XV. International Palynological Congress (IPC) XI. International Organisation of Palaeobotany Conference (IOPC)

Terraform researchers take part in IPC/IOPC Conference in Prague, Czechia

The emerging field of trait-based paleoecology suffers from the siloing of its practitioners along multiple dimensions including the availability of infrastructure and materials, and structure-specific focus. To promote the development of a more cohesive and collaborative ‘paleo-trait’ network Will Matthaeus and Jenny McElwain led a workshop on behalf of the ERC-TERRAFORM project at IPC/IOPC 2024. Following the recent publication by McElwain et al. (2024, New Phytologist, Tansley Reviews), 28 scientists from around the world and across career stages participated in a collaborative evaluation of the potential for utilizing plant functional traits in the fossil record. Attendees gave positive feedback and new collaborations were established in the discussions that followed.

Members of the TERRAFORM project participated in IPC/IOPC field trips. One trip was made to the Pecínov, a quarry in the late Cretaceous Bohemian Basin, circa 50 km west of Prague. The locality offers a transgressional set of sedimentary bodies that allow clear identification of the paleo-coastal area, moving inland through a salt marsh, swamp, and finally into a freshwater braided river. The Cenomanian flora from Pecínov has been extensively described, with an assemblage consisting of gymnosperm and angiosperm taxa. A PhD student from our team was able to collect plant macrofossil material from this locality for future research and was eager to recount her pleasant experience, meeting senior paleobotanists in the field and listening to their epic (and very-niche) plant-fossil tales of yore. 

TERRAFORM’s two PhD students, Antonietta Knetge and Catarina Barbosa, presented their first major conference talk at IPC/IOPC in a session focused on the biotic crises of the Mesozoic.  Stepping up the plate immediately after lunch, Catarina refused to let conference attendees take a nap by showing them a cool graph and talking about it a bunch. Her talk on paleoecology and turnover in the T/J boundary of East Greenland featured carefully developed visualizations of community composition through time at South  Tancrediakløft. Antonietta then took to the stage to deliver a rousing presentation on diversity and taphonomy, using rarefaction curves to compare that same locality and Astartekløft, historically one of the most important sites for the Greenland T/J.  Both talks garnered interest, lots of questions, and collaboration requests. A great success! 

Are plants Ecosystem Engineers?

Will Matthaeus presents a case to the International Biogeography Society in Prague

In the frosty early days of January, Dr Will Matthaeus went to Prague to deliver a talk at the Ecosystem Engineering Symposium organized by Kate Lyons and Amelia Villaseñor at the 11th Biennial Conference of International Biogeography Society (IBS). In a session covering everything from Edicarian bioturbation to anthropogenic impacts and rewilding—500 million years of ecosystem engineering—Will presented plants as a foundational aspect of terrestrial ecosystems and classic examples of ecosystem and landscape reorganization with plant evolutionary changes (e.g., ‘The Devonian Plant Hypothesis’). The earliest plants were little more than ‘green slime.’  These small, prostrate organisms that were limited to wet environments may still have impacted global ecosystems by altering atmospheric oxygen concentrations.  Over the course of the evolutionary transformations that led from green slime to boreal forests and savannahs, plants have likely increased the diversity and maximum effect in their impact on ecosystems. Synthesis of paleo-plant traits, among other paleontological techniques, may provide insight into this function over periods of change, upheaval, and extinction in terrestrial environments that are informative for our future. However, understanding these changes requires expertise in a broad variety of disciplines; IBS meetings are a valuable opportunity for developing the frontiers of paleoecology through new collaborations.

Members of the Terraform team take part in the first Irish Paleo Forum (IPF) in Cork

The first Irish Paleo Forum (IPF) - Cork, January 2024

On January 18th, our lab members, Antonietta Knetge, Catarina Barsboa and William Matthaeus joined fellow Irish palaeontologists for the first Irish Paleo Forum (IPF) meeting at University College Cork. The organisation of the IPF was proposed by Prof. Maria McNamara, Dr. Chris Mays, and our own, Prof. Jennifer McElwain. The forum aims to enhance the palaeontology community in Ireland by offering an open space for current research, communication and innovation. Members of Trinity College Dublin’s Plant Climate Interaction lab look forward to participating in future IPF meetings, making history in Ireland for the bright future of palaeontology.