PalAss Home > Postgraduate Careers > Current PhD opportunities in Palaeobiology
Current PhD opportunities in Palaeobiology

The PhD list given below is known to be out of date, and projects listed might no longer be available. This page is provided as a legacy service only - the up-to-date PhD list is available here

University of Bath:

University of Birmingham:

Evolution and community dynamics of Palaeogene dinoflagellate assemblages.
Supervisor: Guy Harrington and I. Boomer.
Contact: Guy Harrington

Reconstructing the Permo-Triassic floras of Prince Charles Mountains (Antarctica): phylogenetic and evolutionary significance..
Supervisors: Dr J. Hilton, Dr S. McLoughlin (NRM, Stockholm), Dr. Professor R. M. Bateman, Dr G. J. Harrington.
Contact: Jason Hilton

The early history of chondrichthyan evolution.
Supervisors:Ivan Sansom (Bham) & Mike Coates (Univ Chicago)
Contact: Ivan Sansom

The feeding apparatuses of primitive conodonts.
Supervisors:Professor Paul Smith (University of Birmingham), Dr Ivan Sansom (University of Birmingham), Dr Howard Armstrong (Durham) and Dr John Repetski (US Geological Survey)
Contact: Paul Smith

Further information can be obtained from the school website
Please contact supervisors to find out more about individual projects before applying. General enquiries and all applications should be made via the Postgraduate Administrator Gretchel Coldicott ( Other topics may be available in which case applicants should contact potential supervisors directly.

University of Bristol:

Evolution of reptiles in Mesozoic marine ecosystems.
Supervisors: Prof. Michael J. Benton, Dr Marcello Ruta and Dr Emily Rayfield.
Contact: Prof.Michael J. Benton

Ecological selectivity during the Permo-Triassic mass extinction.
Supervisors: Prof. Michael J. Benton, Dr Marcello Ruta and Dr Richard J. Twitchett (Plymouth).
Contact: Prof.Michael J. Benton

Dinosaur body size.
Supervisors: Prof. Michael J. Benton, Dr Manabu Sakamoto, and Dr Graeme Lloyd (NHM, London)
Contact: Prof.Michael J. Benton

Patterns in arachnid evolution: implications for extant versus extinct taxa
Supervisors:Dr Simon Braddy, Dr Jason Dunlop (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin) and Dr Gregory Edgecombe (Natural History Museum, London)- Possibility of NHM CASE funding.
Contact: Simon Braddy

Origin and early evolution of the vertebrate skeleton
Supervisors: Dr Philip Donoghue
Contact: Phil Donoghue

Evolutionary assembly of the gnathostome bodyplan
Supervisors: Dr Philip Donoghue and Dr Zerina Johanson (NHM) - possibility of NHM/CASE funding
Contact: Phil Donoghue

Feeding and ecological interactions of fossil (and Recent) lungfishes
Supervisors: Dr Philip Donoghue, Dr Emily Rayfield, Dr Mark Purnell (Leicester), Dr Kate Trinajstic (Western Australia Museum)
Contact: Phil Donoghue

Skull form and function in therizinosaur dinosaurs, and the convergent evolution of herbivory in theropods
Supervisors: Dr E. J. Rayfield and Professor L. M Witmer (Ohio, USA)
Contact: Emily Rayfield

Cranial biomechanics of sauropodomorph dinosaurs
Supervisors: Dr E. J. Rayfield, Dr Paul Barrett (NHM) and Professor Larry Witmer (Ohio), Dr Paul Upchurch (UCL) - Possibility of NHM-CASE funding.
Contact: Emily Rayfield

Historical impacts of ocean acidification on polar organisms
Supervisors: Dr Daniella Schmidt and Dr Andy Ridgwell
Contact: Daniella Schmidt

Quantifying the effect of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms
Supervisors: Dr Daniela Schmidt, Dr Erica Hendy and Dr Alistair Crame (BAS)
Contact: Daniella Schmidt

The pelagic record of ocean acidification since industrialisation
Supervisors: Dr Daniella Schmidt and Dr Dr Jeremy R. Young NHM
Contact: Daniella Schmidt

For more information see the research group website. Applications direct to

University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology and University Museum of Zoology:

