ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JOHN COMPTON
 
    ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
  Department of Geological Sciences
  Louis Ahrens Building, Library Road
  University of Cape Town
  Rondebosch, 7701, RSA
     
  ph: #27 (0)21 650 2927  
  fax: #27 (0)21 650 3783  
  email: john.compton[at]uct.ac.za  
     
     
  Biography Staff Research Publications Teaching Students Personal  
 
   

Degrees
  • PhD, Harvard University Earth Science, 1986
  • BA, University of California, San Diego Chemistry/Earth Science, 1981.
 
Employment
  • Senior Lecturer / Associate Professor, University of Cape Town, 1996-present
  • Assistant/Associate Professor, Department of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL 1986-1996
 
Professional Associations
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Southern African Society for Quaternary Research (SASQUA) President 2003-2005
  • Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) South African National Committee member
  • Geological Society of South Africa
 

I have several different areas of research interests and these are outlined below. For more detail on specific research projects please refer to the publication list that follows.

I was trained as a low-temperature geochemist and my general area of interest is the geochemistry of marine sediments with a focus on the origin of authigenic minerals such as francolite (phosphorite rock), dolomite, and glauconite during the early diagenesis of organic-rich sediments. In chronological order, I have worked on the Miocene Monterey Formation of California, the Neogene phosphorite deposits on the Florida Platform and phosphorite deposits on the western margin of southern Africa. These projects integrate aspects of the global carbon and phosphorus cycles and global changes in climate and sea level. Projects include the variations in the global phosphorus cycle and the age and origin of large Neogene phosphorite deposits of the southeastern USA (Florida) and their paleoceanographic significance, and the sediment record of early diagenetic minerals such as phosphorite, dolomite and glauconite associated with the Benguela Upwelling System off southwest Africa.

Another area of interest is the Quaternary evolution of the western continental margin from the slope offshore to coastal environments onshore. Projects include the origin and age of evaporative salt pan deposits and associated authigenic dolomite, Holocene sea-level fluctuations inferred from coastal salt marsh and dune deposits, transport and deposition of river sediments on the shelf and transport of sediment from the shelf onto the slope and beyond over Pleistocene glacial to interglacial cycles. High-resolution Holocene records have been studied from mud belt shelf sediments and glacial-interglacial records from upper slope sediments recovered on the western margin. Terrigenous mud delivered to the western margin is transported off the shelf during the high-amplitude sea-level fluctuations of glacial/interglacial cycles and is transported by lateral advection away from the margin to potentially provide an important source of nutrients such as iron to the Southern Ocean.

More recently I have become interested in the role of Pleistocene climate change and sea-level fluctuations in the evolution of humans in southern Africa. Large changes in sea level over glacial to interglacial cycles have resulted in expansion and contraction of the coastal plain over the last one million years. These large scale changes in coastal plain morphology combined with changes in climate may have periodically isolated populations on the southern coastal plain of South Africa and played a role in the evolution of modern humans.



 
Books

Compton, J.S. 2004. The Rocks & Mountains of Cape Town Double Storey Books (Juta & Co.), Cape Town, South Africa, 112 p. (ISBN 1-919930-70-1).

Copies of my book are available for purchase from the Department office, please contact me with any queries.

Journal Articles

Compton, J.S. (2011). Pleistocene sea-level fluctuations and human evolution on the southern coastal plain of South Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 30, 506-527.

Mauger, C. and Compton, J.S. (2011). Formation of modern dolomite in hypersaline pans of the Western Cape, South Africa. Sedimentology 58, 1678-1692 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3091.2011.01229.x).

Abanda, P.A., Compton, J.S., Hannigan, R.E. (2011) Soil nutrient content, above-ground biomass and litter in a semi-arid shrubland, South Africa. Geoderma 164, 128-137.

Compton, J. S., Herbert, C., Hoffman, M. T., Schneider, R., and Stuut, J.-B. 2010 A tenfold increase in the Orange River mean Holocene mud flux: implications for soil erosion in South Africa The Holocene 20, 115-122. doi: 10.1177:0959683609348860 download pdf

Compton, J. S. and Wiltshire, J. G. 2009 Terrigenous sediment export from the western margin of South Africa on glacial/interglacial cycles Marine Geology 266, 212-222 download pdf

Compton, J. S., Herbert, C. and Schneider, R. 2009 Holocene organic-rich terrigenous mud on the western margin of South Africa: Nutrient source to the Southern Ocean? Global Biogeochemical Cycles doi: 10.1029/2008GB003427 download pdf

