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More in this section Global Environmental Change

Wildfire in Deep time


A wide range of charcoal from throughout the geological column and across the world is being studied to unravel wildfires in deep time. We are studying the rise of fire in the Devonian with Sue Rimmer (Southern Illinois University) and the evolution of late Palaeozoic fire systems with Ian Glasspool (Field Museum Chicago, USA) and fire in the Permian of Russia with research student Vicky Hudspith. Our research has also been looking at evidence of fire in the Jurassic (with Leszek Marynowski (University of Silesia, Poland) and Cretaceous with William Bond (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Margaret Colllinson, Ian Glasspool and research student Sarah Brown. Evidence of fire at the K-P (=K/T) boundary had been studied with Claire Belcher (University of Edinburgh) and studies on fire across the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), especially from the Cobham Lignite, have been undertaken. We are developing methods for the study of charcoal including the use of Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Tomographic Microscopy (SRXTM) using the Swiss Light Source (with Selena Smith, University of Michigan) and are developing the use of charcoal as an atmospheric oxygen proxy, as a fire temperature indicator and investigating the role of fire in the deep time Earth System.

Wood charcoal from the Middle Jurassic sandstones
of Yorkshire (Scale 1cm)

Scanning Electron Micrograph of charred pteridosperm leaf
preserving the stomata. Mississippian, Scotland (Scale 500µm)


  • Prof. Andrew C. Scott
  • Prof. Margaret E. Collinson
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • NERC




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