School of Environment


Kathy Campbell


Job title: Associate Professor
Phone: +64 9 373 7599 x 87418
Office: Room 301-1001
Postal: Geology, School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142,   New Zealand


B.S. (Honors in the Major), Earth Sciences, University of California at Santa Cruz
M.S., Geological Sciences, University of Washington
Ph.D., Earth Sciences, University of Southern California




The interaction of ancient organisms with their surrounding environments is the main theme of my research interests. Such studies have implications for hydrocarbon exploration, resource assessment, sequence stratigraphy and sedimentary basin analysis, dating and correlation of rocks, and evaluation of global biodiversity, paleobiogeography, and evolution.

Tools: paleoecological analysis, taxonomy, sedimentology, sedimentary petrography, stratigraphy, stable isotopes, SEM, XRPD, GADDs, EPMA, cathodoluminescence, UV fluorescence, molecular biomarkers, radiocarbon dating.


Current major research focus areas --


1. Life in Extreme Environments


i) Undersea hydrocarbon seeps:

Evolution of chemosynthesis, biogeography of vent/seep taxa through geologic time, seep carbonate sedimentology and diagenesis, and linkages among paleohydrology, tectonics and organism distribution in active margin settings. Projects in New Zealand's East Coast Basin (Miocene), East Cape (Cretaceous) and offshore Hikurangi Margin; western USA; Alaska; Chile.

Current studies include: Seep biota in New Zealand Cretaceous, Miocene and modern settings and Californian Mesozoic; driving mechanisms of hydrocarbon seepage around Pacific Rim; seep paleoenvironments & fluid histories; molecular biomarkers of microbial textures. Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden funding (2007-2010) to study New Zealand’s hydrocarbon seeps in time and space, with Cam Nelson (Univ Waikato) and students.

1) New Zealand seep mussels (Gigantidas) in methane-derived marine carbonate (~20 Ma, East Coast Basin forearc) (Saether et al. 2010a).
2) Global distribution of modern and ancient hydrothermal vent and hydrocarbon seep deposits (Campbell et al., 2002a; see also Campbell, 2006).


ii) Microbes and mineralisation of terrestrial thermal spring deposits in New Zealand and Argentina:

Ground-truth for hypotheses about the origin and evolution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe, assessment of biogenicity, paleoenvironmental gradients in spring settings. Projects in New Zealand's Taupo Volcanic Zone, Coromandel, Northland; western USA; Argentinean Patagonia. Current studies include: microbe-silica interactions, siliceous sinter (hot-spring deposit) diagenesis from opal to quartz, regional and environmental controls on preservation of hot spring deposits and biota; DNA characterization & microbial ecology of mat communities, biosignals in sinter.


Petrography of fossil microbial textures at La Marciana (Late Jurassic, Patagonia, Argentina), with some morphological comparisons made to Quaternary sinters from the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ). a. Small conical tufts and lenticular voids (white pore spaces; flattened ‘bubble mats’) from a Tahunaatara (~15 ka) domal stromatolite (cf. Campbell, Buddle & Browne, 2004, their fig. 11D, p. 496). b. Conical structure (dark brown) from La Marciana with trapped bubble (circular white feature) and micro-tufts. c. Three digitate microstructures (dark brown) from a Tahunaatara domal stromatolite, with spaces between digits filled by filamentous/fibrous microbial fabric (light green). d. Two digitate microstructures (brown) from La Marciana, with spaces between digits preserving a clotted microfabric inferred as microbial in origin. e. Wavy laminae with lenticular voids forming at present in a microbial mat from HB2 spring, Tokaanu. f-h. Transition from wavy laminated to network fabric in La Marciana sinter. f. Wavy laminae with lenticular voids. g. Same fabric but broken and partly disconnected. h. “Criss-cross” network fabric, inferred as dessicated, fibrillar microbial mats similar to those forming at modern hot-springs around drying, mid-temperature pool margins. (From Guido & Campbell, 2009).


