Geological Science and Engineering

Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Guy M. Narbonne, FRSC 

Office:  Bruce 551
Phone: 613-533-6168



My research centers on the origin and early evolution of animals and their ecosystems through the Neoproterozoic and into the Cambrian. These studies are carried out at the interface between paleontology, sedimentology, and geochemistry to elucidate how the early evolution of animals was interrelated with equally profound global physical and chemical changes (including global “snowball” glaciations and a major increase in atmospheric oxygen) during this critical interval in Earth evolution. My research over the past three decades has focussed on the Ediacara biota, Earth’s first experiment in complex multicellular life, with studies currently underway in Newfoundland, NW Canada, and Namibia.  I have also done extensive research on the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian boundary and the Cambrian “explosion” of animal life, and on Proterozoic reefs and other carbonates. All of this work requires a finely calibrated time scale, and I have worked with others to define the international standard (GSSP) for the Cambrian Period (Narbonne et al., 1987) and the newly named Ediacaran Period (Knoll et al., 2006), and continue to be active in Neoproterozoic subdivision.  I am also active in public outreach, including appearing in recent documentaries by David Suzuki (“The Nature of Things”, 2007) and Sir David Attenborough (“First Life with David Attenborough”, 2010), and working towards nomination of Mistaken Point as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Click Here to see a short clip of Guy Narbonne and David Attenborough describing the world's oldest large fossils at Mistaken Point. This video is part of the documentary "First Life with David Attenborough")

Click Here to listen to a short NPR broadcast about the importance of the Mistaken Point fossils to the economy of southeastern Newfoundland. The video will begin after a short commercial.

Supervising Information

I accept students with backgrounds in geology and/or biology, and tailor their projects to match their specific background skills.  All of my projects involve fieldwork.  My current students and their projects are listed below:

  • Greg Burzynski,Paleobiology of Ediacaran discoid fossils from Newfoundland, Ph.D. thesis.
  • Alexis Armstrong, Ordovician paleontology, M.Sc. thesis (co-supervised by N.P. James).

Research Interests/Current Research

  • Origin and early evolution of animals and their ecosystems, with a special focus on Ediacaran paleobiology
  • Ediacaran and Paleozoic trace fossils (systematics, paleoecology, evolution)
  • Proterozoic and Paleozoic reefs (paleoecology, sedimentology)
  • Neoproterozoic and Lower Paleozoic carbonate and siliciclastic sedimentation
  • Neoproterozoic chemical oceanography
  • Neoproterozoic chronostratigraph


  • GEOL/GEOE 107 – History of Life
  • GEOL/GEOE 337 - Paleontology
  • GEOL 301 – Adirondack Field Trip
  • Graduate module in “Neoproterozoic Earth and Life”


Research Awards:

  • Bancroft Award of the Royal Society of Canada (2014)
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2010)
  • Elkanah Billings Medal in Paleontology, Geological Association of Canada (2009)
  • Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research (2008)
  • Essential Science Indicators “Hot Paper” in the Geosciences (2007)
  • Palaios“Best Paper Award” (Honourable Mention, 2000)
  • Journal of Paleontology “Best Paper Award” (Honourable Mention, 1997)
  • GAC-CSRG “Best Paper Award” (1996)
  • Howard Street Robinson Medal, in Precambrian Geology, Geological Association of Canada (1994)
  • Journal of Paleontology “Best Paper Award” (1989)
  • S.E.P.M  Excellence of Presentation Award (1984, San Jose)
  • S.E.P.M  Excellence of Presentation Award (1983, Dallas)

Teaching Awards

  • W.J. Barnes Teaching Excellence Award (Arts and Science Undergraduate Society, 2010)

Professional Associations

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
  • Member, Geological Association of Canada
  • Member, Paleontological Society
  • Voting Member, IUGS/ICS Edicaran Subcommission
  • Voting Member, IUGS/ICS Precambrian Subcommission
  • Scientific Board Member, UNESCO International Geoscience Program (IGCP)
  • Theme Leader, UNESCO-IGCP Global Change and Evolution


Refereed Book:

Fedonkin, M.A., Gehling, J.G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G.M., and Vickers-Rich, P., 2007, The Rise of Animals: Evolution and Diversification of Kingdom Animalia. John Hopkins Press, 344 p.  Forward by Arthur C. Clarke.  [Reviewed inScience and in New Scientist.  Winner of the Victoria Premier’s Literary Award in Science Writing]

Refereed Papers (last ten years). Students and PDFs underlined:

Narbonne, G.M., Laflamme, M., Trusler, P.W., Dalrymple, R.W., and Greentree, C. 2014, Deep-water Ediacaran fossils from northwestern Canada: taphonomy, ecology, and evolution.  Journal of Paleontology, 86: 207-223. [Cover illustration]

Carbone, C., and Narbonne, G.M., 2014, When life got smart: the evolution of behavioral complexity through the Ediacaran and early Cambrian of NW Canada.  Journal of Paleontology, 86: 309-330.

