Paleoenvironment, Evolution of Life and Ocean Dynamics

The study of the evolution of life, ancient environments, ocean dynamics, past climate change, and the resulting interactions and feedback mechanisms is the key to decipher the long history of the Earth system and to explore its complexity. Without a profound and quantitative knowledge of the Earth’s past, we would be very limited in understanding presently occurring climate and environmental change. The study of the history of the Earth allows tracing phases of severe ice and hot houses, decisive extinction and radiation events in life’s evolution, episodes of widespread anoxic conditions in ancient oceans, and paleoenvironmental and evolutionary change in general. The pole includes research in paleontology, focusing on evolutionary patterns, ocean dynamics, and preservation mechanisms, and sedimentology and sedimentary geochemistry, focusing on phases of important paleoenvironmental change and major turnover in life’s evolution.


Permanent research team


Prof. Allison Daley

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Allison is a Palaeontologist interested in the early evolution of arthropods and predation, in particular Cambrian stem-lineage taxa from exceptionally preserved fossil deposits such as the Burgess Shale in Canada and the Emu Bay Shale in Australia. Her focus is on a clade of stem-lineage arthropods known as the anomalocaridids, which includes some of the most renown  taxa from the Cambrian, owing to their large size, unusual morphology, complicated history of description, and interpretation as top predators.

Lines of research:

  • Paleontology of invertebrate animals
  • Exceptional preservation and fossils Burgess Shale-type
  • Paleoecology
  • Phylogenetic analyses


Research group: Animal Origins and Morphology Lab (ANOM Lab)

Paleo-environment, paleo-oceanography and paleoclimatology

Prof. Thierry Adatte


Thierry's research interests concern major catastrophes in Earth's history in the broadest sense, including meteorite impacts and episodes of major volcanic eruptions, and their biotic effects. This research integrates paleontology, stratigraphy, sedimentology, clay mineralogy and geochemistry in reconstructing past environmental change associated with or leading up to mass extinctions.

His research covers a wide variety of climatic and oceanographic problems from the Phanerozoic and concentrates on the global aspects of major environmental changes (e.g., Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary mass extinction, Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, global oceanic anoxic events, end-Devonian mass extinction). Other preferred topics include environmental geology, paleoclimatology, global change, phosphorus and carbon cycles, feedback loops, evolution of carbonate platforms, large-scale changes in carbonate facies, sequence stratigraphy, continental weathering systems, chemical weathering, soil formation, in Cretaceous, Tertiary and Quaternary deposits.

Lines of research:

  • Mass extinctions
  • Environmental changes
  • Marine ecology 


Prof. Samuel Jaccard

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Samuel Jaccard is a specialist in earth sciences. He was trained in geology before exploring paleoclimate, paleo-oceanography and recent climate change. He is seeking to better document the cycling of nutrients, as well as the availability of oxygen in marine ecosystems and the impact of these processes on carbon sequestration in the deep ocean. To do so, he mainly uses sedimentological and geochemical data and develops innovative tools to reconstruct past and recent marine environments.

Axes de recherche:

  • Paleo-oceanography and oceanography
  • Marine biogeochemistry
  • Global carbon cycle
  • (De)oxygenation of the oceans
  • Polar Sciences


Isotope geochemistry and biology

Prof. Johanna Marin Carbonne

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Her research focuses on the biological and environmental evolution of the surface conditions of the primitive Earth. It combines a detailed mineralogical approach with high spatial resolution analyses of traditional (oxygen, carbon, sulfur) and non-traditional (silicon and iron) stable isotope by ion probe (SIMS). Her research tends to reconstruct quantitatively the surface conditions of the primitive Earth and to better understand the evolution of life during this period.

Johanna is Head of Laboratory in the SwissSIMS national facility, which is a part of the Center for Advanced Surface Analysis (CASA) platform (UNIL/EPFL).

Lines of research:

  • Primitive Earth
  • Stable isotopes
  • Carbonates
  • Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry


Prof. Anders Meibom

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Anders and his group investigate biological processes at the sub-cellular level using cutting-edge micro-analytical tools. To this end, they use a suite of isotopic labeling techniques in combination with micro- to nano-scale analytical instruments, primarily:

  • Transmission electron microscopy (TEM)
  • Secondary electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Ion microprobe Secondary Ion Mass spectroscopy (SIMS).

The Laboratory of Biological Geochemistry (LBG) is closely associated with the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Lausanne. Here, the NanoSIMS instrument is part of the Center for Advanced Surface Analysis (CASA).

Lines of research:

  • Environmental Bio-Geo-Chemistry
  • Sub-cellular stable isotope imaging
  • Biomineralization by marine organisms
  • Cell metabolism
  • Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry


Research group: Laboratory of Biological Geochemistry (LBG)

Associated research groups

Associated research center

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Center for Advanced Surface Analysis

The Center for Advanced Surface Analysis (CASA) is a common UNIL/EPFL platform hosted in the Geopolis building of University of Lausanne. This Swiss research center offers to a broad range of scientists the state-of-the-art micro-analytical Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometric (SIMS) instruments for chemical and isotopic characterization of solid matter.

GĂ©opolis - CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel. +41 21 692 43 06
Fax +41 21 692 43 05