2. Use of Trace Fossils in Studies of High-Resolution Facies Architecture and Paleoenvironmental Analyses


Ancient organism behaviour and activity are recorded in trace fossils, making them useful as paleoenvironmental indicators. On-going studies of Quaternary terrestrial deposits of Northland, New Zealand, and Cenozoic siliciclastic marine sequences of western USA.

Current studies include: estuarine sedimentation & fill histories; complex plant-insect interactions in coastal settings; subterranean life of solitary bees; marine crustacean brood structures; the use of trace fossils in hydrocarbon seeps to indicate timing of fluid flow in sedimentary basins.

1) Dynamic equilibrium, r-selected behavior traces (Psilonichnus lutimuratus) of the mud shrimp Upogebia pugettensis in Pliocene estuarine-mouth deposit (Washington, U.S.A.). Paleocommunity decimated by overlying mega-storm/flood event (Campbell & Nesbitt, 2000; Nesbitt & Campbell, 2002).
Phoebichnus "look-alike", the root structure of a Quaternary Nikau palm in deposits representing damp, coastal interdune swales at Henderson Bay, Northland, New Zealand (Gregory & Campbell, 2003).

Compound-complex trace fossils in Quaternary dune sands, Northland, New Zealand. Root casts of Kauri trees, outlined by black, Fe-rich haloes and filled with white sand. Root margin burrowed by insects (Gregory et al., 2004).


3. Mangrove Research Group - sediments, benthic estuarine organisms, estuarine dynamics, mangroves, environmental management

North Island's temperate mangroves are endemic to New Zealand. In many Northland estuaries they have been expanding over the past 60 years owing to land use practices and protection under conservation status ca. the 1980s. Mangrove management is a current topic of discussion amongst regional councils, coastal communities and conservation organizations. This collaborative research group, with members from Univ Auckland, Auckland U Technology and French researchers studying tropical counterparts in New Caledonia and SE Asia, aims to establish estuarine sedimentary fill histories, current snapshots of estuarine dynamics/ecology (pre-/post-mangrove removal in some cases) and role of mangroves in carbon budgets.

Vibrocoring team amongst mangroves in upper Mangawhai Harbour, Northland, New Zealand.


RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT - Hot Spring Deposits from Late Jurassic to Recent - part of Auckland's Geofluids Research Group

The Geofluids Research Group is a collaborative research enterprise among academics (KA Campbell, JV Rowland and others) and graduate students at the University of Auckland and elsewhere. My component examines modern and ancient hot spring settings in terms of their mineralogy, ecology, paleoenvironments, geochemistry and microbiology. We also study regional and local controls on preservation of geothermal systems in the geologic record. Other collaborators include Pat Browne & Bridget Lynne (IESE); Prof Jack Farmer (Arizona State Univ), Dr Diego Guido (Universidad Nacional de La Plata), Dr Andrew Rae (GNS Science), Dr Richard Pancost (Bristol), Dr Frances Westall (CNRS).

campbell_kathy_08a.jpg b_lynne
Left: Kathy Campbell and Pat Browne at Te Kopia geothermal field, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand, with steaming landslide blocks of siliceous sinter in the background. Right: Bridget Lynne with Wairakei Drain sinter.

Susan Turner and Kathy Campbell with microbiology graduate students, sampling Soda Fountain, Orakei Korako, New Zealand.

Kathy Campbell and Diego Guido (UNLP, Buenos Aires) with vent tube in silicified hot spring deposit, Jurassic (150 m.y. old), Deseado Massif, Argentinean Patagonia.


1) Late Cenozoic chert-rich stromatolitic sinter from Coromandel region, North Island, New Zealand. Digitate stromatolites (white) growing on organic debris.

2) White, siliceous hot spring deposits in fault-stepped sinter terraces at Orakei Korako, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Colours indicate pH-temperature gradient of microbial communities in outflow areas. Silica diagenesis from opal-A to quartz has been studied in terms of mineralogical and textural transformations, and impact on microbial fossil preservation (Lynne & Campbell, 2003; Lynne et al. 2007).


