Using fossil corals and calcified sponges to understand ancient marine environments

Theme: Past Life & Environments

Main Supervisor:

Stephen Kershaw

Institute for the Environment, BRUNEL

Project Description:

This field-based PhD study builds on new synopses of ancient fossil calcified sponges and more-limited information on fossil corals that co-existed with sponges in ancient reefs and related environments. The research questions are: how can these fossils help us understand ancient environmental change on Earth and can the results assist us with predicting future change?

The study therefore aims to integrate new data with published knowledge to understand these fossils as animals, to explore reasons for their complex and unexplained growth patterns, applying results to understand ancient environments where they lived.

Sporadic analyses of both groups (which are different animal phyla) are published individually, but this co-study is the first comprehensive attempt to understand and apply them in environmental analysis. Initially based on fieldwork on ancient limestones in UK and Europe, the project may be extended to other parts of the world.

Policy Impact of Research:

This study will inform our understanding of the resilience of these ecosystems to environmental change and will be potentially useful for conservation and management of marine environments.

The results will also be of use in educational outreach to inspire young generations of geoscientists.


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