Morphology and interrelationships of living and extinct mammals
Supervisor: R. J. Asher

Other projects may be available by discussion with staff. Go to the following website

University of Cambridge, Department of Earth Sciences:

Pyritization of shelly fossils
Supervisors: N. J. Butterfield and Alexandra Turchyn
Contact: N. J. Butterfield

Faecal pellets through deep time: palaeoecology, taphonomy and biogeochemical cycling.
Supervisors: N. J. Butterfield and E. M. Harper
Contact: N. J. Butterfield

Blindness in Trilobites
Supervisors: Ken McNamara
Contact: Ken McNamara

Non-optical sensory systems in extinct arthropods.
Supervisors: Ken McNamara and S. Conway Morris
Contact: Ken McNamara

Heterochrony in the fossil record: does it change with time?
Supervisors: Ken McNamara
Contact: Ken McNamara

Ornithischian dinosaurs: investigating the origin of a unique bauplan
Supervisor: David B. Norman.
Contact: Dave Norman

Resolving basal ornithopodan relationships: hypsilophodontians, dryosaurs and camptosaurs investigated and analysed.
Supervisor: David B. Norman.
Contact: Dave Norman

Structure-Function complexes among faunas of the Mesozoic.
Supervisor: David B. Norman.
Contact: Dave Norman

Evolution of the sulphur cycle in the aftermath of the K/T boundary.
Supervisor: Alexandra Turchyn.
Contact: Alexandra Turchyn

Cardiff University, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences:

Reliability of depth indicators in ancient marine carbonate deposystems
Supervisors: Supervisors: Lesley Cherns, Dr Henrik Sass, and Professor Andrew J. Weightman (Biosciences)
Contact: Lesley Cherns

Hydrogen generation in the deep, hot biosphere
Supervisors: R. John Parkes, Henrik Sass and A.J. Weightman (Bioscience, Cardiff)
Contact: John Parkes

Posidonia oceanica sea grass beds in the eastern Aegean Sea: Chartography of the areas covered; Study of the Ecology; Development of a conservation scheme
Supervisors: Dr Rupert Perkins and Dr Rhoda Ballinger
Contact: Rupert Perkins

Caulerpa racemosa: Spatial and temporal distribution in the East Aegean Sea, Greece
Supervisors: Dr Rupert Perkins and Dr Henrik Sass
Contact: Rupert Perkins

Are sulphate-reducing bacterial communities in subsurface sediments unique?
Supervisors: Dr Henrik Sass, Professor John Parkes and Professor Andrew Weightman (BIOSI 1)
Contact: Henrik Sass

The ‘sleeping’ biosphere – spores in marine sediments
Supervisors: Dr Henrik Sass, Professor John Parkes and Professor Andrew Weightman (BIOSI 1)
Contact: Henrik Sass

The early Cenozoic greenhouse – icehouse climate transition in the northern hemisphere Tethys-Paratethys region
Supervisors:Dr Helen Coxall, Professor Paul Pearson and Dr Carrie Lear
Contact: Heln Coxall

The Miocene carbon cycle: investigating the link between volcanism and climate change
Supervisors: Dr Carrie Lear, Professor Kristina Faul (Mills College, California), and Dr Andrew Kerr
Contact: Carrie Lear

Quantification of past ice sheet stability during global warming events
Supervisors: Dr Carrie Lear and Professor Paul Pearson
Contact: Carrie Lear

Trace metal geochemistry of brachiopods: A new window to the past
Supervisors: Dr Carrie Lear, Dr Trevor Bailey (National Museum of Wales), and Dr Lesley Cherns
Contact: Carrie Lear

For further information and for application details, see the School website

University of Glasgow:

The response of key marine biomineralisers to projected ocean acidification
Supervisors: Nick Kamenos, Vern Phoenix & Maggie Cusack [NERC eligible]
Contact: Nick Kamenos

Investigating the dietary habits of fossil cephalopods using microwear analysis
Supervisors: Alistair McGowan
Contact: Alistair McGowan

The palaeobiogeography of trinucleid trilobites? Patterns, processes and causes of change in the dynamic Ordovician world
Supervisors: Alan Owen
Contact: Alan Owen

