• Edinburgh

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Research interests

My research characterizes molecular and isotopic compositions of sedimentary organic matter as a tool for reconstructing ancient environmental conditions.  My current projects utilize carbon and deuterium signatures of biomarkers - the molecular remains of algae and plants - to trace hydroclimate and ecosystem fragmentation in eastern Africa during major junctures in human evolution, ca. 6-to-1 million years ago.  In tropical lake systems, deuterium composition of biomarkers reflects local water cycle dynamics, which in turn are sensitive to seasonality, precipitation intensity and monsoon circulation.  Carbon isotope compositions are also linked to hydroclimate through the influences of water on plant community composition and structure.  Recently, I have become interested in the utility of ‘landscape biomarkers’ – such as n-alkylresorcinols – preserved in ancient soils towards mapping wetland environments and spatial distributions of water.  This quantitative approach to environmental reconstruction may provide powerful insights into the immediate selective pressures experienced by early humans.


  • QE Geology
  • Geoscience
  • Geochemistry
  • Isotopes
  • GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
  • Human evolution
  • Hominin
  • Dietary preference

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Research Output

(In)coherent multiproxy signals in marine sediments: Implications for high-resolution paleoclimate reconstruction

Ausín, B., Magill, C., Haghipour, N., Fernández, Á., Wacker, L., Hodell, D., Baumann, K. H. & Eglinton, T. I., 1 Jun 2019, In : Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 515, p. 38-46 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
  • 56 Downloads (Pure)

    Isotopic variance among plant lipid homologues correlates with biodiversity patterns of their source communities

    Magill, C. R., Eglinton, G. & Eglinton, T. I., 27 Feb 2019, In : PLoS ONE. 14, 2, e0212211.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 21 Downloads (Pure)

    Keeping up with hydrology during the Messinian salinity crisis

    Krawielicki, J., Magill, C. R., Eglinton, T. I., Cosentino, D. & Willett, S., 2 Sep 2019, 29th International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry. EAGE Publishing BV

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    Paleofloral dependence of coal methane sorption capacity

    Busch, A., Han, F. & Magill, C., 1 Jul 2019, In : International Journal of Coal Geology. 211, 103232.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Proliferation of hydrocarbon-degrading microbes at the bottom of the Mariana Trench

    Liu, J., Zheng, Y., Lin, H., Wang, X., Li, M., Liu, Y., Yu, M., Zhao, M., Pedentchouk, N., Lea-Smith, D. J., Todd, J. D., Magill, C. R., Zhang, W-J., Zhou, S., Song, D., Zhong, H., Xin, Y., Yu, M., Tian, J. & Zhang, X-H., 12 Apr 2019, In : Microbiome. 7, 47.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 47 Downloads (Pure)

    Press / Media

    Research reveals insects were major food source millions of years ago

    Clayton Magill & Julie Lesnik


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research

    From the Field

    Clayton Magill & Julie Lesnik


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research