• MSci Geological sciences (University of Cambridge) - 2008
  • PhD Materials science (University of Cambridge) - 2012
  • PhD thesis: Marine Sequestration of Particulate Organic Carbon from Mountain Belts

Research project

Effects of a warming climate on the key organic carbon cycle processes in the Eurasian Arctic

Working with:

Research interests

My research focusses on the land-ocean transfer of organic carbon, and its sequestration in marine sediments. I aim to understand the volumes and types of carbon exported from a range of geological and climatic settings, and their potential for oxidation or burial at sea. The balance between harvesting of fresh material, erosion of fossil carbon, oxidation during transport and re-burial in marine sediments is a critical factor for global carbon budgets.

During my PhD I studied the export of Particulate Organic Carbon from active mountain belts, mostly in tropical settings. I found that globally-significant amounts of carbon were being exported from active mountain belts, and being buried in large-volume marine sediments. My post-doc focusses on the export of carbon from Siberian permafrost to the Arctic Ocean, using molecular biomarkers to understand the distribution of organic material across the shelf. The volume of carbon currently stored in the permafrost exceeds the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, so evaluating the likelihood of oxidation versus reburial of this material is of great importance to understanding future climate.


  • West A.J., C.W. Lin, T.C. Lin, R.G. Hilton, S.H. Liu, C.T. Chang, K.C. Lin, A. Galy, R.B. Sparkes, N. Hovius. 2011. Mobilization and transport of coarse woody debris to the oceans triggered by an extreme tropical storm. Limnology and Oceanography. 56, 77-85.
  • Sparkes R.B., F. Tilmann, N. Houvis, J. Hillier. 2010. Subducted seafloor relief stops rupture in South American great earthquakes: Implications for rupture behaviour in the 2010 Maule, Chile earthquake. Earth and Planetary Science Letters . 298, 89-94. j.epsl.2010.07.029