Herbert, C. and Compton, J. S. 2007 Geochronology of Holocene sediments on the western margin of South Africa South African Journal of Geology 110, 327-338 download pdf

Wigley, R. A. and Compton, J. S. 2007 Oligocene to Holocene glauconite- phosphorite pellets from the Head of the Cape Canyon on the Western Margin of South Africa Deep-Sea Research II 54, 1375-1395 download pdf

Compton, J. S. 2007 Holocene evolution of the Anichab Pan on the southwest coast of Namibia Sedimentology 54, 55-70 download pdf

Herbert, C. and Compton, J.S. 2007 Depositional environments of the lower Permian Dwyka diamictite and Prince Albert shale infered from the geochemistry of early diagenetic concretions, southwest Karoo Basin, South Africa Sedimentary Geology 194 263-277 download pdf

Soderberg, K. and Compton, J.S. 2007 Dust as a nutrient source to the fynbos ecosystem, South Africa Ecosystems 10 550-561. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-007-9032-0 download pdf

Franceschini, G. and Compton, J.S. 2007 Abrasion of foraminifera tests along an active dune cordon, Western Cape, South Africa Palaios 22 686-690 download pdf

Wigley, R.A., and Compton, J.S. 2007 Oligocene to Holocene glauconite- phosphorite pellets from the Head of the Cape Canyon on the Western Margin of South Africa Deep-Sea Research II 54 1375-1395 download pdf

Compton, J.S. and Maake, L. 2007 Source of the suspended load of the upper Orange River, South Africa South African Journal of Geology 110 339-348 download pdf

Herbert, C. and Compton, J.S. 2007 Geochronology of Honocene sediments on the western margin of South Africa South African Journal of Geology 110 327-338 download pdf

Wigley, R. and Compton, J.S. 2006 Late Cenozoic evolution of the outer continental shelf at the Head of the Cape Canyon, South Africa Marine Geology 226 1-23 download pdf

Franceschini, G. and Compton, J.S. 2006 Holocene evolution of the Sixteen Mile Beach Complex, Western Cape, South Africa Journal of Coastal Research 22 1158-1166 download pdf

Compton, J.S. 2006 The mid-Holocene sea-level highstand at Bogenfels Pan on the southwest coast of Namibia Quaternary Research 66 330-310 download pdf

Orton, J. and Compton, J.S. 2006 A reworked mid-Holocene lithic assemblage at Dunefield Midden 1, Elands Bay, South Africa South African Archaeological Bulletin 61 90-95 download pdf

Compton, J.S., Franceschini, G. and Wigley, R. 2006 A proposed Neogene synthesis of the West Coast and West Coast Fossil Park African Natural History 2 182-183 (Abstract)

Compton, J.S. and Franceschini, G. 2005 Holocene geoarchaeology of the Sixteen Mile Beach barrier dunes in the Western Cape, South Africa Quaternary Research 63 99-107 download pdf

Franceschini, G., McMillan, I. and Compton, J.S. 2005 Foraminifera of Langebaan Lagoon salt marsh and their application to the interpretation of late Pleistocene depositional environments at Monwabisi, False Bay coast, South Africa South African Journal of Geology 108 285-296

Compton, J.S. and Franceschini, G. 2005 Reply to discussion by DI Cole South African Journal of Geology 108 580-581

Smith, M. and Compton, J.S. 2004 Origin and evolution of major salts in the Darling Pans, Western Cape, South Africa Applied Geochemistry 19 645-664 download pdf

Compton, J.S., Wigley, R. and McMillan, I. 2004 Late Cenozoic phosphogenesis on the western shelf of South Africa in the vicinity of the Cape Canyon Marine Geology 206 19-40 download pdf

Franceschini, G. and Compton, J.S. 2004 Aeolian and marine deposits of the Tabakbaai Quarry area, Western Cape, South Africa South African Journal of Geology 107 619-632 download pdf

Compton, J.S., White, R.A. and Smith, M. 2003 Rare Earth element behavior in soils and salt pan sediments of a semi-arid granitic terrain in the Western Cape, South Africa Chemical Geology 201 239-255 download pdf

Franceschini, G., Compton, J.S., and Wigley, R. 2003 Sand transport along the Western Cape coast: one with the wind? South African Journal of Science 99 317-318 download pdf

Compton, J.S., Mulabisana, J. and McMillan, I. 2002 Origin and age of phosphorite from the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene transgressive succession off the Orange River, South Africa. Marine Geology 186 243-261 download pdf

Compton, J.S. 2001. Holocene sea-level fluctuations inferred from the evolution of depositional environments of the southern Langebaan Lagoon salt marsh, South Africa. The Holocene 11, 395-405. download pdf

Compton, J.S., Harris, C., and Thompson, S. 2001. Pleistocene dolomite from the Namibian shelf: High 87Sr/86Sr and d18O values indicate an evaporative, mixed-water origin. Journal of Sedimentary Research 71 800-808.

de Villiers, S., Compton J.S., and Lavelle, M. 2000. The strontium isotope systematics of the Orange River, southern Africa. South African Journal of Geology 103 237-248.