Removal of nanoparticle pollutants from aquatic systems: Application of solid-phase-capture
Supervisors:Vern Phoenix & Martin Lee [NERC eligible]
Contact: Vern Phoenix

Resilience of microbial communities to wind energy generation in peatland ecosystems
Supervisors:Dr Jeanette Whitaker (CEH) and Dr Niall McNamara (CEH Lancaster) and Dr Susan Waldron [Funded]
Contact: Jeanette Whitaker

Kingston University London:

Phytoplankton turnover during Cretaceous oceanic anoxic events: dinoflagellate cysts as indicators of palaeoenvironmental change
Supervisors:Profs Ian Jarvis, Martyn Waller (Kingston University) Drs Martin Pearce, Bruce Tocher (StatoilHydro)
Contact: Ian Jarvis

University of Leeds:

The Pliensbachian-Toarcian mass extinction in the Mediterranean: Insights from Sr, S, O and C isotope stratigraphy
Supervisors:Ivan Savov, Paul Wignall and Rob Newton
Contact: Ivan Sanvov

Sulphur and oxygen cycles during the Neoproterozoic: Their evolution and implications for controls on metazoan evolution
Supervisors:Robert Newton, Paul Wignall, Dr Simon Poulton (Newcastle University), Dr Chris Thomas (BGS Edinburgh)
Contact: Rob Newton

Turbidite systems and trace fossils: changing interactions through geological history
Supervisors:Paul Wignall and Jeff Peakall
Contact: Paul Wignall

All in the timing: evolution and extinction in Oligocene planktonic foraminifera
Supervisors:Bridget Wade, Paul Wignall and Crispin Little
Contact: Paul Wignall

Vegetation and the fluvial system: why the present may not be the key to the past CASE award
Supervisors:Dan Parsons, Jane Francis, Jeff Peakall, and Pam Naden
Contact: Dan Parsons

Climate variability during the mid Miocene climate optimum
Supervisors:Dr Bridget Wade, Dr Alan Haywood and Dr Ann Holbourn (Kiel, Germany)
Contact: Bridget Wade

University of Leicester:

Exceptional preservation of a Silurian Biota - taphonomy and palaeobiology of the Eramosa Lagerstätte
Supervisors:Dr Mark Purnell and Dr Sarah Gabbott (University of Leicester), Dr Peter von Bitter (Royal Ontario Museum, Canada)
Contact: Mark Purnell

The sedimentology and geochemistry of Palaeozoic black shales on opposing margins of the Iapetus Ocean: understanding deposition in a greenhouse environment.
Supervisors: Dr Sarah Gabbott, Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Dr Michael Norry.
Contact: Sarah Gabbott

Evolutionary and environmental controls on graptolite morphology
Supervisors:Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Dr Mark Williams (University of Leicester), Dr Mike Howe (British Geological Survey) Contact: Jan Zalasiewicz

Trace fossils - a key to understanding pterosaur behaviour, ecology and evolution in the mid-Mesozoic.
Supervisors: D. M. Unwin and J. A. Zalasiewicz, with J. Wright (University of Colorado, Denver, USA), and D. Henderson (Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta, Canada).
Contact: Dave Unwin

The microfossil signature of ancient tsunami
Supervisors: Dr Mark Williams, Dr Jan Zalasiewicz and Professor David Siveter (University of Leicester), Professor David Tappin and Dr Ian Wilkinson (British Geological Survey)
Contact: Mark Williams

All candidates should apply to the Postgraduate Admissions Office using the Postgraduate Application Form available at The deadline for applications is 13 February, with interviews being held in early March. A shortlist of applicants will be selected on the basis of the candidates' academic potential. These candidates will be invited to an Open Day and interview and we hope to make a decision as soon as possible thereafter.

