Hannah Bird

University of Birmingham


Fish like it hot? Response of fish and shark communities to abrupt past global warming


Dr Kirsty Edgar (University of Birmingham, UK)
Professor Richard Twitchett (Natural History Museum, London UK)
Dr Elizabeth Sibert (Yale University, USA)
Dr Ivan Sansom (University of Birmingham, UK)
Professor Richard Butler (University of Birmingham, UK)

PhD Summary

My doctoral research focuses on geochemical and biodiversity studies of ichthyoliths (fish and shark teeth and scales) and otoliths (inner ear structures of bony fish) from deep sea sediments originating at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (~56 million years ago) – our best analogue for modern and future climate change. This underutilised resource aims to provide a holisitic overview of palaeoceanographic changes and its subsequent impacts upon marine vertebrate communities, as well as the wider effects upon marine trophic webs. Ultimately, this may yield an insightful indication for modern fishing industry practices coping with climate change and link to conservation palaeobiology efforts.

Previous activity

I completed a 4-year Integrated Masters in Geology and Physical Geography at the University of Birmingham, specialising in palaeontology, particularly faunal changes linked to climate events. Of note, I worked on tetrapod evolution across the Carboniferous and Permian boundary, resulting in a publication with the Journal of the Geological Society on the discovery of the earliest record of an edopoid temnospondyl (primitive amphibian) in the UK.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Committing to in-depth research of palaeoclimates and their relationships to modern climate change provides an opportunity for me to make an original contribution to the field in a project that combines all of my interests – palaeontology, oceanography and climate change. Through this I will further my knowledge and skills in these disciplines for a future career informing policy.

Why did you choose CENTA?

CENTA has an extensive training programme designed to develop skills in a breadth of areas, which are transferable beyond academia. Interdisciplinary and interuniversity collaborations also enable strengthening of a global network of connections to enable better access to facilities and more thorough research activities to take place. The opportunity to conduct a placement through the studentship also furthers industry connections. This is all in addition to the financial support they offer throughout completion of a PhD to allow further study to be feasible for an early career researcher.

Future plans

I am keen to make a valuable contribution to the science of understanding future impacts of climate change and how to communicate the importance of this to various audiences, particularly children and the general public, in order to aid policy making decisions upon moving into industry beyond completion of the PhD.