Compton, J.S., Mallinson, D. J., Glenn, C.R., Filippelli, G., Follmi, K., Shields, G., and Zanin, Y. 2000. Variations in the global phosphorus cycle. In: Glenn, C.R. et al., eds., Marine Authigenesis: From global to microbial Society of Sedimentary Geology, Special Publication Number 66 21-33.

Compton, J.S., Conrad, M.E., and Vennemann, T.W. 1999. Stable isotope evolution of volcanic ash layers during diagenesis of the Miocene Monterey Formation, California. Clays and Clay Minerals 47 84-95.

Harris, C., Compton, J.S. and Bevington, S.A. 1999. Oxygen and hydrogen isotope composition of kaolinite deposits, Cape Peninsula, South Africa: low-temperature, meteoric origin. Economic Geology 94 1353-1366.

Mallinson, D.J. and Compton, J.S. 1998 The influence of iron sulfide oxidation on the sulfur isotope analysis of Miocene phosphorites from Florida, USA Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta 62 3689-3694

 
 

  • I convene the first semester course: Introduction to Earth and Environmental Sciences (ERT1000F/GEO1009F) which serves as a general introduction to the fundamental concepts of Earth, Environmental and Archaeological Sciences.
  • Lecture to third year students on chemical stratigraphy
  • Teach the Honours (4th year) Module: Marine Geochemistry
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    Doctoral Theses
    • Caren Herbert (2009) Holocene sediment dynamics on the western margin of South Africa
    • Rochelle Wigley (2005) Sedimentary facies from the Head of the Cape Canyon: Insights into the Cenozoic evolution of the western margin of South Africa
    • Giuliana Franceschini (2003) Geology of aeolian and marine deposits in the Saldanha Bay region, Western Cape, South Africa
    Masters' of Science
    • Eugene Bergh (2012) A one-year, postfire record of element deposition and cycling in the Kogelberg sandstone fynbos mountain ecosystem of the Western Cape, South Africa
    • Livhuwani Maake (2012) Sources of suspended load in the upper Orange River, South Africa
    • Michael MacHutchon (2012) The geological evolution and sedimentary dynamics of Hout Bay, South Africa
    • Pia Viglietti (2012) Life after extinction: Palaeoenvironments of the earliest Triassic lower Katberg Formation, including the origin of Lystrosaurus bonebeds from the Karoo Basin, South Africa
    • Thersia Lodewyks (2010) Seismic stratigraphy of the Upper Pleistocene gravel and Holocene mudbelt deposits between Wreck Point and the Kamma River on the western shelf of South Africa.
    • Carla Mauger (2009) The formation and origin of carbonate minerals in the Darling and Yzerfontein hypersaline pans, Western Cape, South Africa
    • Andre Oelofsen (2008) Late Cenozoic shallow marine diamond placers off the northern Sperrgebiet, Namibia
    • James Wiltshire (2007) Late Quaternary sedimentation on the continental slope off Cape Columbine: Variation in off-shelf transport related to glacial driven sea-level fluctuations
    • Arthur (Teke) Taylor (2004) A Trace Element Study of the Olifants and Berg River Estuaries and the Off-Shore Mud Belt Sediments
    • Wijnand Germs (2004) A geochemical investigation into the occurrence and fate of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lower Olifants River, Western Cape
    • Keryn Simpson (2003) Foraminiferal species distributions and sedimentological dynamics of the Knysna Estuary, South Africa
    • Xavier Middleton (2003) Petrographic and geochemical evidence for the origin of phosphorites and phosphate rocks from the West Coast of South Africa
    • Naadira Haniff (2003) Trace metal accumulation in urban sediments, Black River, Western Cape, South Africa (co-supervisor)
    • Andre Smit (2003) Geochemistry of a pristine fynbos ecosystem in the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens and Kogelberg biosphere reserve
    • Keir Soderberg (2003) Geochemistry of the fynbos ecosystem in a Table Mountain Group sub-catchment of the Olifants, River, Western Cape, South Africa
    • Last Update: May 2012