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 700-500 million years ago.  My work is holistic, and uses paleontology, sedimentology, and geochemistry to determine how the early evolution of animals was interrelated with equally profound global physical and chemical changes that spanned the transition between the Proterozoic and the Cambrian. My research is global, with recent publications from Newfoundland, NW Canada, Australia, and Namibia, and include a cover story on the modular development of early multicellular life in Science (August 4, 2004). 

All of this work requires a finely calibrated time scale, and I played a role in defining the international standard (GSSP) for the Cambrian Period (Narbonne et al., 1987) and the designation of the first new geologic period named in more than a century (Ediacaran Period; Knoll et al., 2004, 2006), and continue to be active in formulating new divisions in the pre-Cambrian part of the Geologic Timescale. 

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), Chair of the UNESCO-IUGS International Geoscience Program (2017-2018) and Theme Leader of the UNESCO-IUGS program on Global Change - Evidence from the Geological Record (2012-2016).  I continue to be active in global geology, as listed in my affiliations below.

View a short clip of Guy Narbonne and David Attenborough describing the world's oldest complex multicellular fossils at Mistaken Point (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). 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.

Supervising Information

I accept students with backgrounds in geology and/or biology, and tailor their projects to match their specific background skills.  All 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)


  • GEOL 107/GEOE 207 – History of Life
  • GEOL/GEOE 337 - Paleontology


Research Awards:

  • Earth Science in Canada Leader Award, Research.com (2023)
  • 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)
  • Essential Science Indicators “Hot Paper Award” for the Geosciences (2007)
  • 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, Queen’s University, 2010)

Professional Associations (current)

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
  • Member, Geological Association of Canada
  • Voting Member, IUGS/ICS Ediacaran Subcommission
  • Chair and Voting Member, IUGS/ICS Working Group on the Terminal Ediacaran Stage
  • Member, Canadian Geoscience Foundation
  • Member, IUGS International Scientific Committee for Deep-Time Digital Earth


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 Reports:

McKeever, P.J., and Narbonne, G.M., 2021, Geological World Heritage - a revised global framework for the application of criterion (viii) of the World Heritage Convention, Gland, Switzerland, IUCN, 128 p.  Published online at  https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2021-025-En.pdf

            [Standard reference for World Heritage Sites in Geology]

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

           [Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 17, 2016]

Refereed Papers (2012-present).

Grimes, K.F., Narbonne, G.M., Gehling, J.G., Trusler, P.T., and Dececchi, A.T., in press, Elongate Ediacaran fronds from the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Journal of Paleontology, accepted pending minor revision.

Gougeon, R.C., Mángano, M. G., Buatois, L. A., Narbonne, G.M., Laing, B.A., and Paz, M., in press, The Ediacaran–Cambrian Chapel Island Formation of Newfoundland, Canada: evaluating the impact of outcrop quality on trace-fossil data sets at the Cambrian GSSP and less-explored sections, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, published online 07 December, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1139/cjes-2022-0060.

Laing, B.A., Buatois, L.A., Mángano, M.G., Minter, N., Strotz, L., Narbonne, G.M., and Brock, G.A., 2022, Bioturbators as ecosystem engineers: assessing current models. Palaios 37: 718–730.

Xiao, S., and Narbonne, G.M., 2020, Ediacaran Period.  Chapter 18 in Gradstein, F. et al. (eds.), Geologic Timescale 2020, Elsevier, pp. 521-561. [Invited]

James N.P., Narbonne, G.M., and Armstrong, A., 2020, Aragonite depositional facies in a Late Ordovician calcite sea, eastern Laurentia. Sedimentology, 67: 3513-3532.

Canfield, D.E., Knoll, A.H., Poulton, S.W., Narbonne, G.M., and Dunning, G.R. 2020, Carbon isotopes in clastic rocks and the Neoproterozoic carbon cycle. American Journal of Science 320: 97–124. [2nd most cited paper published in any issue of American Journal of Science in 2020]

Burzynski, G.R., Dececchi, T.A., Narbonne, G.M., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2020. Cryogenian Aspidella from northwestern Canada. Precambrian Research, 336, Article 105507, 9 pp.

Laing, B.A., Buatois, L.A., Mángano, M.G., Narbonne, G.M., and Gougeon, R.C., 2019, A protracted Ediacaran-Cambrian transition: an ichnologic ecospace analysis of the Fortunian in Newfoundland, Canada. Geological Magazine, 156: 1623–1630.

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. [2nd most cited paper published in any issue of Paleobiology in 2017]

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. [Most cited paper published in any issue of Episodes in 2016]

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. [2nd most cited paper published in any issue of Lethaia in 2016]

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. [Featured in Nature News, 18 February 2016 and National Geographic, March 2018]

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.

Dewing, K. and 21 others, 2014, Southern sojourn: Canada 750 to 444 million years ago. Chapter 7 in Fensome, R., Williams, G., Achab, A., Clague, J., Corrigan, D., Monger, J. and Nowlan , G. (eds.), Four Billion years and Counting: Canada`s Geological Heritage, Nimbus Publishing, Nova Scotia, pp. 99-121.

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; 2nd most cited paper in published in any issue of Journal of Paleontology in 2013]

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. [Invited]

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.

Return to Faculty