Skip to main content


Dr Stuart Daines

Dr Stuart Daines

Research Fellow


 Laver Building 719


Laver Building, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK


My overall research interest is in understanding the coevolution of life and the physical environment, focussing on understanding the links between marine ecology and biogeochemistry.

Biochemical processes such as oxygenic photosynthesis are linked to the biosphere and physical Earth System by a hierarchy of processes on scales from the molecular biology of the cell through organisms and ecosystems to geochemistry. Evolutionary ecology is then key to understanding how global properties such as atmospheric oxygen level and element cycling arise as emergent properties from natural selection and physiological, biochemical and biophysical constraints at lower levels, and geochemistry at large scales. My work uses models from simple box models to agent-based computational models to ultimately seek to understand overall organising principles for ecosytem structure and function in the Earth system.


BA (Cambridge)

PhD (Cambridge)

Back to top


Research interests

I use models from simple box models to agent-based computational models to ultimately seek to understand overall organising principles for ecosytem structure, and function in the Earth system. Understanding the principles underlying emergent properties such as biogeography, biodiversity and element cycling will help understand when ecosystem response to an environmental perturbation or evolutionary innovation results in gradual and predictable adaptive change, and when to a catastrophic regime shift, and ultimately how life has coevolved with the physical environment over Earth history.

Research projects

The EVolutionary Ecosystem model (EVE). Representing both ecological and evolutionary processes in a model for the contemporary marine ecosystem allows us to test hypotheses for emergent biogeography and ecosystem structure. I am specifically interested in seeing what properties of the microbial ecosystem we can understand from a new trait-based approach with a model for cell physiology,  sub-cellular resource allocation, and predation and defence strategies. This links emergent properties such as organism ecotypes, metabolic diversity, population size structure, and ecosystem nutrient cycling across scales to evolutionarily conserved biochemistry and fundamental ecophysiological and biophysical constraints. See our recent poster from AMEMR 2011 for an overview of the EVE project.

Proterozoic marine ecology and biogeochemistry. The Precambrian marine ecosystem apparently remained in an almost static state with relatively low oxygen for a billion years, followed by a major reorganisation with a rise in oxygen, the first animals, and the greening of the continents. Why was the Proterozoic ecosystem organised so differently, why was the tempo of evolution so different, and what combination of triggers and feedbacks resulted in the Neoproterozoic revolution? We are using a hierarchy of models linking ecophysiology to biogeochemistry to test hypotheses against geochemical and paleontological data.

Gaia and design principles for the biosphere. Biotic feedbacks play a large role in regulating CO2 and climate, nutrient cycling, and atmospheric oxygen. Qualitative arguments and simple models suggest we can understand the structure and properties of these feedbacks as a result of selection at multiple scales, from natural selection at organism level, to ‘sequential selection’ and observer self-selection (the anthropic principle) at planetary scale. See poster from GSL Life and the Planet meeting 2011.


