My PhD research

Collecting fossil algae in Sweden for my PhD

Collecting fossil algae in Sweden for my PhD

I often get asked what did I for my PhD?

I did my PhD at the University of Leicester and finished in 2002. I won’t bore you with the long title, but I was looking at the changes in the plankton over an extinction event in the Silurian 430 million years ago.

This is a little known extinction which hit some of the earliest vertebrates (the conodonts) very hard.  I was looking at the bottom of the food chain to see what was going on there. This involved doing some fantastic fieldwork in Gotland, Sweden where these rocks are exposed better than anywhere else in the world.

In the end, I found that the pattern of extinctions and originations at this time was very complicated. In general, I concluded that it was probably more complicated than we were going to understand at the moment.

Such is life!


2 Responses

  1. Had to look up Conodont in my dictionary:

    ‘An extinct marine animal of the Cambrian to Triassic periods, having a long worm-like body, numerous small teeth, and a pair of eyes. It is now believed to be the earliest vertebrate. Class Conodonta, phylum Chordata: numerous families.’

    What factors might enable some families to make it through the extinction to the Triassic? Different diet, i.e. a diet of things that didn’t succumb to the extinction?

    • It seems to be different for different extinctions. If that doesn’t sound too vague! It tends to be generalists that survive.

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