Dr Matthews’s research interests focus on the Ediacaran rocks of Newfoundland and the UK, and the evidence within them regarding the rise of animals and other architecturally complex organisms. These studies look to better understand the relationship between the different deposits within these now dispersed outcrops that were previously associated as the palaeo-continent of Avalonia. Jack employs geochronological techniques along with lithostratigraphic and geochemical methods to resolve more clearly the ages of key evolutionary turning points in the Ediacaran.
The localities containing these first, large, architecturally complex fossils are of international significance. Working with government, local communities, non-profit organisations and businesses, Jack investigates the threats to Newfoundland’s geoheritage, to better inform management plans. These efforts mainly focus on the Mistaken Point UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Discovery Aspiring Geopark. By enhancing geoconservation efforts with sound scientific foundations, geotourism industries can grow sustainably, supporting local economies.
Jack also investigates the legislative frameworks used by jurisdictions around the world to identify, designate, protect and manage their geological heritage. Nations have used very different legal mechanisms to facilitate their geoconservation goals, sometimes with unintended consequences. Jack analyses, compares and contrasts these different approaches, using his conclusions to improve protection around the world, as well as extending geoconservation concepts to other celestial bodies.