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Research Interests

The research interests in the Sperling Lab are Earth history and the evolution of life, and the interactions between the biosphere and the geosphere. As such this research can generally be considered paleontology, insofar as paleontology encompasses all aspects of the history of life.

Consequently, we define our research agenda by the questions we are interested in, rather than the tools used. This research incorporates multiple lines of evidence, and multiple tools, to investigate questions in the history of life. These lines of evidence include fossil data, molecular phylogenetics, sedimentary geochemistry, and ecological and physiological data from modern organisms. Ultimately, the goal is to link environmental change with organismal and ecological response through the lens of physiology. This work across multiple time scales, from ancient to modern global change. 

Information on the Sedimentary Geochemistry and Paleoenvironments Project (SGP) can be found here:

https://sites.stanford.edu/sgp/

 

News

A new paper by Malcolm Hodgskiss detailing the carbon isotope chemostratigraphy of the Paleoproterozoic Labrador Trough has been published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. Malcolm, along with colleagues at McGill University, had to battle epic insects, structure, and lack of exposure, but ultimately prevailed with a new view of the Lomagundi-Jatuli excursion in this region. 

The Ordovician-Silurian extinction was the first major mass extinction of the Phanerozoic, yet its cause(s) remain debated. A new paper by Richard Stockey, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates that oceans spanning the Ordovician-Silurian boundary and through the first several million years of the Silurian had extensive regions that were anoxic and sulfidic, and that these low-oxygen oceans correlate with lower diversity in the fossil record. The paper used a novel Monte Carlo framework to better account for uncertainty in metal isotope mass balance models. 

A new paper by lab members Dan Mills and Erik Sperling has been published in Geobiology. This paper stemmed from the 'Point-Counterpoint' format debate at the Banff Geobiology Conference in 2017 between Sperling, Mills and Chris Reinhard, and the ideas from this discussion were then fleshed out in collaboration with Devon Cole, Doug Erwin, Noah Planavsky and Susannah Porter in a group discussion at the Santa Fe Institute.