Siliceous sinter research in New Zealand: 1-3) bubble mat, diagenetic transitions; 4-6) Palisade microbial fabric of various diagenetic states; 7-8) Microbial silicification and diagenesis; 9) experiments in sinter growth at Champagne Pool.

Thanks to the following graduate students involved in the Geofluids Research Group (and former Auckland Sinter Programme), past and present: R. Herdianita, K. Sannazzaro, K. Hamlin, D. Pastars, G. Holland, E. McKenzie, C. Teece, Z. Newton, B. Lynne, A. Inwood, W. Hampton, T. Buddle, K. Nicholson, K. Handley, P. Letelier, R. Schinteie, A. Currie, S. Jordan, J. Nuñez, B. Drake, B. Murphy, A. Hamilton.

Most Recent Publications


Selected Publications

IN PRESS. Kiel, S., Birgel, D., Campbell, K.A., Crampton, J.C., Schioler, P., Peckmann, J. Cretaceous methane-seep deposits from New Zealand and their fauna. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

2013. Joseph, C., Campbell, K.A., Torres, M., Martin, R., Pohlman, J., Riedel, M., Rose, K. Methane derived authigenic carbonates from modern and paleoseeps on the Cascadia margin: Mechanisms of formation and diagenetic signals. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

IN PRESS. Amano, K., Saether, K.P., Little, C.T.S., Campbell, K.A. Fossil vesicomyids from Miocene hydrocarbon seep sites, North Island, New Zealand. Acta Palaeontologia Polonica.

2012. Guido, D.M., Campbell, K.A. Diverse subaerial and sublacustrine hot spring settings of the Cerro Negro epithermal system (Jurassic, Deseado Massif), Patagonia, Argentina. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 229-230, 1-12.

2011.  Guido, D.M., Campbell, K.A. Jurassic hot spring deposits of the Deseado Massif (Patagonia, Argentina): Characteristics and controls on regional distribution. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 203, 35-47.

2011.  Handley, K.M., Campbell, K.A. Character, analysis and preservation of biogenecity in terrestrial siliceous stromatolites from geothermal settings. In:  V.C. Tewari and J. Seckbach (eds.), STROMATOLITES: Interaction of Microbes with Sediments, Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology 18, 359–381.

2010a. Saether, K.P., Little, C.T.S., Campbell, K.A., Marshall, B.A., Collins, M., Alfaro, A.C. New fossil mussels (Mollusca:Bivalvia:Mytiloidea:Mytilidae) from Miocene hydrocarbon seeps, North Island, New Zealand, with general remarks on bathymodioline mussels. Zootaxa 2577, 1-45.

2010b. Saether, K.P., Little, C.T.S., Campbell, K.A. A new fossil provannid gastropod from Miocene hydrocarbon seep deposits, East Coast Basin, North Island, New Zealand. Acta Palaeontologia Polonica 55, 507-517.

2010.  Kiel, S., Campbell, K.A., Gaillard, C. New and little known mollusks from ancient chemosynthetic environments. Zootaxa 2390, 26-48.

2010. Guido, D.M., Channing, A., Campbell, K.A., Zamuner, A. Jurassic geothermal landscapes and ecosystems at San Agustín, Patagonia, Argentina. Journal of the Geological Society London 167, 11-20.

2010. Campbell, K.A., Nelson, C.S., Alfaro, A.C., Boyd, S., Greinert, J., Grosjean, E., Logan, G.A., Gregory, M.R., Cooke, S., Linke, P., Milloy, S., Wallis, I. Geological imprint of methane seepage on the seabed and biota of the convergent Hikurangi Margin, New Zealand: Results from core and grab carbonates. Marine Geology 272, 285-306.

2010. Nyman, S.L., Nelson, C.S., Campbell, K.A. Late Miocene analogue for the subsurface plumbing of modern Hikurangi Margin cold seeps: evidence from tubular concretions in southern Hawke’s Bay. Marine Geology 272, 319-336. 
2010. Martin, R.A., Nesbitt, E.A., Campbell, K.A. The effects of anaerobic methane oxidation on benthic foraminiferal assemblages and stable isotopes on the Hikurangi Margin of eastern New Zealand. Marine Geology 272, 270-284.

