What have I done in the last months in Plymouth?
I spent a lot of time in the lab!
But not the dirty lab as I usually do to clean my bulk samples and count the fossil for palaeoecological analyses. This time I was in the clean lab, for geochemical analyses!
I prepared and analysed for oxygen and carbon stable isotopes and trace elements hundreds of shells from the Sundance Seaway|: belemnites, oysters, and some brachiopds. What we want to know is how temperature and salinity changed through time in the Seaway, and the fossil shells can give us this information.
First I had to clean each speciment with purified water, then I selected well preserved fragments under the optical microscope and crushed them to get a powder. For stable isotopes, I only needed a few micrograms, while some more is needed for trace elements. Marc Davies showed me all the steps for doing stable isotope analyses at the isotope ratio mass spectrometer.
The work is almost finished, and soon I will present the results at the International Meeting of Sedimentology in Toulouse, France.
July has been a month of intense outreach activities at the Centre for Research in Earth Sciences (CRES) here in Plymouth.
It started with a two day event called "Girls into Geosciences" designed to introduce female A level students to the Earth sciences and demonstrate the world of careers open to Earth science graduates today. The morning included seminars from women working in geology, and the afternoon had hands on workshops on a range of geological topics, from palaeontology to palaeomagnetism and volcanos. The aim of Girls into Geosciences is to attract more girls towards this discipline, and demonstrate that it is not, only for boys!
During the afternoon I helped in running of the workshop "Microfossils and Climate". Every girl had a microscope and one sample with microfossils (mainly foraminifers) from a core of Quaternary marine succession of Montserrat (Antilles). Girls, by estimating the relative abundance of a guide-fossil typical of warm waters, were able to reconstruct the last glacial-interglacial cycles.
The event has been a success, with 78 girls participating!
Last week instead, we hosted a student from the Plymstock School, for a one week work placement at CRES. Beth actively participated to the ongoing research activity in the various labs, from the preparation of rock samples, to the analysis of samples at the mass spectrometer. Together, we prepared fossil samples for trace element analysis. We weighted the powdered sampled at the high-precision balance, digested them in 20% nitric acid, and diluted them in ultra-pure water inside 10 mils flasks. Thank you Beth for your help!
Pedro Monarrez, PhD student in Palaeontology in the Lab of Steve Holland, at the University of Georgia, has just visited Plymouth University for one week, after spending a few days in London at the collection of fossil invertebrates of the Natural History Museum. Together we went in several localities of the Jurassic coast to collect data from Middle Jurassic marine successions. Gregory Price also joined us for one day, introducing us to some important localities. Pedro wants to compare the shallow water fossil record of the Tethys with that of the Sundance Seaway, and look for evidences of escalation. His first PhD paper came out in Palaeobiology while he was in Plymouth, such a good timing to celebrate it!
Here is the link to the paper.
This was his first time in the UK, and in Europe as well! We spend time working on his project, but also trying traditional English food and drinks, and comparing the US and the UK worlds on many different aspects.
At the end of April I went to the European Geosciences Union annual conference, in Vienna, where I presented a talk on the Sundance Seaway entitled "Environmental and faunal change in the Jurassic Sundance Seaway: a stratigraphic palaeobiological approach". The session was organized by Daniele Scarponi, and aimed at integrating geological and biological processes using fossils to understand the evolution of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
With Gregory Price and other colleagues, I also co-organised a session entitled "Carbonate systems: paleoceanography, palaeoecology and stratigraphy" to explore different aspects of carbonate systems in order to better understand past environmental and climate change.
Just published on the journal Palaeontology our study of sealevel and faunal changes in the Sundance Seaway.
These are the first published results after two summer season of intense data collection in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. It has been an invaluable experience, and I would like to thank all the people that helped and supported me over time!
The paper is open access, and you can read it and download it from this link
At the end of December my two years as Marie Curie Outgoing Fellow has come to and end, and in January 2017 I moved to Plymouth University, UK, for the incoming part of the project. I had such a great experience, both professionally and personally in the United States. I will miss Athens and all the people of Steve Holland's Stratigraphy Lab.
In Plymouth I am now working with Gregory Price to the geochemical part of the project. News will be posted soon about it!
