Director of the University Museum of Natural History
Professor Paul Smith is Director of Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Professor of Natural History. Prior to coming to Oxford in 2012 he was head of the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, as well as being director of the Lapworth Museum of Geology. He has spent most of his career working in university museums at the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Birmingham and Oxford.
His geological research is focussed on the interactions of Earth systems and organisms from the late Neoproterozoic to the Ordovician, using a combination of palaeobiology, sedimentology and geochemistry. Specific research questions addressed recently have included the transition from warm-water carbonates to glacial conditions at the start of the Sturtian Snowball Earth event; complex feedback loops as drivers of the Cambrian Explosion; the sequence stratigraphy of Cambro-Ordovician carbonate systems on the Laurentian margin; and the use of oxygen isotopes in conodonts to reconstruct water masses in Ordovician oceans. He has over thirty years experience of Arctic field expeditions and was awarded the Polar Medal for contributions to Arctic research in 2017.
He also has interests in the application of digital technologies to science museums, particularly in the areas of 3D visualisation, virtual reality and the evaluation of user experience. Much of this work is carried out in collaboration with WMG at the University of Warwick.
Paul has served as Co-Chair of University Museums Group UK and has been a President of both The Micropalaeontological Society and the Palaeontological Association.