Buatois, L.A., Narbonne, G.M., Mángano, M.G., Carmona, N.B., and Myrow, P., Ediacaran matground ecology persisted into the earliest Cambrian, Nature Communications 5, Article number: 3544, doi:10.1038/ncomms4544, p. 1-5.

Ghisalberti, M., Gold, D.A., Laflamme, M, Clapham, M.E., Narbonne, G.M., Summons, R.E., Johnston, D.T., and Jacobs, D.K., 2014, Canopy flow models identify the advantage of size in the oldest communities of multicellular eukaryotes, Current Biology 25: 305-309.

Macdonald, F.A., Strauss, J.V., Sperling, E.A., Halverson, G.P., Narbonne, G.M., Johnston, D.T., Kunzman, M., Petach, T., Schrag, D.T., and Higgins, J.A., 2013, The stratigraphic relationship between the Shuram carbon isotope excursion, the oxygenation of Neoproterozoic oceans, and the first appearance of the​ Ediacara biota and bilaterian trace fossils in northwestern Canada, Chemical Geology, 362: 250-272.

Mason, S.J., Narbonne, G.M., Dalrymple, R.W., and O’Brien, S.J. 2013.  Paleoenvironmental analysis of Ediacaran strata in the Catalina Dome, Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland.  Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 50: 197–212.

Vickers-Rich, P., Ivantsov, A Yu., Trusler, P.W., Narbonne, G.M., Hall, M., Wilson, S.A., Greentree, C., Fedonkin M.A., Elliott, D.A., Hoffmann, K.H., and Schneider, G.I.C., 2013, Reconstructing Rangea: New discoveries from the Ediacaran of southern Namibia, Journal of Paleontology 85: 1-16. [Cover illustration]

Narbonne. G.M., Xiao, S., and Shields. G., 2012, Ediacaran Period.Chapter 18 in: Gradstein, F.M., Ogg, J.G., Schmidt, M.D., and Ogg, G.M. (eds.), Geologic Time Scale 2012, Elsevier, pp. 427-449.

Laflamme, M., Schiffbauer, J. D., and Narbonne, G. M., 2012, Deep-Water Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures (MISS) in Deep Time: The Ediacaran Fossil Ivesheadia, In Noffke, N. (ed.), Microbial Mats in Siliciclastic Sediments, SEPM Special Publication 101: 111-123.

Laflamme, M., Flude, L.I., and Narbonne, G.M., 2012, Ecological tiering and the evolution of a stem: the oldest stemmed frond from the Ediacaran of Newfoundland, Canada, Journal of Paleontology 84: 193-200.

Narbonne, G.M., 2011,When life got big. Nature 470: 339-340.  [Invited]

Laflamme, M., Schiffbauer, J. D., Narbonne, G. M., and Briggs, D. E.G., 2011, Microbial biofilms and the preservation of the Ediacara biota. Lethaia 45: 203-213. 

Silva-Tamayo, J.C., Nägler, T.F., Sial, A.N., Nogueira, A.  Kyser, T.K., Riccomini, C.,  James, N.P., Narbonne, G.M., Villa, I.M., 2010, Global perturbation of the marine Ca isotopic composition in the aftermath of the Marinoan global glaciation.  Precambrian Research, 182: 373-381. 

Silva-Tamayo, J. C., Nägler, T. F., Villa, I. M., Kyser, T.K., Vieira, L. C., Sial, A. N., Narbonne, G. M., and James, N. P. 2010. Global Ca isotope variations in c. 0.7 Ga old post-glacial carbonate successions.  Terra Nova 24: 188-192. 

Narbonne, G.M.  2010. Neoproterozoic oceans and early animals.  Science 328: 53-54.  [Invited]

Bamforth, E.L. and Narbonne, G.M. 2009. New Ediacaran rangeomorphs from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada,Journal of Paleontology 83: 897-913.

