Professor Thomas Wagner
Professor of Earth System Science


Joined the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle in 2005 as new Professor of Earth System Sciences as part of the Geochemistry Group. His area of teaching includes fundamentals of sedimentary organic matter, reconstruction of paleoclimate and paleoceanography based on geochemical and isotopic proxies, global biogeochemical cycles, petroleum source rock formation, and unconventional petroleum resources (specifically oil shale). His research interests covers a variety of aspects addressing the role and functioning of carbon and nutrients in the atmosphere-land-ocean system as primary drivers of environmental and climate change and energy resource under modern and past greenhouse conditions. Key research themes include (1) Anoxic greenhouse oceans, and (2)  Carbon and nutrient cycling in soils and rivers of continental watersheds under current and past greenhouse climate conditions.

Roles and Responsibilites

School representative on Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments (CHUGD)


Habilitation in Geology (Bremen, Germany, 2000)
PhD in Marine Geosciences (Kiel University, Germany, 1993)
Diploma in Geology (Heidelberg, Germany, 1989)


Member of the European Association of Organic Geochemists (EAOG)
Member of the Geological Society of America (GSA)
Member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Industrial Experience

Well connected with petroleum industry to complement and extend research on Past Anoxic Oceans. Currently, four active PhD research programs to study unconventional source rocks (oil shale) in Jordan in partnership with Shell and Cretaceous source rock distribution in Colombia, funded by Ecopetrol. Regularly delivers specialist workshops to petroleum industry (e.g. Shell and Ecopetrol-Columbia)

Science impact/Publications

H-Index: 30: total citations: 2640, based on 76 publications (Google Scholar, 6 October 2015).

For actual, NOT COMPLETE Google Scholar profile see

See 'Publications' for full documentation

Research Interests

Broad research themes include (1) Anoxic oceans and (2) Soils, Nutrient Cycling, and Hydrology in Continental Watersheds under current and past greenhouse climate conditions, with a general regional focus on the low latitudes (subtropics and tropics). With a focus on organic carbon production, cycling and burial from continental sources to marine sinks his research directly links with global biogeochemical cycles, hydrology and catchment evolution, soils, organo-mineral relationships, ocean redox, (molecular) proxy development and application, and ocean-wide controls on oil source rock formation at short (orbital) time scales. The latter aspect directly connects to petroleum industries, with active research on unconventional petroleum (oil shale).

Current Work

Wagner’s work lies in understanding controls and feedback mechanisms associated with short- and long-term environmental change, and their interaction with dynamic terrestrial and marine carbon systems. To date, major achievements have been made in assessing the role and functioning of Land-Ocean Interaction as a primary driver of carbon and nutrient export and (paleo-)oceanographic change. High resolution inorganic, organic and isotopic records mainly from marine sediments are used to calibrate and develop a quantitative understanding of the rates and mechanisms that have caused climate and environmental change as a consequence of processes governing ocean redox conditions, land ocean interaction, carbon export and burial fluxes, hydrocarbon source rock formation and long-term plate tectonics. Specifically, the source-sink relationships of terrestrial carbon have been addressed in detail using a combination of marine and terrestrial records linked to biogeochemical and climate modelling.

More recently he engaged with the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development ( in Guyana, tropical South America to establish a new cutting-edge hydroclimate-geochemistry research program that demonstrates the vulnerability and resilience of the rainforest and forest-savannah boundary to land use and climate change. This broad agenda integrates all aspects of climate, biodiversity, and community science, and is expected to provide the basis for quantifying forest ecosystem services that inform (global) financial compensation mechanisms (including REED and non-carbon based services). As first chair of the Iwokrama International Research Committee, an advisory panel to the Board of Trustees, he is centrally positioned to develop a program of integrated tropical rainforest research, supported by a strong inter-disciplinary team at Newcastle University (  

Future Research

In a larger context his research aims at contributing to an improved ecosystem-based management of the Earth‘s Surface by development of balanced (global) concepts between use and sustainability. More specific he empathizes his research efforts on "Carbon as a primary driver of (microbial) Ecosystems, Environmental Change and Energy Resource". 

