December 2022 – February 2023

Mario Bronzati

University of São Paulo

December 06, 2022

The origin of tympanic ear in reptiles from a Paleo-Evo-Devo perspective

The tympanic middle ear is a key evolutionary trait in the tetrapods’ successful invasion of terrestrial environments. Despite the morphological similarities in different lineages, current literature indicates that this sensory structure evolved independently in major tetrapod groups. Based on an integrative approach combining data from the fossil record and the embryonic development we investigate the origin and homology of the tympanic ear in reptiles.

Robert Patalano

Image is of Robert standing in front of the Oldupai Gorge, Tanzania in 2017. Bryant is wearing a blue shirt. The image was taken while conducting fieldwork for Robert’s PhD. 

Bryant University

January 17, 2023

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Usambara Mountains Archaeology and Palaeoecology Project (UMAPP)

The Usambaras, in northeastern Tanzania, are a biodiversity hotspot that host remarkably rich and diversified plants and animals that may have lived in this area for millions of years. However, we know very little about the climatic, ecological, and human history of this region as very few long-term studies have been conducted here. Additionally, and despite the biological wealth the mountains host, they are under threat from both anthropogenic climate change and the conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural plantations.

In July-August 2022, we conducted a pilot field season to survey archaeological sites and document local plant ecology and biodiversity. We visited and surveyed 22 rockshelters and 6 open-air sites across the East and West Usambara Mountains and uncovered over 400 lithic and pottery artifacts. This talk explores the survey results and future plans for archaeological and palaeoecological projects in the Usambara Mountains.

Vijayananda Sarangi

The image is a headshot of Vijayananda Sarangi (Vijay). He is a brown-skinned man with dark hair and glasses, holding a test wheel of Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

January 24, 2023

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Neglecting vegetation fires as a geochemical process could undermine the
reliability of paleoecological interpretations

Long-term paleoecological and paleofire records have been widely used to
elucidate the impact of vegetation fires on ecosystem dynamics, such as the distribution of
biomes, vegetation structure, carbon fluxes, nutrient cycles, and hydrological conditions.
However, in fire-prone biomes, the interpretation of paleoecological proxies is subjected to
uncertainties as the plant biomarkers/molecules are thermally modified, and the extent and
nature of alterations are yet to be well-constrained. To shed light on the current knowledge
gaps, we performed a series of controlled experiments in which leaf samples from C 3 (tree and
shrub) and C 4 (grass) plants and a topsoil sample were burned/heated under ambient oxygen at
temperatures between 200 °C and 500 °C. In this talk, I will discuss the effect of experimental
burns on commonly used paleoecological proxies such as total organic carbon content, bulk
carbon isotopic compositions, and concentration and isotopic composition of lipid biomarkers
(namely, n-alkanes and n-alkanoic acids). I will also discuss the inferences drawn from the
burning experiment and possible implications for paleoecological studies.

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