Early animals evolved during the Neoproterozoic/Phanerozoic
transition, approximately 600 to 500 Ma ago. Despite the
fundamental importance of this interval in the evolution of animal-rich
marine ecosystems, the physical environments of the Cambrian
radiation are poorly constrained. In particular, there are few
quantitative constraints on sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and
latitudinal temperature gradients in the crucial early Cambrian Period.
My recent work pioneered the use of phosphatic microfossils as a
novel source of ancient climate data to tackle this problem. That work
provided quantitative estimates of high palaeolatitude SSTs. In order
to properly evaluate early Cambrian climates, we need a wider
palaeogeographic spread of data, including from low- and midpalaeolatitudes.
This project will provide the first low- and midpalaeolatitude
quantitative palaeoclimate data for the early Cambrian
Period by applying the method I developed in my PhD to wellpreserved
strata in North America and Scandinavia. As well as
following this approach to extract SSTs from phosphatic microfossils,
this project will collect a wider array of geochemical data to constrain
changes to the continental weathering cycle and the biosphere during
this interval. In particular, this project will combine O, C, Sr and Os
isotope data to build a picture of environmental change during the
early Cambrian, when animal-rich ecosystems were taking hold and
shaping Earth’s marine environments.