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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:



A new paper on the geochemistry and taphonomy of the Lower Cambrian Mural Formation, Alberta, Canada, has been published in the journal Emerging Topics in Life Sciences. In recent years geochemists and paleontologists have argued about the role of oxygen and redox state in the preservation of exceptional Cambrian fossils (Burgess Shale-Type localities).

Tom Boag has received student research grants from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the Palaeontological Association, and the Stanford Bob Compton Field fund for his work on Ediacaran paleobiology, physiology, and Earth history. Malcolm Hodgskiss has been awarded a student research grant from the Paleontological Society (for research on the Earth's oldest cyanobacterial fossils in the Belcher Group, Nunavut, Canada) and a traveling fellowship from the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies to travel to the lab of Dr.

While most research in the Historical Geobiology Lab focuses on Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic Earth history, this May Malcolm Hodgskiss and Erik Sperling visited the Norwegian Geological Survey for two weeks to study the FAR-DEEP drill cores. This unique collection of cores was drilled in Fennoscandian Arctic Russia, to study the oxygenation of the early Earth, and spans approximately 2.5 - 2.0 billion years ago. In collaboration with Dr.