2009. Guido, D.M., Campbell, K.A.. Jurassic hot-spring activity in a fluvial setting at La Marciana, Patagonia, Argentina. Geological Magazine 146, 617-622.

2009. Gregory, M.R., Campbell, K.A., Alfaro, A.C., Hudson, N. Bee and ant burrows in Quaternary “coffee rock” and Holocene sand dunes, Kowhai Beach, Northland, New Zealand. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 273, 102-110.

2008. Kiel, S., Campbell, K.A., Elder, W.P., Little, C.S.. Jurassic and Cretaceous gastropods from hydrocarbon seeps in forearc basin and accretionary prism settings, California. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 53, 679-703.

2008. Campbell, K.A., Francis, D.A., Collins, M., Gregory, M.R., Nelson, C.S., Greinert, J., and Aharon, P. Hydrocarbon seep-carbonates of a Miocene forearc (East Coast Basin), North Island, New Zealand. Sedimentary Geology 204, 83-105.

2008. Handley, K., Turner, S., Campbell, K.A., Mountain, B. Silicifying biofilm exopolymers on a hot spring microstromatolite: Templating nanometer-thick laminae. Astrobiology 8, 747-770.

2008. Campbell, K.A., Peterson, D., and Alfaro, A.C. Two new species of Retiskenea? (Gastropoda: Neomphalidae) from Lower Cretaceous hydrocarbon-seep carbonates of northern California. Journal of Paleontology, v. 82, p. 140-153.

2008. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A., Moore, J., Browne, P.R.L. Origin and evolution of the Steamboat Springs siliceous sinter deposit, Nevada, U.S.A. Sedimentary Geology 210, 111-131.

2007. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A., James, B.J., Browne, P.R.L., Moore, J. Tracking crystallinity in siliceous hot-spring deposits. American Journal of Science307, 612-641.

2007. Schinteie, R., Campbell, K.A., Browne, P.R.L. Microfacies of stromatolitic sinter from acid-sulphate-chloride springs at Parariki Stream, Rotokawa geothermal field, New Zealand. Palaeontologia Electronica 10, Issue 1, 4A, 33 p.

2007. Martin, R.A., Nesbitt, E.A., Campbell, K.A.. Carbon stable isotopic composition of benthic foraminifera from Pliocene cold methane seeps, Cascadia accretionary margin. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 246, 260-277.

2007. Peckmann, J., Campbell, K.A., Walliser, O.H., and Reitner, J. A Late Devonian hydrocarbon-seep deposit dominated by dimerelloid brachiopods. Palaios, v. 22, p. 114-122.

2006. Birgel, D., Thiel, V., Hinrichs, K.-U., Elvert, M., Campbell, K.A., Reitner, J., Farmer, J.D., Peckmann, J. Lipid biomarker patterns of methane seep microbialites from the Mesozoic convergent margin of California. Organic Geochemistry 37, 1289-1302.

2006. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A., Perry, R.S., Browne, P.R.L., Moore, J.N. Acceleration of sinter diagenesis in an active fumarole, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Geology 34, 749-752.

2006. Campbell, K.A., Nesbitt, E.A., Bourgeois, J. Signatures of storms, oceanic floods and forearc tectonism in marine shelf strata of the Quinault Formation (Pliocene), Washington, U.S.A. Sedimentology 53, 945-969.

2006. Campbell, K.A. Hydrocarbon seep and hydrothermal vent paleoenvironments: Past developments and future research directions. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 232, 362-407.

2006. Nesbitt, E.A., Campbell, K.A. The paleoenvironmental significance of Psilonichnus. Palaios 21, 187-196.

2005. Handley, K.M., Campbell, K.A., Mountain, B.W., Browne, P.R.L. Abiotic-biotic controls on the origin and development of spicular sinter: In situ growth experiments, Champagne Pool, Waiotapu, New Zealand. Geobiology 3, 93-114.

