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Research Fellows Directory

Simon Poulton

Professor Simon Poulton

Research Fellow


University of Leeds

Research summary

In the broadest terms my research interests encompass the application of geochemical, biogeochemical and isotopic techniques to address major issues related to the evolution of Earth’s environment. My research combines detailed laboratory experiments of (bio)geochemical processes, with studies of biogeochemical cycling in modern environments, and then application of this knowledge to the rock record in order to understand and illuminate key periods of change in Earth history. This approach provides a powerful opportunity to address some of the most significant events to have shaped our planet.

A particular focus is on links between atmospheric oxygenation, ocean chemistry and biological evolution early in Earth’s history. The early Earth was essentially devoid of oxygen, a crucial requirement for complex animal life, and using advanced geochemical techniques (some of which we were responsible for developing) we are actively reconstructing the dynamics of the rise of atmospheric oxygen and how this affected ocean chemistry. Importantly, this work is then considered in relation to the evolution of our earliest animal ancestors. Linked to this, a major driver of changes in atmospheric and oceanic oxygenation is the availability of key nutrients such as phosphorus, which is essential for all life. Using new techniques we are investigating the behaviour of phosphorus in modern environments which are considered analogous to ancient oceans, and this new insight will then be applied to the rock record to unravel the complex links to the evolution of animal life. Together, this approach will allow us to understand the timing and controls on early animal evolution.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Nutrient controls on Earth's oxygenation history

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: May 2016 - Apr 2021

Value: £50,000