I have more than 20 years experience in organic geochemistry, including 15 years specialising in petroleum geochemistry at CSIRO. Organic geochemistry involves the study of the chemical and isotopic signatures in rocks and sediments, which tell us information about the past.
We can reconstruct the nature and timing of important events in the evolution of life. Biomarkers are hydrocarbons that retain the structural information from the original lipids from which they were derived. Biomarkers and other hydrocarbons in oils, rocks and sediments provide us the ability to understand source inputs, subsequent burial and heating history (thermal maturity) and alteration events (such as oil biodegradation).
The chemistry of insoluble fractions of organic matter, such as kerogen and asphaltenes, provides further useful information.