March 2022 – May 2022

Amanda Garcia

Amanda is shown smiling in front of the red geologic formations of Sedona, Arizona in winter, dressed warmly for the occasion. 

University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

May 31, 2022

Reanimating the nitrogen fixation story in the lab 

The evolution of biological nitrogen fixation was likely a singular evolutionary event that was transformative for the Earth biosphere. Here, I’ll present recent paleobiological investigations of nitrogenases, the early-evolved enzymes responsible for catalyzing this process. My approach integrates phylogenetics, molecular biology, and synthetic biology to “resurrect” ancient nitrogenases in the laboratory, revealing the early functionality of one of life’s critical innovations. 

Yassine Ait Brahim

The image is of Yassine, a smiling man wearing full caving gear, including red hard hat, and a mud-covered jumpsuit and gloves. He is standing on a gravel road above ground and is posing with one foot in the air.

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco

May 24, 2022

Logo for the International Water Research Institute: a blue raindrop with three wavy lines in it, next to blue text reading IWRI on top, and “International Water Research Institute” below. Gray text below the logo reads “Meeting Future Water Challenges”
Logo for Mohammed VI Polytechnic University: a series of blue squares placed such that the visual effect is of a wavy square. The university name is below.

Speleothem based records of hydro-climate variability in Northwest Africa on orbital-millennial scales: Potential implications on pre-historic modern human populations

Paleoclimate information is still lacking in key regions to understand the functioning of some of the main components of Earth’s climate system. In NW Africa, the use of speleothems as a natural archive of past environmental and climate changes gained considerable interest in recent years. However, the published paleoclimate evidence in this region is still limited to the Holocene, whereas speleothems have a promising potential to span the past climate change throughout the Pleistocene with a high resolution.

In this presentation, we will talk about our published speleothem paleoclimate reconstructions that span the Holocene in Morocco, as well as our ongoing work and preliminary results during the last glacial cycle and throughout the Middle Pleistocene. We will highlight the advantage of using multi-proxy and high-resolution records in paleoclimate research and we will discuss the tug-of-war between the westerly winds belt and the African Monsoon in North Africa, the climate history of the Sahara, and the human-climate interactions across multiple timescales.

Team JOIDES Resolution

Image is of three people sitting at a picnic table on the bow of a ship on the ocean. Claire is sitting in the front on the left side of the image with blonde hair and a white shirt. Yi is sitting at the back of the table with black hair and a plaid shirt. Andrew is sitting on the front right side with a red shirt, brown hair, and wearing glasses.

The Ocean

May 17, 2022

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Special Event: Paleo-research at sea while on board JOIDES Resolution

For two months, scientists aboard JOIDES Resolution for Expedition 390 (South Atlantic Transect I) will be coring through sediment and drilling into ocean crust near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to collect samples that will advance our knowledge in the chemical/physical changes in our ocean crust as it ages over time, how microscopic marine organisms living in marine sediment and rock have varied in abundance and diversity, and what records from the ocean floor can tell us about changes in climate from tens of millions of years ago

Three early career researchers (see details below) on board JOIDES Resolution Expedition 390 (South Atlantic Transect I). They will broadcast live from the ship and discuss how scientific ocean drilling provides the material to advance our knowledge of deep ocean environments past and present. This session will also include a tour of the ship and share what it is like to live and work at sea for two months. Website:

We will also be joined by the cruise Onboard Outreach Officer – Dr. Laura Guertin (Penn State Brandywine, USA)


  • Andrew McIntyre is a palaeoceanographer, interested in how ocean circulation and the climate has changed throughout the geological past, especially over the last 66 million years. He utilizes the geochemistry of microfossils found within marine sediments to reconstruct the evolution of water masses over time. Andrew is a PhD Candidate/Post Doctoral Research Associate in Palaeoceanography in the School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences at The Open University, United Kingdom
  • Claire Routledge is a calcareous nannofossil palaeontologist who studies the response of plankton to changes in climate and ocean conditions in the past. This is her second expedition as she has previously sailed on IODP Expedition 355 to the Arabian Sea. Claire is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Institute of Geosciences at the University of Kiel in Germany
  • Yi Wang is a geochemist and paleoceanographer studying past oceanic oxygenation changes. She works with sediment and water samples. 
    Yi is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Geology & Geophysics at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA

Lara Maldanis

The picture shows me while using a Scanning Electron Microscope, that I used while preparing my samples for synchrotron experiments.    

