School of Earth and Environment

Rob Newton Dr Rob Newton

Director of ESSI; Associate Professor of Earth Surface Geochemistry

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 37981/37062 mass spec lab
Email address:
Room: 9.146

Affiliation: Earth Surface Science Institute


PhD The Characteristion of Depositional Environements Using Fe, S and C Geochemistry (using Jurassic case studies: the early Toarcian and the Kimmeridge Clay, University of Leeds)

MSc in Geochemistry (University of Leeds)

BSc (Hons) Geology and Geography (Anglia Polytechnic University)


Fellow of the Geological Society of London

Member of the Geochemical Society

Member of the European Association of Geochemistry

Research Interests

I am particularly interested in global scale changes in redox active elements over both short and long time scales. My main research tools are stable isotopes (S, C, N, O in oxyanions such as SO4, PO4 and NO3), the sedimentary geochemistry of carbon, sulphur, iron and phosphorous and their relationship to ancient water column oxygenation. In particular I have spent much of the last few years developing the use of sulphur and oxygen isotopes in carbonate associated sulphate to track changes in the global sulphur cycle. My research has four main themes:

1) Changes in marine and atmosphere chemistry during biological events such as mass extinctions. This work has mostly concentrated on the P-T boundary and the early Toarcian anoxic event although I have been involved in smaller amounts of work on the Frasnian-Famenian, the PETM and the Neoproterozoic. Current work is focussed on the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (PhD students James Witts and Jo Hall), the Olenelid trilobite extinction in the mid Cambrian (PhD student Luke Faggetter), records of atmospheric sulphur addition at the P-T boundary, and links between the Wrangellia large igneous province and the Carnian Pluvial Event in the late Triassic.

2) The long term evolution of ocean chemistry (particularly sulphate), and the way that this interacts with global cycles of other elements and biological evolution. Current work is focussed on three areas a) producing more detailed records of ocean sulphate concentrations over time; b) developing methods to identify chemosymbiotic relationships in bivalves (PhD student Edine Pape); c) developing an understanding of the interactions between seawater chemistry, carbonate polymorph and carbonate chemistry (PhD student Maria Ramirez-Garcia)

3) Chemical and isotopic gradients in epeiric seas and the way that these can influence our view of both long and short term global changes in marine and atmosphere chemistry, as well as how they may influence the biogeochemical cycling of elements in their own right.

4) The oxygen isotope composition of oxyanions and cellulose. I'm interested in developing SO4 and PO4 oxygen isotopes as tracers of S and P cycling in both modern and ancient environments. Current work is focussed on developing extraction methods to analyse PO4-O in fresh and waste waters and oxygen isotopes in cellulose as a hydrological cycle tracer in tree ring records from both the modern Amazon (NERC Amazonian hydrological cycle project lead by Prof. Emmanuel Gloor) and in the ancient Antarctic (PhD student Rhian Rees-Owen)

I have also enjoyed being involved in work in isotope ecology and so would also welcome approaches for collaboration in this area.

Please get in touch to discuss current opportunities to collaborate and come and work at Leeds if you are interested in any of the above or related topics.

Teaching Interests

Stable isotope geochemistry

Sedimentary geochemistry

Global biogeochemical cycles

Geological and geochemical field teaching

Support duties

Director of ESSI

Joint manager of the stable isotope facility