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Prof Graham Shields-Zhou Shields
Room 216
Pearson Building
University College London
  • Professor of Geology
  • Dept of Earth Sciences
  • Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

I received my PhD in sedimentary geochemistry (isotope stratigraphy across the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary) in 1997 from the ETH in Zurich, after which I carried out postdoctoral research in France (municipal waste glass for recycling) and Canada (Sr, C, O and S isotope evolution of seawater). I have held positions as senior lecturer in geochemistry at James Cook University in Australia where I worked primarily on sedimentary fluxes from catchment to the Great Barrier Reef. Since coming to UCL in 2008, I have started to revisit my interests in the ancient Earth, and have held visiting fellowships in Germany (2006-2008) and China (2012-2016) as part of this work. My most recent work focusses on the geology of China, both North and South cratons, and how the chemical composition of sedimentary rocks there can shed light on the evolution of the Earth system as a whole.

Research Summary

I am interested in how our planet has evolved as a system over time. I primarily use geochemical and isotopic tracers to study the composition of past oceans and atmosphere and am fascinated by how the surface environment has 'co-evolved' with life through crucial junctures in Earth history. I work particularly on rocks deposited between about 1000 and 500 million years ago, when complex multicellular life first began to dominate ecosystems. My research group develops proxies to trace biogeochemical fluxes and related feedbacks that govern oxygen, carbon dioxide and nutrient budgets on Earth. During the Neoproterozoic, the Earth experienced profound climate change, deep ocean oxygenation and tectonic upheaval, events that are closely related to the biological revolutions which led the way to our modern Earth system. Unravelling the relative significance and timing of these mutual interactions is a key goal of our research. Geochemistry can also be applied to environmental problems and I have worked on this at times, e.g. applying coral geochemistry to constrain how the introduction of livestock in Australia caused massive soil erosion, already within just a year of their arrival. My interests in sedimentary phosphorite have led to side-projects on land remediation and sustainable resources (rare earth elements and phosphates for fertilizer).

Teaching Summary

GEOL 1013 The Earth

Contributor to BIOL 2016; GEOL 3011; GEOL 3042; GEOL MSci; GEOL MSc Geoscience

Departmental Graduate Tutor

Academic Background
1997 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Geochemistry Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
1991 BSc Bachelor of Science – Geology Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
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