The integrated nature of his research intends to stimulate and catalyse collaborative research at Newcastle and beyond but also develops opportunities for broader industry partnerships, including specialist training for petroleum industry and other stakeholders. 

Research Roles

Principal investigator and Co-investigator in various international research acticities. Previously, Wagner he was holder of the prestigious Heisenberg-Fellowship of the German Science Foundation (DFG). This enabled him to spend extended periods of time working at three world-leading institutions: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), and the University of Bremen (where he has worked as Assistant Professor since 1994). He has used the Heisenberg Fellowship to develop a network of research, training, and postgraduate student exchange between these institutions.

Since 1994, Professor Wagner has a success track in acquisition of research funding from national (DFG and ODP/IODP) to international (US-NSF) levels and co-ordinated cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional research at national, European, and international level.

Chair of the International Iwokrama Science Committee, International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Guyana (since 2009) 

Postgraduate Supervision

  1. Rath, S. (2001). Rekonstruktion spätquartärer Verlagerungen von Boden-wassermassen und terrigener Staubflüsse im zentralen äquatorialen Atlantik (ODP Bohrungen 663, 664): Hinweise aus hochauflösenden granulometrischen Zeitserien.
  2. Ahke, A. (2006). Origin, reactivity and transformation of particulate organic material in the benthic boundary layer in high productivity systems as derived from lipid biomarkers.
  3. Beckmann, B (2005). A tropical reference site of the Coniacian-Santonian Anoxic Event: multi-disciplinary, millennium-scale records of land-ocean interaction and black shale formation off Equatorial W-Africa (ODP Site 959)
  4. Holtvoeth, J. (2004). Terrestrial organic matter in the eastern Equatorial Atlantic – distribution, reactivity, and relation to Late Quaternary climate variability.
  5. Kolonic, S. (2004). Mechanisms and bigeochemical implications of Cenomanian/Turonian black shale formation in North Africa: An integrated geochemical, millennium-scale study from the Tarfaya-LaAyoune Basin in SW Morocco.
  6. Weijers, J. (2007 at NIOZ, NL). Development, evaluation and application of organic geochemical tracers for terrestrial carbon input into the marine environment.
  7. Chun Zhu (co-supervision with R. Pancost at School of Chemistry, Bristol, 2010). Constraints on the source character, physical pathway and chemical transform of the terrestrial biomarkers in river-sea system and the implication for proxies utilization
  8. Eniola, Bunmi (2011). Light stable isotope techniques (d13C and D/H) at molecular level: pushing analytical boundaries for environmental and climate-related applications.
  9. Wiebke Kallweit (co-supervision with M. Zabel (1st), EUROPROX Post Graduate School Bremen Germany, 2011). Terrigenous climate signals in deep-sea sediments: Assessment and quantification of alteration processes on primary signals
  10. Vesna Tripkovic (co-supervision with G. Parkin (1st) and H. Fowler, Ncl, submitted 10, 2011). Assessment of the impact of future climate variability on groundwater resources
  11. Gareth Izon (co-supervision with A. Cohen (1st), OU Milton Keynes, and Simon Poulton, 2012). How extensive were Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Events? An integrated Mo-isotope and organic geochemical study.
  12. Ryan Pereira (1st supervisor, co-supervision Parkin, Ncl, 2013). Tropical lowland rainforests: rapid recyclers or efficient storers of carbon?
  13. Najm Salem (co-supervision with Simon Poulton, Ncl, 2013). Geochemical characterisation of the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary during the onset of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. North Yorkshire, UK.
  14. Suha Aqleh (1st supervisor, co-supervision S. Poulton, Ncl, final revisions 2015). Inorganic geochemistry of upper Cretaceous oil shale in Jordan. Industry project funded by JOSCO-Shell
  15. Mohammad Alaween (1st supervisor, co-supervision M. Jones and H. Talbot, Ncl, final revisions 2015). Organic geochemistry of upper Cretaceous oil shale in Jordan. Industry project funded by JOSCO-Shell.
  16. Jasmine Black (co-supervision with Geoff Abbott (1st), Ncl, in preparation 2015). Effects of climate change and anthropogenic land use on soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics at tropical forest boundaries.
  17. Charlotte Spencer-Jones (co-supervision with Helen Talbot (1st), Ncl, in preparation 2015). Sedimentary record of short term climate driven changes in methane cycling.
  18. Carol Mahoney (1st supervisor, co-supervision with Christian Maerz, Ncl, in preparation 2017). Development and distribution of Cretaceous petroleum source rocks in Colombia – sedimentological and inorganic characteristics. Industry project funded by Ecopetrol-Colombia.
  19. Patricia Marin (1st supervisor, co-supervision with Martin Jones, Ncl, in preparation 2017). Development and distribution of Cretaceous petroleum source rocks in Colombia – organic characteristics. Industry project funded by Ecopetrol-Colombia.
  20. Mark Zinndorf (co-supervision with Christian Maerz (1st), Ncl, to start 9.2014; in preparation 2018). Reconstructing carbon and nutrient cycling in the Northeast Pacific Ocean over the past 15 million years. Newcastle University internal funds.
  21. Elizabeth Atar (co-supervision with Howard Armstrong, (1st), Durham, in preparation 2018). Controls on depositional heterogeneities in Mesozoic black shale. NERC Oil & Gas CDT
  22. Sonja Felder (co-supervision with Andrew Henderson, (1st), Geography NU, in preparation 2017). NERC-IAPETUS DTC 
  23. Jack Walker (1st supervisor, co-supervision with Martin Jones, Ncl, to start 9.2015; in preparation 2019). Shale Gas in the UK – Geochemical mapping of critical shale properties across Carboniferous basins. NERC Oil & Gas CDT.

