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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 occurs across multiple time scales, from the ancient rock record to modern global change. Although we are primarily a paleo-focused lab, research on modern environmental change is becoming an increasingly important part of our lab's work. 

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



The lab has recently published two new papers on Paleozoic oxygen levels and how they likely affected animal life during the early and mid-Paleozoic. The first paper, published by Sperling and colleagues in Science Advances,was the result of our study of the Road River Group--a spectacular deep-water stratigraphic succession exposed on the Peel River, Yukon, Canada.

During the Summer 2021, graduate student Andy Marquez and post doc Murray Duncan traveled to the Friday Harbor Labs in the San Juan Islands of WA for three months to conduct respirometry experiments on various marine invertebrate species. Their primary goal was to explore how ocean warming and deoxygenation synergistically affect the biogeography and body size of marine ectotherms.

Huge congratulations to Judi Sclafani, who was awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship to move to UC Davis to work on Paleozoic brachiopod evolution and ecology. Congratulations also to Richard Stockey for being awarded our department's Cenntenial TA Teaching Award (based on his work over many years designing labs and working as head TA for Introduction to Geology) and to Sam Ritzer for being awarded the Harriet Benson award.