Professor Nigel Trewin

Professor Nigel Trewin

Emeritus Professor

Professor Nigel Trewin
Professor Nigel Trewin

Contact Details

The University of Aberdeen Office: St Marys G26
Phone: 01224 273037

Rhynie Chert Website


Research Interests

Early terrestrial and freshwater environments, particularly in relation to the Devonian of Scotland. Biota of the Rhynie chert. Devonian fish faunas. Trace fossils of the Old Red Sandstone. General palaeoecology and sedimentology. History of geology in Scotland.

The Rhynie Research Group

The Group is researching the geology, palaeoenvironments, palaeontology and mineralisation of the Early Devonian Rhynie hot spring system. Over the past few years the group has discovered new arthropods in the Rhynie and Windyfield cherts that have increased the known faunal diversity of the deposits by 40%, making this the most diverse Early Devonian terrestrial / freshwater assemblage on Earth. Comparative studies concentrate on modern analogues in Yellowstone National Park, USA, and New Zealand. The Group has research links with workers in Germany, France and the USA on the biota of the cherts, and with groups in the USA, Canada and NZ studying modern hot springs.

For further details on the Rhynie chert, see the website at, a learning resource funded by JISC.

A conference on:- The Rhynie Hot Spring System: Geology, Biota and Mineralisation was held at Aberdeen in September 2003.  Papers arising from the Conference are published as Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 94, part 4 2004. This volume can be purchased from the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Rhynie Research Group personnel

  • Nigel Trewin, Project Leader: Palaeontology, palaeoenvironments
  • Clive Rice, Project Leader: Structure, mineralisation
  • Steve Fayers, Honorary Lecturer: The Windyfield chert, Arthropods
  • Lyall Anderson: Arthropods

Orange bacterial growth on sinter outwash area of Grand Prismatic spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Orange bacterial growth on sinter outwash area of Grand Prismatic spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Old Red Sandstone of Scotland

Work continues on the cyclicity of the Caithness Flagstones, and interpretations of climatic changes with Milankovitch periodicities (with Stephen Andrews). Work on the faunas and palaeoenvironments of the classic ORS fish beds of the Midland Valley and Orcadian Basin proceeds in collaboration with Bob Davidson. Recent publications include analysis of Lr ORS fish beds on the Island of Kerrera, near Oban, and review of an Upper ORS tetrapod trackway from Tarbat Ness (both Scott J Geol 2012)

Cheiracanthus in a nodule from the Tynet fish bed, Fochabers, Moray

Cheiracanthus in a nodule from the Tynet fish bed, Fochabers, Moray

The Tumblagooda Sandstone, Western Australia

A questionmark still hangs over the age of this sandstone. Is it Late Silurian or as old as Early Ordovician? If the latter age is correct, the trackways represent large arthropods walking out of water!

Permian of the Falkland Islands

Work on the onshore geology of the Falkland Islands, through the South Atlantic Project of CASP with David Macdonald and Chris Thomas, has resulted in the description of the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Permian section. Comparison with the sequence exposed in South Africa reveals strong similarities that confirm that the Falklands represent the 'missing' eastern end of the Karoo Basin.

A spectacular assemblage of deep water lacustrine trace fossils is in the process of analysis. A paper on the fish-produced trace fossil Undichna has been published.

Turbidite channel fill in delta-derived sandstones, Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands

Clastic Hydrocarbon Reservoirs, sedimentology, diagenesis and quality

Combination of sedimentology, diagenetic and geochemical studies on sandstone reservoirs and ancient field analogues aids reservoir description.  Mesozoic turbidites from the North Sea, and the Tumblagooda Sandstone of WA, have provided results relating to fluid movement and cementation during burial, particularly quartz budget in diagenesis.

Trace Fossils

My trace fossils research theme is mainly directed at terrestrial and lacustrine environments. Areas of study are the Old Red Sandstone of northern Scotland, Permian of the Falkland Islands, and the Tumblagooda Sandstone of WA.

The Permian ichnology of the Elgin area, particularly the reptile trackways is the subject of research with Carol Hopkins This research includes comparisons with the Coconino Sandstone of Arizona.

Slabs of Permian Hopeman Sandstone bearing reptile trackways on display at Clasach Quarry, Hopeman, NE Scotland

Further Info

The Geology of Scotland

The 4th Edition of this title was published in 2002 and can be ordered from the Geological Society of London

Selected Recent Publications

Newman, M. J. & Trewin, N. H. 2008. Discovery of the arthrodire genus Actinolepis (Class Placodermi) in the Middle Devonian of Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology, 44, 83-88.

Trewin, N. H. 2008. Fossils Alive, or new walks in an old field. Dunedin Academic Press, Edinburgh.  xv + 211.

Trewin, N. H. & Hurst, A. (eds) 2009.   Excursion Guide to the Geology of E. Sutherland and Caithness. Dunedin Academic Press. Edinburgh. viii + 183.

Haug, J.T., Haug, C., Maas, A., Fayers, S.R., Trewin, N.H. and Walosek, D. 2009. Simple 3D images from fossil and recent micromaterial using light microscopy. Journal of Microscopy 233, 93-101.

Fayers, S. R., Trewin, N. H. & Morrissey, L. 2010. A large arthropod from the Lower Old Red Sandstone (Early Devonian) of Tredomen Quarry, South Wales. Palaeontology, 53, 627-643.

Andrews, S., Trewin, N. H. & Hartley, A. J. & Weedon, G.P.  2010. Solar variance recorded in lacustrine deposits from the Devonian and Proterozoic of Scotland. Journal of the Geological Society, London, 167, 847-856.

Andrews, S. & Trewin, N. H.   2010. Periodicity determination of lacustrine cycles from the Devonian of Northern Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology, 46, 143-155.

Mark, D. F., Rice, C. M., Fallick, A. E., Trewin, N. H., Lee, M. R., Boyce, A. & Lee, J. K. W. 2011. 40Ar/39Ar dating of hydrothermal activity, biota and gold mineralisation in the Rhynie hot-spring system, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Geochemica et Cosmochemica Acta, 75, 555-569.

Haug, C, Haug, J.T, Fayers, S.R., Trewin, N.H., Castellani, C., Walosek, D. and Maas, A. 2012. Exceptionally preserved nauplius larvae from the Devonian Windyfield chert, Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Palaeontologia Electronica, 15, Issue 2;24A, 43p.

Trewin, N.H., Gurr. P.R., Jones, R.B. and Gavin, P. 2012. The biota, depositional environment and age of the Old Red Sandstone of the island of Kerrera, Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology 48, 77-90.

Trewin, N.H. 2012. Historic specimen is not a tetrapod trackway with tail-drag from the Upper Old Red Sandstone of Tarbat Ness, Easter Ross, Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology 48, 143-145.


Honorary Curator of the Geological Collections which form part of the University Museum.

Chairman of the charity ‘The Friends of Hugh Miller’.

President, Aberdeen Geological Society.

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