Université Grenoble Alpes, France

May 10, 2022

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Investigating the early life on Earth with nanoscale X-ray synchrotron imaging

Deciphering the earliest records of life on Earth is a challenging undertaking, particularly regarding the undisputed identification of Precambrian microbial signatures that have been altered during deep time. Fossil microorganisms, in particular, have micrometric dimensions, simple morphologies, and a high degree of mineralization, that altogether challenge conventional analytical methods. In this talk I present how we are investigating some of the oldest fossil microorganisms and better understanding their fossilization processes using
synchrotron 3D nanoimaging. Obtaining both morphological and electron density information
at the ultracellular level is providing us unprecedented information Precambrian specimens, and also shedding light on nanoscale geochemical pathways. This 3D nanopaleontology is
allowing us to reassess early life records, with contribution also for astrobiology and the
search of fossil signatures in Mars.

Lily Jackson

Photo of Lily, a white woman with long brown hair in a braid, wearing a floppy white hat, green pants, and teal jacket. Lily is standing on a hill with a terraced mountain landscape behind her. 

University of Wyoming, United States

May 3, 2022

Elevation and climate records from Quaternary volcanic glass in the Ecuadorian Andes

Hydrogen isotope (δD) values of hydrated volcanic glass serve as a record of paleometeoric water and thus can be utilized in reconstructions of both paleoclimate and paleoelevation. We tested the applicability of volcanic glass δD values to paleoaltimetry in Pleistocene to Holocene (220–0 ka) hydrated volcanic glasses from ignimbrites deposited over a large (~4 km) elevation range spanning the Pacific coastal forearc and Andean magmatic arc of Ecuador (0°–1.5°S). The investigated ignimbrites were deposited during different climate conditions including cool glacial and warm interglacial climates. Data reveal robust isotope-elevation relationships that support the use of volcanic glass δD values in paleoaltimetry. Systematically lower δD values of glasses deposited during cooler climate conditions highlights exciting potential applications of the method to paleoclimate studies. 

Javier Luque

Image is of Javier (Javi) Luque, a latino male with long brown hair, smiling at the camera, wearing a blue jacket and a grey scarf, in the field holding a rock with fossil crustaceans.

Harvard University, United States

26 April, 2022

Getting Crabby With It: On the Origins and Evolution of True Crabs

True crabs (Brachyura) are among the most iconic, speciose, and anatomically disparate groups of
crustaceans, whose origins and phylogenetic relationships remain unresolved. In this talk I present new, exceptionally-preserved fossils that shed light on the origins and evolution of crab-like forms (carcinization), and multiple convergent losses of a typical ‘crabby’ body plan (decarcinization) associated with the repeated invasions of novel environments (e.g., infaunal realm, pelagic zone). Although brachyurans originated in the Early Jurassic, it was during the Cretaceous Crab Revolution
when they underwent a major radiation, drastic anatomical experimentation, and conquered non-marine environments (e.g., land, freshwater) worldwide, leading to the modern groups seen today.

Arianny Storari

Photo of Arianny, a white woman with black short hair, wearing a dark-blue coat, and a black and white scarf. She is at the Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum in Germany, standing in front of a big limestone piece with several compressed fossil fish preserved in it.

Federal University of Espirito Santo, Brazil

19 April, 2022

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Taphonomy of aquatic insects from the Crato Formation Lagerstätte of Brazil under an actualistic look

The Crato Formation, a Konservat-Lagerstätte located in northeast Brazil’s Araripe Basin, is one of the most interesting fossiliferous deposits in the world. It represents a lacustrine paleoenvironment, which preserves a diverse entomofauna of the Cretaceous. The freshwater taxa from this unit are especially informative, however, they are still understudied. So far, most of the studies with fossil mayflies (Ephemeroptera), dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) of the Crato Formation focused only on its taxonomy. Although aquatic insects from this deposit are ideal for taphonomical studies, especially some autochthonous mayflies’ groups. In this talk, I will present recently collected actualistic data that we have been using to assess taphonomical patterns of those aquatic insects of the Crato Formation, as well as the clues about the studied paleoenvironment that such data can provide. 

