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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:



Historical Geobiology lab members recently attended the 26th annual SPODDS (Stanford Program on Deepwater Depositional Systems) workshop and field conference in the Ventura, CA area. Students were able to visit and learn about outcrops of the Miocene Monterey Formation, perhaps the type unit for using oceanographic principles to understand the stratigraphic record, and Cretaceous turbiditic fore-arc fill of the Great Valley Group.

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, Riverside and MIT, we have recently published a paper on a new sterane biomarker, 26-methylstigmastane, or 26-mes. The sterol precursors of this biomarker are only found in modern demosponges, and the presence of this biomarker in Cryogenian-age strata provide an independent line of evidence for the presence of Neoproterozoic demosponges. The paper can be found here:

Posted 10/15/2018

The Historical Geobiology Lab recently finished up a successful field season working on Ediacaran successions in the Canadian Cordillera. In particular, we were happy to have several students from our SPODDS consortium (Stanford Program on Deep Sea Depositional Systems) out to help us better constrain depositional environments. In July, Tom Boag continued to investigate the paleontology and stratigraphy of the Rackla Group in the Wernecke Mountains of Yukon alongside Erik Sperling, Jared Gooley, and collaborators Justin Strauss and James Busch from Dartmouth College.