Back to top


Journal articles

Eager-Nash J, Mayne N, Nicholson A, Prins J, Young O, Daines S, Sergeev D, Lambert F, Manners J, Boutle I, et al (In Press). 3D climate simulations of the Archean find that Methane has a strong cooling effect at high concentrations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Nicholson A, Daines S, Mayne N, Eager J, Lenton T, Kohary K (In Press). Predicting biosignatures for nutrient limited biospheres. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Skartlien R, Kihle JB, Larsen J, Eager-Nash JK, Palmer TL, Boxer TJ, Daines SJ, Mayne NJ (2024). “Cold capture” of micrometeorites in Archean and Quaternary atmospheres: Effects of dilute exospheres. Icarus, 410
Hesselbo SP, Al-Suwaidi A, Baker SJ, Ballabio G, Belcher CM, Bond A, Boomer I, Bos R, Bjerrum CJ, Bogus K, et al (2023). Initial results of coring at Prees, Cheshire Basin, UK (ICDP JET project): towards an integrated stratigraphy, timescale, and Earth system understanding for the Early Jurassic. Scientific Drilling, 32, 1-25. Abstract.
Mills DB, Boyle RA, Daines SJ, Sperling EA, Pisani D, Donoghue PCJ, Lenton TM (2022). Eukaryogenesis and oxygen in Earth history. Nat Ecol Evol, 6(5), 520-532. Abstract.  Author URL.
Cao M, Daines SJ, Lenton TM, Cui H, Algeo TJ, Dahl TW, Shi W, Chen ZQ, Anbar A, Zhou YQ, et al (2020). Comparison of Ediacaran platform and slope δ<sup>238</sup>U records in South China: Implications for global-ocean oxygenation and the origin of the Shuram Excursion. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 287, 111-124. Abstract.
Shields GA, Mills BJW, Zhu M, Raub TD, Daines SJ, Lenton TM (2019). Unique Neoproterozoic carbon isotope excursions sustained by coupled evaporite dissolution and pyrite burial. Nature Geoscience, 12(10), 823-827. Abstract.
Hülse D, Arndt S, Daines S, Regnier P, Ridgwell A (2018). OMEN-SED 1.0: a novel, numerically efficient organic matter sediment diagenesis module for coupling to Earth system models. Geoscientific Model Development, 11(7), 2649-2689. Abstract.
Lenton TM, Daines SJ, Dyke JG, Nicholson AE, Wilkinson DM, Williams HTP (2018). Selection for Gaia across Multiple Scales. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 33(8), 633-645. Abstract.
Lenton TM, Daines S (2018). The effects of marine eukaryote evolution on phosphorus, carbon and oxygen cycling across the Proterozoic–Phanerozoic transition. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences
Daines SJ, Mills BJW, Lenton TM (2017). Atmospheric oxygen regulation at low Proterozoic levels by incomplete oxidative weathering of sedimentary organic carbon. Nature Communications, 8 Abstract.
Lenton TM, Daines SJ (2017). Biogeochemical Transformations in the History of the Ocean. Ann Rev Mar Sci, 9, 31-58. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lenton TM, Daines S, Mills B (2017). COPSE reloaded: an improved model of biogeochemical cycling over Phanerozoic time. Earth-Science Reviews
Lenton TM, Daines SJ (2017). Matworld - the biogeochemical effects of early life on land. New Phytol, 215(2), 531-537. Abstract.  Author URL.
Mock T, Daines SJ, Geider R, Collins S, Metodiev M, Millar AJ, Moulton V, Lenton TM (2016). Bridging the gap between omics and earth system science to better understand how environmental change impacts marine microbes. Glob Chang Biol, 22(1), 61-75. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lenton TM, Dahl TW, Daines SJ, Mills BJW, Ozaki K, Saltzman MR, Porada P (2016). Earliest land plants created modern levels of atmospheric oxygen. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113(35), 9704-9709. Abstract.  Author URL.
Daines SJ, Lenton TM (2016). The effect of widespread early aerobic marine ecosystems on methane cycling and the Great Oxidation. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 434, 42-51. Abstract.
Clarkson MO, Kasemann SA, Wood RA, Lenton TM, Daines SJ, Richoz S, Ohnemueller F, Meixner A, Poulton SW, Tipper ET, et al (2015). Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Science, 348(6231), 229-232. Abstract.  Author URL.
Mills B, Daines SJ, Lenton TM (2014). Changing tectonic controls on the long-term carbon cycle from Mesozoic to present. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems Abstract.
Daines SJ, Clark JR, Lenton TM (2014). Multiple environmental controls on phytoplankton growth strategies determine adaptive responses of the N : P ratio. Ecol Lett, 17(4), 414-425. Abstract.  Author URL.
Clark JR, Lenton TM, Williams HTP, Daines SJ (2013). Environmental selection and resource allocation determine spatial patterns in picophytoplankton cell size. Limnology and Oceanography, 58(3), 1008-1022. Abstract.
Toseland A, Daines SJ, Clark JR, Kirkham A, Strauss J, Uhlig C, Lenton TM, Valentin K, Pearson GA, Moulton V, et al (2013). The impact of temperature on marine phytoplankton resource allocation and metabolism. Nature Climate Change
Clark JR, Daines S, Lenton TM, Watson AJ, Williams HTP (2011). Individual-based modelling of adaptation in marine microbial populations using genetically defined physiological parameters. Ecological Modelling


Nicholson A, Daines S, Mayne N, Eager-Nash J, Lenton T (2022). Biosignatures independent of population dynamics. Goldschmidt2022 abstracts.
Eager-Nash J, Mayne N, Lenton T, Daines S (2022). Towards Coupled Modelling of the Biosphere and Atmosphere for the Archean Climate: the Importance of Methane. Goldschmidt2022 abstracts.

Back to top

Edit Profile