Lithospheric Controls on Early Life Habitats

1.6 billion years old sediments from an ancient seaway to Australia’s north contain the oldest molecular fossils on Earth. They draw an intriguing picture of a now entirely extinct microbial biosphere that thrived in toxic and sulphidic waters. Extraordinarily, the ecosystem was fluctuating between different oxygen-free chemical states, possibly driven by nutrient and element fluxes from the ancient continent. 

This project will search for the driver of these ecological fluctuations by determination of the geochemical compositions of rocks that are shown to contain changing organic components and biomarker signatures. For this project you will be determining major and trace element compositions, as well as Sm-Nd isotopic compositions on a stratigraphic sequence of rocks to determine the changing source inputs to the basin.  From these data, correlations between rock chemistry, evolving tectonic and environmental conditions and life signatures can be investigated to provide new insights into lithospheric – biosphere interactions.

This project will suit Masters and Honours students with a background or interests in analytical geochemistry, biology and geology. Work in a clean laboratory environment is required as part of the project.

Supervisors:  Prof. Vickie Bennett and A/Prof. Jochen Brocks

Groups:   Isotope Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry

For more information about this potential research topic or activity, or to discuss any related research area, please contact the supervisor.

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RSES Isotope Laboratory

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