Interpreting the ice dynamics and palaeogeography of Cryogenian - Cambrian glacial geology of China

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway University of London
Department Name: Geography


The Ediacaran to Cambrian aged Luoquan Formation (> 521 Ma, North China) comprises exquisitely preserved subglacially striated pavements, overlain by a range of subglacial to proglacial deposits. This project seeks to better understand its depositional context and processes, along with the character, extent and dynamics of its glacial ice. This will be achieved through outcrop investigation using well-established geological techniques, such as measured sections, mapping and sedimentary structure orientation. This study will improve understandings of how our past planet worked: (1) Striated pavements are globally rare upon such ancient rocks and those of the Luoquan Formation are amongst the best Precambrian examples. They yield important information about the overlying ancient ice, yet scant data is published on the Luoquan pavements and they are imminently threatened by anthropogenic destruction; (2) Whether any glacial strata of Cambrian age occur globally remains unconfirmed; (3) The North China Craton was at mid to low latitudes during Luoquan Formation deposition. The presence of sea-level ice at these latitudes during the preceding Cryogenian Period is considered diagnostic evidence of pan-global "Snowball Earth" glaciation. A sea-level depositional context for ice rafted debris of the Luoquan Formation would significantly change understandings of Ediacaran to Cambrian global climate. Study of these deposits will be complimented by comparison to preserved striated surfaces from Cryogenian strata of NW China, USA and modern surfaces of Austria.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/W502947/1 01/04/2021 31/03/2022
1917577 Studentship NE/W502947/1 01/10/2017 30/12/2021 Thomas Vandyk
Description 2019 New Researchers Award
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation Geologists Association 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
Description 2019 Postgraduate Grant Scheme
Amount € 1,000 (EUR)
Organisation International Association of Sedimentologists 
Sector Learned Society
Country Belgium
Description 2019 Postgraduate Research Grant
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation British Society for Geomorphology 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Description Team lead by Prof. Daniel Le Heron, University of Vienna 
Organisation University of Vienna
Country Austria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborating together on fieldwork and analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborating together on fieldwork and analysis.
Impact 1.) 10.1016/j.precamres.2019.105362 2.) 10.1130/G46285.1 3.) 10.1002/dep2.46
Start Year 2017
Description Team lead by Prof. Liu Yongqing of Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences 
Organisation Chinese Academy of Sciences
Country China 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Undertaking fieldwork in China. Analysis of data. Writing up.
Collaborator Contribution Facilitating and collaborating with fieldwork in China. Lab analysis.
Impact 1.) Disciplines Geomorphology Remote Sensing 2.) Poster Presentation: British Sedimentological Research Group (2018): A Frosty Cambrian Dawn?
Start Year 2018
Description Team lead by Prof. Wu Guanghui of Southwest Petroleum University, Chengdu, China (formerly of Sun yat-Sen University) 
Organisation Southwest Petroleum University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Fieldwork in China in 2017, 2019. Analysis of data and writing up. Resulting in two papers published in Precambrian Research and the Depositional Record and a further paper currently in review with Journal of Asian Earth Sciences that I wrote.
Collaborator Contribution Facilitating and collaborating on fieldwork. Undertaking lab analysis in China.
Impact 1.) DOI: 10.1016/j.precamres.2019.105362 Disciplines: Sedimentology Isotopic Geochemisty 2.) DOI:; 10.1002/dep2.46 Disciplines: Sedimentology 3.) A window into the Great Unconformity: Insights from geochronology and geochemistry of the Ediacaran glaciogenic strata on the North China Craton Li, M., Vandyk, T. M., Wu, G., Le Heron, D. & Xiao, Y., 17 Jan 2020, (Submitted) In : Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. Article (IN REVIEW) Disciplines: Whole rock Geochemistry Isotopic Geochemistry 4.) Conference Poster, Presentation 2019 British Sedimentological Research Group (BSRG): Temperate glaciation on a Snowball Earth: Glaciological and palaeogeographic insights from the Cryogenian Yuermeinak Formation of NW China 5.) Oral Presentation, International Sedimentological Congress (ISC) 2018: A Geomorphic window into a Neoproterozoic glaciation: A complex subglacial topography from the Yuermeinak Formation of NW China 6.) Poster Presentation: European Geosciences Union (EGU) 2018: A Geomorphic window into a Neoproterozoic glaciation: A complex subglacial topography from the Yuermeinak Formation of NW China
Start Year 2017