European Geoscience Union Meeting 2024

European Geoscience Union General Assembly Vienna 2024

The 5-day conference in Austria’s capital, Vienna, with over 18,000 in attendance, is the meeting that offers an invaluable opportunity for networking and knowledge exchange. Our team of researchers proudly represented the major projects from our laboratory during different sessions and participated in multidisciplinary discussions, talks and poster presentations.

Katie O’Dea presented the poster on the effects of using concrete dust on oats and barley in field conditions as a collaboration between the Terraform project and the project led by researchers at University College Dublin ICRAG.

Christos Chondrogioannis convened the enhanced rock weathering & river alkalinity enhancement for carbon dioxide removal session. The information from the meeting gave insights into the potential of a carbon capture technology, reducing GHG emissions and strived to inform decision-making on how these technologies can help with reaching the climate targets.

William Matthaeus will co-conven the Co-evolution of life biogeodynamics and trait-based paleoecology during deep time tomorrow. This session is designed to foster conversation between experts from diverse fields interested in how life and planetary processes have co-evolved over geological time.

During the peatland management and restoration session, Sate Ahmad presented his talk on small-scale associations between peat properties and microtopography in drained fen and a near-intact fen in Ireland. The presentation showcased the results of the Irish Research Council and ICRAG-funded DIVE2STORE project.

Our former lab member, Richard Nair presented his talk on how water availability controls seasonal shifts in root growth timing, during the soil-plant interactions across landforms: implications for soil functions, ecosystem patterns and services under global change session. During his talk, Richard discussed novel methods to shed light on seasonal and daily patterns of root growth and the driving mechanisms behind them.

The Plant-Climate Interaction Lab houses a new Nikon stereomicroscope

The Plant-Climate Interaction Lab houses a new Nikon stereomicroscope, supported by iCRAG and ERC-TERRAFORM, configured to create high-resolution maps of complex materials. The system uses a high optical magnification (>300x) single-optic system with a large working distance (>60 mm), a motorized stage and focus. The Discipline of Botany is the first in Ireland to procure Nikon’s Extended Depth of Focus (EDF) software, which allows micron-scale topographic reconstruction, for example, of fossiliferous rocks and leaf surfaces. These outstanding and state-of-the-art capabilities can also be combined with large image scans and modular epifluorescence to create a variety of true-to-scale spatially integrated high-quality datasets for relatively large samples (~70 mm). 

Understanding how fossilisation of plants works

A pilot project in experimental taphonomy

Researchers from the TERRAFORM team visited University College Cork in March to carry out a pilot project in experimental taphonomy with collaborator Maria McNamara. Postdoc Will Matthaeus and PhD student Catarina Barbosa are interested in testing hypotheses regarding the effect of certain aspects of the process that plant parts undergo in the transition between life and preservation in the fossil record (i.e., taphonomy). Maria is a leading expert in the interpretation of the fossil record using experimental alteration of biological materials. The group aims to develop robust interpretations of signals from the plant fossil record for use in ecosystem simulations.

New publication!

Functional traits of fossil plants

Led by Prof. McElwain, the ERC-funded TERRAFORM project team recently published a comprehensive review “Functional Traits of Fossil Plants” in the New Phytologist. The review took a unique approach, evaluating which extant plant traits offer the greatest promise for application to fossils through contemporary trait-based ecology. The focus was placed on plant functional traits and measurable properties of fossils that provide insights into the functioning of the plants in past environments.

Taking into consideration the limitations of a trait-based approach in palaeobotany, the team together with collaborators assessed over 30 extant traits in palaeobotany and ranked 26 paleo-functional traits based on taphonomic and methodological criteria that can potentially impact Earth system processes. The Tansley Review offers a new perspective on the study of extinct plants and brings insights into their functioning in the past.

The open-access publication is available online under this link.

Figures from the publication:

Figure 1. The methodological framework used to critically evaluate 30 contemporary plant traits (from Pérez-Harguindeguy et al., 2013) for their potential application to the plant fossil record as paleo-functional traits.

Figure 2. Examples of fossil plant functional traits.

Figure 3. Comparison of paleo-functional trait scores according to different weighting criteria.

"The Birth of the Modern World: Understanding Floral Dynamics during the Mesozoic"

Dr Mario Coiro's seminar visit to School of Natural Sciences

In February, we had the pleasure of hosting Dr Mario Coiro from the University of Vienna when he visited Trinity College Dublin for his School of Natural Sciences’ Research Seminar talk.

Dr Coiro is a leading botanist and paleobiologist with a passion for exploring the intricacies of evolution. With a wide range of skills, including expertise in molecular biology and an in-depth knowledge of cycads, Dr Coiro is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the natural world. In his talk “The Birth of the Modern World: Understanding Floral Dynamics during the Mesozoic”, he walked the audience through the key findings of his research, which tackles some of the most pressing questions surrounding floral group dynamics and evolutionary processes.

After the talk, the customary pizza lunch was held, and the department’s postgrads had the chance to have a more casual chat with Dr Coiro about a variety of topics ranging from cutting-edge research to how much better the weather is in Italy. Dr Coiro also took the time for one-on-one meetings with the TERRAFORM group’s PhD students. “Coming from a trait-based approach, talking to someone coming from a macroevolutionary angle broadened my perspective. Having the opportunity to pick someone’s brain like this is super valuable!” said Catarina Barbosa, a second-year PhD student.

To find out more about Dr Mario Coiro’s research please visit his blog

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