Dr. Guy Narbonne

Dr. Guy NarbonneGuy M. Narbonne, FRSC 

Office: Bruce 551
Phone: 613-533-6168
Email: narbonne@queensu.ca

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 focused on the Ediacara biota, Earth’s first experiment in complex multicellular life, with studies currently underway in Newfoundland, NW Canada, Australia, 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 Ediacaran Period (Knoll et al., 2006), and continue to be active in Neoproterozoic subdivision.  I am also active in public outreach, including appearing in documentaries by David Suzuki (“The Nature of Things”, 2007) and Sir David Attenborough (“First Life with David Attenborough”, 2010).  I was Chief Scientist for the nomination of Mistaken Point as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (ratified in 2016) and Chair of the UNESCO-IUGS International Geoscience Program (2017-2018).

View 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")

View 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.  Recent projects have taken place in Newfoundland, NW Canada, Namibia, and Australia. 

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 chronostratigraphy


  • GEOL 107/GEOE 207 – History of Life
  • GEOL/GEOE 337 - Paleontology
  • GEOL 301 – Adirondack Field Trip
  • Graduate module in “Neoproterozoic Earth and Life”


Major Research Awards:

  • Neale Medal of the Geological Association of Canada (2017)
  • Bancroft Award of the Royal Society of Canada (2014)
  • 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)
  • Howard Street Robinson Medal in Precambrian Geology, Geological Association of Canada (1994)

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
  • Voting Member, IUGS/ICS Ediacaran Subcommission
  • Chair, Working Group on the Terminal Edaicaran Stage
  • Chair and Scientific Board Member, UNESCO-IUGS International Geoscience Program (IGCP)


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 in Science and in New Scientist.  Winner of the Victoria Premier’s Literary Award in Science Writing]

UNESCO World Heritage Nomination:

Thomas, R., and Narbonne, G.M., 2016, Mistaken Point: Nomination for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, 165 pages + 840 page appendix.  Published online at <http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1497.pdf>

Refereed Papers (last ten years).

Gougeon, R.C., Mángano, M. G., Buatois, L. A., Narbonne, G.M., and Laing, B.A. 2018. Early Cambrian origin of the shelf sediment mixed layer. Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04311-8.

Laing, B.A., Buatois, L.A., Mángano, M.G., Narbonne, G.M., and Gougeon, R.C., 2018, Gyrolithes from the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary section in Fortune Head, Newfoundland, Canada: Exploring the onset of complex burrowing, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 495: 171–185.

Dececchi, A.T., Narbonne, G.M., Greentree, C., and Laflamme, M., 2017, Relating Ediacaran fronds, Paleobiology, 43: 171–180.

Burzynski, G.R., Narbonne, G.M., Dececchi, A.T., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2017, The ins and outs of Ediacaran Discs, Precambrian Research, 300: 246–260.

Xiao, S., Vickers-Rich, S., Narbonne, G.M., Laflamme, M., Darroch, S., Kaufman, A.J., Kreisfield, L., 2017, Field workshop on the Ediacaran Nama Group of southern Namibia, Episodes 40: 259-261.

Xiao, S., Narbonne. G.M., Zhou, C., Laflamme, M., Grazhdankin, D.V., Moczydłowska-Vidal, M., and Cui, H., 2016, Toward an Ediacaran Time Scale: Problems, Protocols, and Prospects, Episodes, 39: 540-555.

Elliott D. A., Trusler P., Narbonne G.M., Vickers-Rich P., Fournie N., Hoffmann K. H., and Schneider G., 2016, Ernietta from the late Ediacaran Nama Group, Namibia. Journal of Paleontology, 89: 1017–1026.

Ivantsov, A.Yu., Narbonne, G.M., Trusler, P.W., Greentree, C., and Vickers-Rich, P. 2016, Elucidating Ernietta: Exceptional specimens from the Ediacaran of Namibia.  Lethaia, 49: 540-554.

Mason, S.J. and Narbonne, G.M., 2016. Two new Ediacaran fronds from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Journal of Paleontology, 90: 183-194.

Sperling, E.A., Carbone, C., Strauss, J.V., Johnson, D.T., Narbonne, G.M., and Macdonald, F.A., 2016. Oxygen, facies, and secular controls on the appearance of Cryogenian and Ediacaran body and trace fossils in the Mackenzie Mountains of northwestern Canada. Geological Society of America, Bulletin, 128: 558–575.

Burzynski, G. and Narbonne, G.M., 2015. The discs of Avalon: Relating discoid fossils to frondose organisms in the Ediacaran of Newfoundland, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 434: 34-45

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]

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