Esteem Indicators

Chair of the International Iwokrama Science Committee, International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Guyana (since 2009)
Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder (2005-2011)
Heisenberg Fellow of the German Science Foundation (2002-2005)
Member of NERC Peer Review College (2008 - )
Member of UK ECORD-Industrial Liaison Panel (2008 - )
Member of Korean WCU KOSEF Review Panel (2008-2009)

Funding (selected)

Building a new strategic partnership on petroleum and environmental research in Salvador, Brazil; Newton International Exchange Scheme, Wagner, 2015-2016 (£12k)

Coupled human and natural system response to extreme climates in the Amazonian Guiana Shield; Newcastle University-NIReS Demonstration Project scheme, Wagner, 10/2014-6/2015 (£50k)

Evolving carbon sinks in the young South Atlantic: drivers of global climate perturbations in the early Cretaceous greenhouse?; DFG-IODP, Hofmann (Cologne)/Wagner/Herrle/Floegel, 2014-2017 (€250k)

Using geochemical properties on carbon and sulphur to parameterize the organic matter preservation of marine shales in sedimentary basin models; IFP-EN PhD studentship, France; Wagner, 9/2015-8/2018 (£33k)

Sedimentological and geochemical characterization of organic carbon rich Cretaceous strata and their palaeo-environment, Colombia (2PhD); Ecopetrol industry contract, 2014-2018 (£279k) 

Postgraduate Teaching


Supervision of PhD (23, 7 current), MSc (55, 12 current), BSc (1), Diploma (13) students

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CEG8622 Sedimentary organic matter I (10 credits; module leader)

CEG8623 Sedimentary organic matter II (10 credits; module leader)

CEG8626 Petroleum Geology of the Wessex Basin (20 credits; module leader)

CEG8626 Petroleum in the Environment (lecturer)

CIV8537 Climate Change: Earth Systems, Future Scenarios, Threats (lecturer)

CIV8533 Climate Change: Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (lecturer)

SPG8025 Energy from the Earth (Renewable Energy Enterprise and Management program) (lecturer)