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Lyell Meeting 2017: Sticking together

Sticking Together - microbes and their role in forming sediments 

Sedimentology and geomorphology have traditionally been seen as fields in which physical, and sometimes chemical, processes dominate completely. Even in settings where biological processes have long been recognised, for example in marine carbonates, focus has been almost entirely on metazoans.

This is curious, because microbial communities since the Pre-Cambrian, have suffused all sedimentary environments on Earth, and at least half global biomass is prokaryotic. Are all these microbes simply bystanders? Recent research has hinted that they are key agents in controlling an impressive range of processes and products in sedimentology, bringing the fields of microbe palaeontology and bio-sedimentology into intimate alignment.

The implications are fundamental, and pose the question “are large-scale sedimentological features actually microbial trace fossils?”.

This meeting aimed to put the majority of life on earth back into its proper place within the sedimentary geosciences. It shed new light on the important roles that microbial life plays in controlling how sediments erode, transport, precipitate, deposit and cement. We explored whether microbial processes can leave signatures in sedimentary deposits that prove life was there, despite the fact that the majority of global biomass has nearly zero preservation potential.

Ultimately, the meeting lifted the lid on the exciting field of sedimentary geobiology as we collectively work towards a new paradigm of microbial sedimentology.

Keynote Speaker

Christophe Dupraz (University of Stockholm, Sweden) – Biofilms and Sediment: a ‘Geobiological Tango’


  • Mike Rogerson (University of Hull)
  • Daniel Parsons (University of Hull)
  • Concha Arenas Abad (University of Zaragoza, Spain)
  • Gernot Arp (University of Göttingen, Germany)
  • Jaco Baas (University of Bangor, UK)


Hydrodynamic effects on the structure and functioning of reservoir biofilms: A flume investigation - Dr Sabine Gerbersdorf (Stuttgart University, Germany)

Travertine ridges and microbialite reefs: a rock record of GSL shorelines at Lakeside, Utah - Peter Homewood (Geosolutions TRD & University of Fribourg, Switzerland)


KEYNOTE: Biofilms and Sediment: a 'Geobiological Tango' - Christophe Dupraz (University of Stockholm, Sweden)

Microbial mat ecology in lacustrine settings at the Meso-Neoproterozoic boundary - Paul Strother (Weston Observatory of Boston College, USA)

Microbial activity as a key control on fluvial-aeolian landscapes in the Cambrian- Arnold Reesink (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,USA)

Microbial mats as agents in the formation of discoidal pseudofossils: observations from the Ediacaran Longmyndian Supergroup, Shropshire, England - Latha Menon (University of Oxford, UK)

Oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis in a microbial mat from an anoxic and sulfidic spring - Dirk de Beer (Max Planck Instititute for Marine Microbiology, Germany)

Modern and ancient biosignatures in sabkha-associated microbial mats - Cees van der Land (Newcastle University, UK)

The combined effects of cyclic particle flux and anaerobic oxidation of methane support growth of a laminated seep bioherm off Pakistan (northern Arabian Sea) - Tobias Himmler (University of Bremen, Germany & IFREMER, France)

Not just along for the ride - the influence of extracellular polymeric substances on fine-grained sediment gravity flows - Melissa Craig (University of Adelaide, Australia)

Subaqueous sedimentary cracks: evidence for a microbial contribution - Sean McMahon (Yale University, USA)

Microbially-influenced Architectural Preservation in Aeolian Bedforms - Robin Westerman

Microbial transport and soil integrity in drylands - David Elliott (University of Derby, UK)

Microbial mat sandwiches and other anactualistic sedimentary features of the Ediacara Member (Rawnsley Quartzite, South Australia): Implications for interpretation of the Ediacaran sedimentary record - Lidya Tarhan (Yale University, USA)

How far can biostabilisation go via EPS-mediated sediment erosion process? - Xindi Chen (Hohai University, China)

Visualising the Role of Microbes in the Development of Sediment Flocs - Jonathan Wheatland (Queen Mary University of London, UK)

Sedimentary rock steps


Date: 7 March 2017

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, London


Meeting Poster


     Abstract Book