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Royal Society election 2022

Blonde white woman smiling wearing a blue striped topProfessor Ros Rickaby, Professorial Fellow and Chair and Professor of Geology, has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society for her work on the interactions between life and the composition of Earth’s oceans and atmosphere.

She researches the complex interactions between the evolution of organisms, ocean chemistry, atmospheric composition and Earth’s climate. The extraction of chemical signatures from fossil shells of marine micro-organisms as a tool for constraining past ocean conditions and their influence on climate is fundamental to her research. Yet, frustration with the complexities of disentangling the “inorganic” geochemical signal from the overprint of the biomineralising processes caused her to seek innovative alternative approaches to constraining past climates and environments. She is also probing the geological past by examining the biology of modern-day organisms. This ambition broadens into probing biological innovation and environmental change over the Earth’s history since the feedback between the two is inescapable. Her approach is to read the geological history of both climate and the chemical environment from signals of adaptation within genes, which plays out in the evolving affinity and kinetics of the expressed enzymes, or isotopic signals of adaptation within biologically relevant molecules. She leads the OceanBUG research group.

She received her Master of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge where she was an undergraduate student at Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1995 and her PhD from the University’s Department of Earth Sciences in 1999, supervised by Harry Elderfield. After her PhD, she went on to complete two years of post-doctoral research at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, working with Dan Schrag. Professor Rickaby then started as a faculty member of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. She is also an author of Evolution’s Destiny: Co-evolving Chemistry of the Environment and Life along with Bob Williams.

She has been awarded the European Geosciences Union Philip Leverhulme Prize for Outstanding Young Scientist, the University of Miami’s 36th Rosenstiel Award, the James B. Macelwane Medal for significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist, the Gast lectureship for outstanding contributions to geochemistry, the Wolfson Research Merit Award by the Royal Society (2016–2021) and the Geological Society of London’s Lyell Medal for contributions to soft rock studies.

Published: 25 May 2022

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