My abstract for the 2016 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting has just been accepted as an oral presentation! One the 27th of September, in Denver, I will present for the first time the results of project MAREST. Here is a link to the Abstract.
On the following day, Austin Poncelet, my fied assistant of last year, will also have a poster presentation on his undergraduate project on Jurassic carbonates of Wyoming. Congratulations Austin!
I am just back after one month of fieldwork in Montana and Wyoming to work on the Sundance and the Twin Creek formations. This was the second and last field season of Project MAREST. Collected data will be soon processed, merged with data collected last year, and the results presented at the next GSA (Geological Society of Americal) Annual Meeting in Denver (September 2016).
As last year, Prof Steven Holland spent one week with me and my field assistant Elyse in the field. We also had a special guest from United Kingdom. Prof Gregory Price, partner of the project from Plymouth University, joined us for one week. He was happy to finally see the Sundance Formation and excited for the beginning of the second phase of the project at Plymouth at the start of 2017.
Also this year, I put together an on the roas diary where I recorded all the locations that we visited. You can see it by clicking on the picture below!
On the second of May I took part as a speaker to the 2016 UGA-ROOTS ( University of Georgia Researcher Orientation and Ongoing Training Series. ROOTS offers a series of seminars and discussions to provide graduate students and postdocs with information about UGA research, useful career development tips, and job hunting strategies.
In my talk "International opportunities for postdocs in Europe" I gave an overview of available fellowships and grants for researchers that would like to conduct a researcher period in Europe. I explained in detail how Marie Curie Individual Fellowships work, but I also presented other funding schemes (e.g., ERC grants, Newton International Fellowships, Humboldt Research Fellowships), ending with some tips to help relocating to Europe.
My experience in the US and on working on the Sundance Seaway has been just published on the newsletter of Earth Science of Plymouth University!
Summer 2015 has been a very adventurous one!
I drove from Athens, Georgia, all the way to Wyoming to conduct fieldwork on the Sundance Seaway.
My field assistant Austin Poncelet, an undergraduate student at UGA, and I, spent 12 weeks between Wyoming and South Dakota to collect stratigraphic, sedimentological and paleoecological data on a seaway more than 150 million years old.
Steve Holland stayed with us for the first ten days, while Stefano Dominici, my PhD supervisor, joined us for the last week. At the end of the fieldwork, on my way back, I also spent one week in Denver to study some cores from the Sundance Formation at the USGS Core Research Center.
In total I drove 9000 miles (15000 km!), an unbelievable number of miles for European standards!
It has been an unique experience, and I am looking forward to repeat it in the summer 2016!
Click on the picture below to see the record of my trip!
On the 14th of April 2015, during the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, we organized a thematic section on Conservation and Stratigraphic Paleobiology with contributions on taphonomy, palaeobiogeography and macroevolution.
Beside me, the session was organized by a cohort of European palaeobiologists, including James Nebelsick (University of Tübingen, Germany), Paolo Albano and Martin Zuschin (University of Vienna, Austria), Adam Tomašových (Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia), Wolfgang Kiessling (University of Erlangen, Germany) and Andrzej Kaim (PolishAcademy of Sciences, Poland).
Comprising eleven oral presentations and fifteen posters, the Symposium was attended by a large number of scientists, an excellent result for a palaeontological session held at the EGU General Assembly, so much so that the Division on Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology have asked us to convene it again next year.
Steve Holland was the keynote speaker, sponsored by the Palaeontological Association. His keynote was on the stratigraphic palaeobiology of mass extinctions. He focused on the stratigraphic distribution of fossils across extinction events and, using numerical models and field-study examples, showed how the last occurrence of fossils does not generally indicate the time of extinction but is instead controlled by stratigraphic architecture (e.g. the presence of subaerial unconformities, flooding surfaces, surfaces of forced regression and condensed horizons). He concluded that many interpretations on the tempo of extinction based on stratigraphic patterns of last occurrences need to be re‑interpreted in light of the sequence stratigraphic record.
His paper has been recently published on the journal Palaeontology, and has won the 2015 Best Paper Prize of the journal!
A detailed report of the meeting can be found on the 90 Newsletter of the Palaeontological Association.