Narbonne, G.M., Laflamme, M., Greentree, C., and Trusler, P., 2009, Reconstructing a lost world: Ediacaran rangeomorphs from Spaniard's Bay, Newfoundland.  Journal of Paleontology 83: 503-523.  [Cover illustration]

Flude, L.I. and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Taphonomy and ontogeny of a multibranched Ediacaran fossil: Bradgatia from the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland.  Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 45: 1095-1109.

Laflamme, M. and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Competition in a Precambrian world: Palaeoecology and functional biology of Ediacaran fronds. Geology Today, 24 (5): 182-187. [Invited]

Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., Knoll, A.H., Narbonne, G.M., Ross, G.M., Goldberg, T., and Strauss, H., 2008. Ferruginous conditions dominated later Neoproterozoic deep-water chemistry.  Science 321: 949-952 [Selected for a “Perspective in Science”]

Bamforth, E.L., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.M. 2008, Growth and ecology of a multi-branched Ediacaran rangeomorph from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology 82: 763–777.

Laflamme, M., and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Ediacaran fronds.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258 (3): 162-179.[Featured in Geology Today]

Gehling, J.G. and Narbonne, G.M. 2007, Spindle-shaped Ediacara fossils from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Avalon Zone, Newfoundland.  Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 367-387. 

Ichaso, A., Dalrymple, R.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007, Paleoenvironmental and basin analysis of the late Neoproterozoic (Ediacaran) upper Conception and St. John’s Groups, west Conception Bay, Newfoundland, Canada,Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 25-41. 

Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007, Late Neoproterozoic deep ocean oxygenation and the rise of animal life.  Science 315: 92-95 (also published online 07 December 2006 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1135013] in Science Express Reports).  [Featured in the “News of the Week” by Science, Nature, and New Scientist, selected as a “Research Highlight” by Nature, and as the 2007 “Hot Paper in the Geosciences” by Essential Science Indicators]

Pyle, L.J., Narbonne, G.M., Nowlan, G.S., Xiao, S, and James, N.P., 2006, Early Cambrian metazoan eggs, embryos, and phosphatic microfossils from northwestern Canada. Journal of Paleontology 80: 811-825.  [Selected as a "Research Highlight" by Nature]

Knoll, A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N. 2006,  The Ediacaran Period: A new addition to the geologic time scale.  Lethaia 39: 13-30.  [First new geologic period in 130 years]

Narbonne, G.M. 2005, The Ediacara biota: Neoproterozoic origin of animals and their ecosystems.  Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 33: 13.1-13.22.  (also published online as a Review in Advance of Publication January 7, 2005).  [Invited]

James, N.P., Narbonne, G.M., Kyser, T.K., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2005, Glendonites in Neoproterozoic low latitude, interglacial sedimentary rocks, NW Canada: Insights into the Cryogenian ocean and Precambrian cold-water carbonates. Geology 33: 9-12.

Narbonne, G.M. 2004, Modular construction of complex early Ediacaran life forms.  Science 305: 1141-1144. [Cover photograph.  Selected for a “Perspective in Science” and as one of the top 100 science discoveries (#46) for 2004 by Discover Magazine] 

Knoll, A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N. 2004, A new period for the geologic time scale.  Science 305: 621-622.  [First new geologic period ratified in more than a century.  Selected as one of the top 100 science discoveries (#42) for 2004 by Discover Magazine]

Laflamme, M., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.M., 2004, Morphometrics of the Ediacaran frond Charniodiscus from the Mistaken Point Formation, Newfoundland.  Journal of Paleontology 78: 827-837.

Clapham, M.E., Narbonne,G.M., Gehling, J.G., Greentree, C, and Anderson, M.M. 2004, Thectardis avalonensis: A new Ediacaran fossil from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland.  Journal of Paleontology, 78: 1031-1036.

Pyle, L.J., Narbonne, G.M., James, N.P., Dalrymple, R.W., and Kaufman, A.J., 2004, Integrated Ediacaran chronostratigraphy, Wernecke Mountains, northwestern Canada.  Precambrian Research 132: 1-27.

Day, E.S., James, N.P., Narbonne, G.M., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2004, A sedimentary prelude to Marinoan glaciation: the Cryogenian (Middle Neoproterozoic) Keele Formation, Mackenzie Mountains, northwestern Canada.  Precambrian Research 133: 223-247.

Batten, K., Narbonne, G.M., and James, N.P., 2004, Early Neoproterozoic (Tonian) ramp carbonates and microbial buildups, Little Dal Group, Northwest Territories, Canada.  Precambrian Research 133: 249-269.

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