2005. Kiel, S., Campbell, K.A. Lithomphalus enderlini gen. et sp. nov. from hydrocarbon-seeps in California – a Cretaceous neomphalid gastropod? Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 227, 232-241.

2005. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A., Moore, J.N., Browne, P.R.L. Diagenesis of siliceous sinter (opal-A to quartz) within 1900 years at Opal Mound, Roosevelt Hot Springs, Utah, U.S.A. Sedimentary Geology 179, 249-278.

2004. Campbell, K.A., Buddle, T.F., Browne, P.R.L. Late Pleistocene silica sinter associated with fluvial, lacustrine, volcaniclastic and landslide deposits at Tahunaatara, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Earth Sciences) 94, 485-501.

2004. Gregory, M.R., Martin, A.J., Campbell, K.A. Compound trace fossils formed by plant and animal interactions: Quaternary of northern New Zealand and Sapelo Island, Georgia (U.S.A.). Fossils & Strata 51, 88-105.

2004. Campbell, K. A., Grant-Mackie, J. A., Buckeridge, J. S., Hudson, N., Alfaro, A. C., Hoverd, J., Morgan, S., Horne, N. Banfield, A. Paleoecology of an Early Miocene, rapidly submerging rocky shore, Motuketekete Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. NZ Journal of Geology & Geophysics 47, 731-748.

2004. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A. Morphologic and mineralogic transitions from opal-A to opal-CT in low-temperature siliceous sinter diagenesis, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Journal of Sedimentary Research 74 561-579.

2003. Lynne, B.Y., Campbell, K.A. Diagenetic transformations (opal-A to quartz) of low- and mid-temperature microbial textures in siliceous hot-spring deposits, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 40, 1679-1696.

2003. Gregory, M.R., Campbell, K.A. A “Phoebichnus look-alike”: A fossilised root system (and large composite ichnofossil) from coastal Quaternary dune deposits, New Zealand. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 192, 247-258.

2002. Nesbitt, E.A., Campbell, K.A. A new Psilonichnus ichnospecies attributed to mud shrimp Upogebia in estuarine settings. Journal of Paleontology 76, 892-901.

2002a. Campbell, K.A., Farmer, J.D., Des Marais, D.. Ancient hydrocarbon seeps from the Mesozoic convergent margin of California: Carbonate geochemistry, fluids and paleoenvironments. Geofluids 2, 63-94.

2002b. Campbell, K.A., Rodgers, K.A., Brotheridge, J.M.A., Browne, P.R.L. A modern silica-carbonate sinter from Pavlova spring, Ngatamariki, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Sedimentology 49, 835-854. [This spring is now inactive.]

2002c. Campbell, K.A., Rodgers, K.A., Brotheridge, J.M.A., Browne, P.R.L. A modern silica-carbonate sinter from Pavlova spring, Ngatamariki, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Sedimentology 49, 835-854.

2001. Campbell, K.A., Sannazzaro, K., Rodgers, K.A., Herdianita, N.R., Browne, P.R.L. Sedimentary facies and mineralogy of the Late Pleistocene Umukuri silica sinter, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Journal of Sedimentary Research 71, 728-747.


Graduate Students

Current PhD's:

Ian Randall, Univ Auckland - Paleontology and the media

Liesbeth Van Kerckhoven, Univ Auckland - Deep-sea benthic foraminifera across the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (Marsden funded scholar; B Hayward, Geomarine Research, main supervisor)

Current MSc's:

Penelope Lindsay, Univ Auckland - Estuarine dynamics at Mangawhai Harbour, Northland

Colleen Hulbert, Univ Auckland - Sediment fill history of upper Mangawhai Harbour, Northland

Shaneel Sharma, Univ Auckland - Meiofauna of Mangawhai Harbour

Ayrton Hamilton, Univ Auckland - Miocene siliceous hot spring deposit at Kohuamuri, Coromandel




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