Project Highlights:

  • Extensive fieldwork in a unique and geologically unexplored part of Vietnam
  • Collaboration with an international team of geologists including laboratory work in Japan
  • Analysis of a range of different micro and macrofossil groups utilising multiple techniques

This project follows in the footsteps of the French Indochinese Geological Survey, who in the first decades of the 20th century discovered many new Palaeozoic fossils in northern Vietnam and southern China. Later, Vietnamese mapping geologists worked systematically through this region in the 1970s. These surveys and subsequent work identified a rich early Palaeozoic history for northern Vietnam that is geologically linked to southern China, both regions once forming part of the ancient South China palaeocontinent. Across the border in China, the discovery of exceptionally preserved fossils in the 1980s led to a renaissance in the study of the Palaeozoic rocks of Yunnan Province. In contrast, large regions of Vietnam have yet to be explored in detail. This project focuses on the lower Palaeozoic rocks of NE Vietnam, which yield rich and newly identified assemblages of shelly and graptolitic faunas. You will use these assemblages in tandem with an understanding of the sedimentary and geotectonic setting to establish the first integrated stratigraphy of this region, working with Vietnamese geologists to map the regional distribution and lithofacies changes through the lower Palaeozoic. You will establish the position of major stratigraphical boundaries, including the Ordovician-Silurian boundary and its associated palaeoenvironmental events. Your work will develop a model for analysing the extensive and widespread Palaeozoic strata of northern and central Vietnam. The project forms part of an ongoing collaboration between Vietnamese, Japanese and UK geologists, and would involve two seasons of fieldwork in northern Vietnam, collaboration with Vietnamese institutions in Hanoi, and a period of laboratory work at Kumamoto University in Japan. You will be become an expert on the lower Palaeozoic geology of SE Asia and have widely transferable skills in organising fieldwork in remote areas, relaying your science to the public, biostratigraphy, palaeontological analysis, geological mapping and problem solving.

The dramatic landscape of Palaeozoic rocks on the road between Dong Van and Meo Vac, northern Vietnam (picture courtesy of Toshifumi Komatsu, Kumamoto University).


This project focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the geology of Vietnam, but also aims to enhance the geological heritage of that country. It will use existing fossil data from museum collections in Hanoi, in conjunction with detailed field collecting to reconstruct the first systematic biostratigraphy for the lower Palaeozoic succession of NE Vietnam, utilising a range of fossil and other stratigraphical data to do this. These data will be used to construct the geological evolution of this region, setting NE Vietnam within its broader East Asian palaeogeographical context, and identifying the fundamental palaeoenvironmental change at the Ordovician-Silurian boundary. In conjunction with the Vietnamese partner institutions, the project will develop a dedicated fossil collection that underpins this research, providing a permanent archive of the project, and a model for the interrogation of Palaeozoic successions throughout Vietnam. The project will dovetail with the NHM’s science outreach programme to the public.

Training and Skills

You will receive detailed training in field geological skills, especially logging sedimentary successions and collecting and identifying fossils (including graptolites, nautiloids, brachiopods, ostracods and other groups). Laboratory training will include various photographic methods for capturing images of fossils, casting with silicone rubber, and SEM. You will receive detailed training in the identification of key biostratigraphically important fossils, notably graptolites, and of the analysis of fossils for reconstructing palaeoenvironment and biogeography (e.g. ostracods). Preparation and analysis of fossils will be in Leicester and Kumamoto universities, and the natural history museums of the UK and Vietnam.


Year 1: Examination of in-house collections at Leicester University and travel to Vietnam to conduct first season of fieldwork. Visit to the Vietnamese institutions to examine in-house collections. Laboratory analysis of newly collected fossils in Kumamoto and Leicester universities. Development of biostratigraphy, and identification of targeted collections sites for the second field season.

Year 2: Second field season in Vietnam and visit to Vietnamese institutions. Analysis of fossil materials, development of biostratigraphy and understanding of the regional context of the lower Palaeozoic succession. Analysis of key biostratigraphical boundaries. Second visit to Japan, to present results at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Palaeontological Society. Presentation of results at the Palaeontological Association meeting in Europe. Writing chapters on key faunas, most notably the graptolites and ostracods and development of these as stand-alone publications.

Year 3: Development of an integrated regional stratigraphy for the lower Palaeozoic rocks of NE Vietnam. Analysis of major geological boundaries (especially that of the Ordovician-Silurian) and identification of event stratigraphy. Both of these analyses to form key components of the thesis (chapters) and publications. Development of an integrated lower Palaeozoic fossil collection to be deposited and curated with the Vietnamese partner institutions. Completion of thesis.


Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This project forges strong links with museum, university and research institutions in the UK, Vietnam and Japan. The Vietnam Museum of Natural History is undertaking a 10-year programme to develop an internationally important collection of Vietnamese fossils, of which this project forms a major component. The project develops strong links with Prof. Toshifumi Komatsu of Kumamoto University, Japan, who has been undertaking fieldwork in Vietnam for over a decade through the auspices of the JSPS. And we will work with the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources which is responsible for conducting geological surveys in this region.

Further Details

For further information please contact Dr Tom Harvey [thph2@le.ac.uk] and Prof Mark Williams [mri@le.ac.uk] at Leicester University, or Dr Giles Miller [g.miller@nhm.ac.uk] at the Natural History Museum.