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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.

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!

In collaboration with an expert on reproducibility in the Stanford School of Medicine, we have published a perspective on study-level reproducibility in geobiology. The paper is intended for early career scientists or those less familiar with the literature on statistics and reproducibility, and uses examples from psychology, ecology, and medicine to encourage practices that will promote reproducible science within our field. The paper, published in Geobiology, can be accessed here.

Graduate student Tom Boag, in collaboration with lab members Richard Stockey and Erik Sperling and colleagues at Yale University, has published a new paper proposing an ecophysiological basis for the deep-marine origin of Ediacaran organisms. Paleontologists have long questioned why these organisms appeared when and where they did: in the deep ocean, where light and food are scarce, in a time when oxygen in Earth's atmosphere was in particularly short supply.

In collaboration with Stanford colleague Jon Payne and University of Washinton colleagues Curtis Deutsch and Justin Penn, Erik Sperling published a new paper in the journal Science investigating the causes of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. The paper uses a physiological model (the Metabolic Index) to explore how the synergistic effects of warming and marine oxygen depletion could have driven the extinction.

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, we have published a paper in PNAS that uses detailed investigations of iron mineralogy and rock magnetics to understand redox conditions in the 1.1 billion year old Paleolake Nonesuch. These approaches offer a novel alternative to understanding deep-time redox geochemistry, especially in situations such as ancient lakes where techniques such as iron speciation do not have appropriate modern calibrations. The paper by Slotznick et al.

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.

Erik Sperling and Rich Stockey published a review paper on the Cambrian 'explosion' in Integrative and Comparative Biology. In considering possible environmental triggers of the Cambrian radiation, the paper explores the metaphor of the 'fire triangle'--changes to food supply and temperature could have been equally important as oft-considered oxygen changes.

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.

Dan Mills (currently Southern Denmark University) will be joining the Historical Geobiology Lab in January, 2019, as an Agouron postdoctoral fellow. Dan will be using physiological approaches to better understand early eukaryote and animal evolution. We look forward to having Dan in lab! 

Posted 6/2/2018

Collaborator Tiffani Fraser (Yukon Geological Survey) has published an article in Yukon Exploration and Geology detailing all the shale-related research occurring across Yukon Territory, including research from our lab.

Lab member Tom Boag, in colloboration with colleagues at Harvard, Virginia Tech, and Missouri, has co-authored a publication on the evolution of the Ediacara biota: