of the Great Oxidation Event.