What triggered the Cambrian Explosion?

Rachel Wood portrait photo

The origin and rise to dominance of animals - the Cambrian Explosion - from about 575 to 520 Million years ago was a revolutionary event on Earth. But why, and how, this happened at this time remains unresolved. Here I will explore two possible triggers for this event - a rise of oxygen in the atmosphere and in the oceans, and changes in the chemistry of sea water. I will explore these using examples from insight gained from fieldwork in Siberia and Namibia. We have made great strides over the last decade in understanding how changes in the earth system itself may have enabled the rise of complex life, but there is still much we have left to understand about this extraordinary event.

Rachel Wood has been Professor of Carbonate Geoscience at the University of Edinburgh since 2012. She has a first degree in Geology/Zoology, and a PhD in Geology. She held research fellowships at the Free University, Berlin, and the University of Cambridge, and worked in industry for 5 years before returning to academia in 2006. She was awarded the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in 2020. 

Our online lecture series features researchers presenting a range of topics in natural history. Beginners and experts are welcome, and while the talks may not be suitable for young children, they are appropriate for adults and young people. Our online lectures are presented live, and you will have opportunities to interact with other attendees and ask questions to our expert speakers. Book free tickets here.