School of Earth and Environment

Simon Poulton Prof Simon Poulton

Chair in Biogeochemistry & Earth History; Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder

Telephone number: +44(0) 113 34 35237
Email address:
Room: 9.147

Affiliation: Earth Surface Science Institute


I was originally trained as a geologist, and my research focuses on geochemical and biogeochemical processes in modern sediments and waters, with a view to applying this understanding to ancient environments.

Previous Employment:

2006-2012: Newcastle University, NERC Fellow; Senior Lecturer; Reader; Professor

2005-2006: University of Bristol, NERC Fellow

2002-2005: University of Southern Denmark, Marie Curie Fellow; Assistant Research Professor

1999-2002: University of Leeds, Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Bigsby Medal, Geological Society, 2018

Robert Berner Lecture, European Association of Geochemistry/Geochemical Society, 2018

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2018-2019) 'Dynamics of the Great Oxidation Event'

Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2016-2021) 'Nutrient controls on Earth's oxygenation history'

NERC Fellowship (2005-2008) 'Chemical evolution of the Proterozoic biosphere'

Marie Curie Fellowship (2002-2004) 'Oceanic phosphorus cycling in modern and ancient metalliferous sediments'

Visiting Positions:

Associate of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 2010-2015

Visiting Scholar, University of Southern Denmark, 2009, 2011, 2013 (funded by the Nordic Centre for Earth Evolution)

Visiting Scholar, Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire des Environnements Continentaux, University of Lorraine, France, 2014

Visiting Scholar, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2017 (funded by the Earth-Life Science Institute)

Research Interests

My research can be divided into four main areas:

1. Chemical Evolution of the Earth's Biosphere. A major research interest concerns examining links between atmospheric chemistry, climate change, ocean chemistry and biological evolution throughout Earth's history. Recent focus has been on periods of major transition in terms of the redox chemistry of the Precambrian ocean and links to biological evolution and the evolution of biogeochemical cycles. I am also interested in developing and applying novel paleoredox indicators to understand controls on major periods of environmental change during the Phanerozoic.

2. Nutrient Availability Through Time. I am interested in techniques to quantify the availability of nutrients (e.g. P, N, Mo, Fe, Cu) through time, and evaluation of the impact of changes in nutrient availability on biogeochemical cycles, ocean chemistry and oxygen production. This work involves both chemical speciation and isotopic techniques.

3. Modern Redox Sensitive Environments. A significant proportion of my work focuses on biogeochemical processes and elemental cycling in modern environments in order to aid understanding of ancient environments. A particular focus has been on the operation of the global Fe cycle, with ongoing work aimed at evaluating mineralogical, elemental, isotopic and microbial processes in redox sensitive water bodies and sediments.

4. Experimental Reaction Kinetics and Mechanisms. Experimental determination of reaction kinetics and mechanisms can significantly aid understanding of geochemical and biogeochemical processes in the environment. A variety of techniques are being used, ranging from batch experiments to advanced synchrotron methods, in order to monitor and understand redox-driven reactions and adsorption related to metal oxides and sulfides.

Joining the team: I am always interested in discussing opportunities for talented and motivated people to join our group at the postgraduate or postdoctoral level. Various funding routes are available, including a variety of personal fellowships for postdoctoral researchers, through to an annual competition for NERC Doctoral Training Awards for PhD students. See for all projects; specific projects for 2016 include:

DTP Funded PhD Studentships:

Constraining Nutrient Cycling in Modern Anoxic Lakes: Implications for Primary Productivity and Oxygenation on the Early Earth

How did the first animals and plants change our planet?

Investigating the role of marine sediments in the global oceanic cycling of nutrient trace metals

Oceanic anoxic event conundrums: reconciling palaeontology and geochemistry

The Rise of Black Shale Giants