University of Plymouth:

Reconstruction of the palaeoenvironmental changes over the Miocene/Pliocene boundary in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Supervisors: Dr Sarah Boulton & Dr Christopher Smart

Marine ecosystem response to modern and ancient anoxic events.
Supervisors: Dr Richard J. Twitchett and Dr Christopher Smart
Contact: Richard Twitchett

Unlocking the mineralisation and depositional history of uniquely pyritised plant remains from 33 million years ago.
Supervisors: Dr Stephen Grimes and Prof. Margaret Collinson (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Contact: Steve Grimes

Miocene palaeoceanography of the Indian Ocean using benthic foraminifera.
Supervisors: Dr Christopher Smart and Dr. Ellen Thomas (Yale University, USA).
Contact: Christopher Smart

The rules of recovery: comparative palaeoecology of mass extinction events
Supervisors: Richard Twitchett and Christopher Smart
Contact: Richard Twitchett

Palaeoecology of the Late Permian mass extinction and recovery.
Supervisors: Dr Richard J. Twitchett, Dr Christopher W. Smart and Prof. Leopold Krystyn (Vienna) Contact: Richard Twitchett

For further details, see the research group website: Details of application procedures can be found here .

Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London:

Charcoal production by wildfire: implications for fire science and climate change studies
Supervisors: Andrew Scott, Margaret Collinson and Deborah A. Martin (USGS)
Contact: Andrew Scott

Early evolution of flowering plants: seeing the trees from the wood
Supervisors: Dr Howard Falcon-Lang, Peter Gasson (Kew Gardens)
Contact: Howard Falcon-Lang

Plants invade the land: effects on fluvial systems
Supervisors: Dr Howard Falcon-Lang, Gary Nichols
Contact: Howard Falcon-Lang

The origin of Coal: unravelling the effects of climate, sea-level and vegetation on Pennsylvanian landscape evolution
Supervisors: Dr Howard Falcon-Lang, Gary Nichols, Chris Fielding (University of Nebraska) and John Nelson (Illinois Geological Survey)
Contact: Howard Falcon-Lang

The significance of Fire in Late Cretaceous dinosaur-dominated terrestrial ecosystems
Supervisors: Prof Andrew Scott, M.E.Collinson (RHUL), D. Braman (Royal Tyrell Museum, Alberta, Canada) and A. Sweet (Geological Survey of Canada)
Contact: Andrew Scott

If you are interested in a project, prefer to study part-time, or wish to discuss potential projects of your own design, please contact the lead supervisor, and submit a CV. If you wish to apply for a project, please contact the Postgraduate Programmes Co-ordinator for details. Applications will require 2 letters of reference, plus a cover letter and CV. Interviews for projects with studentships are usually held during February and March with successful applicants informed shortly afterwards.

Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College:

Fitting fossil arthropods into modern phylogenies
Supervisors: Mark Sutton and Greg Edgecombe (National History Museum)
Contact: Dr Mark Sutton

Computational Fluid Dynamics of Oxycone Ammonites
Supervisors: Peter A. Allison, Mark D. Sutton, Gerard J. Gorman, M.D. Piggott
Contact: Dr Mark Sutton

A re-evaluation of the phylogeny and fossil record of the soft-bodied cephalopods
Supervisors: Mark D. Sutton
Contact: Dr Mark Sutton

Investigating the punctuation-stasis model through computer-simulation of evolutionary patterns.
Supervisors: Mark D. Sutton
Contact: Dr Mark Sutton

Applicants should consult the application section of the departmental website for application details.

School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton:

Fossilisation of bone: implications for direct dating, molecular preservation and palaeoenvironmental analysis
Supervisors: Dr Clive Trueman and Prof. Martin Palmer
Contact: Dr Clive Trueman

Variability in calcification and coccolith calcite in coccolithophores
Supervisors: Dr Alex Poulton, Dr Jeremy Young (NHM) and Dr Toby Tyrrell
Contact: Alex Poulton

The establishment of the Mid Palaeozoic terrestrial carbon cycle
Supervisors: Professor John Marshall, Dr Ian Harding & Professor Thomas Becker
Contact: John Marshall

Mid-Palaeozoic climate and extinctions: evidence from high palaeolatitudes
Supervisors: Professor John Marshall, Dr Ian Harding & Dr Ian Troth (BG)
Contact: John Marshall

Applicants should consult the application section of the departmental website for application details.

School of Biology and Environmental Science University College Dublin, Ireland

Rugose coral biostromes in Upper Viséan rocks, Co Sligo: taxonomic composition and palaeoecological associations.
Supervisors:Dr I.D. Somerville
Contact: Dr I.D. Somerville

(page updated January 8th 2010)

Created by Al McGowan on the 2010-09-13. (Version 2.0)