Erin Dillon

This image shows Erin Dillon smiling at the camera and looking off into the distance. Erin is a white female with fair hair wearing a black shirt. The background is blurry and shows the railing of a sailboat and the ocean.

University of California Santa Barbara

12 April, 2022

Time machine conservation: Reconstructing historical shark communities on coral reefs using dermal denticle assemblages

Sharks have often shown remarkable resilience to extinction over geological time, but in the blink of an eye, humans have pushed many shark populations worldwide to the brink of collapse. Without historical baselines to document what has been lost, it is challenging to implement meaningful management targets informed by natural variability and understand how the loss of these important predators has transformed ecosystems. In this talk, I will discuss how fossil shark scales (dermal denticles) can be used to reconstruct shark communities on coral reefs over the last several millennia. I will first introduce the methods we refined to isolate, identify, and interpret denticles preserved in the recent fossil record. I will then present two case studies that highlight how denticle assemblages can be leveraged to quantify variability in reef shark abundances before human impact and assess their resilience in the face of ongoing overfishing. These retrospective data, in turn, can provide valuable local context for recent shark declines and recovery potential.

Keir Nichols

The image shows Keir Nichols smiling at the camera and making a peace sign with his right hand. Keir is a white man wearing a black beanie hat, burgundy hoodie, green hiking trousers, and a large backpack. He is standing in knee-high shrubbery. The shrubbery extends into the background of the photo, which also shows the tree-covered mountains of southern Alaska.

Imperial College London

5 April, 2022

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Was Thwaites Glacier smaller than present in the Holocene? Insights from cosmogenic nuclides in subglacial bedrock

Thwaites Glacier, roughly the size of Florida, contains enough ice to raise global sea level by about 0.65 metres. Along with neighbouring glaciers, Thwaites is undergoing the largest changes of any ice-ocean system in Antarctica, including rapid grounding line retreat. Most of our understanding of the history of glaciers like Thwaites is based on records of when they were larger than present. As Thwaites is getting smaller, we want to know if and when it has been smaller than present in the past, and under what environmental conditions. The talk will describe how we use cosmogenic nuclides in subglacial bedrock to shed light on the past of Thwaites Glacier.

Skye Yunshu Tian

Skye in HKU main campus near the Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building. This picture was taken when Skye just started her PhD. Now she is close to finishing her PhD.

University of Hong Kong

22 March 2022 @ 0900 UTC

Collapse and recovery of the shallow-marine ecosystem during the
Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), one of the best analogies to ongoing anthropogenic warming, triggered prominent and dynamic responses in global marine ecosystems. Compared with relatively well-studied deep-sea records of the PETM, shallow-marine biotic changes during this abrupt and transient hyperthermal event are much less understood yet equally important. Here I’m going
to present my recent work on a shallow-marine microfaunal record from Maryland, eastern United States, to document a clean-cut disturbance-recovery pattern of the
shallow-marine ecosystem during the PETM. With birth-death modeling that estimates local diversity dynamics, we discovered peak of species extirpation and
diversification predating the onset and at the final recovery phase of the PETM, respectively. Paleoecological analyses based on benthic ostracods reveal that bathymetric habitat compression due to extreme warmth and oxygen minimum zone expansion caused species extirpation during the peak PETM, and the shallow-marine ecosystem partially recovered from the PETM disaster with the introduction of new

Alexandra Auderset

This is an image of Alexandra Auderset. She is smiling while taking a selfie on a research vessel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, wearing a pink sweater and baseball cap.

Princeton University, United States

15 March 2022 @ 1500 UTC (US daylight savings)

Contracted oxygen-deficient zones during Cenozoic climate optima (Live Only!)

Over recent decades, the oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs) of the ocean have expanded, affecting marine ecosystems. However, their response to future global warming is poorly understood. In this talk, I discuss the response of ODZs during two periods of the past characterized by prolonged warmth: the Middle Miocene and Early Eocene climate optima (MMCO and EECO). I present new foraminifers-bound nitrogen isotope (FB-δ15N) data from Pacific ODP Site 872 and Atlantic DSDP Site 516. The new FB-δ15N data combined with existing data from Kast et al. (2019) are used to reconstruct the history of ODZ hosted water column denitrification across the Cenozoic. The results show decreased water column denitrification during both the MMCO and EECO indicating that ODZs were contracted, not expanded during these two periods of prolonged warmer climate. Timing of the denitrification decrease was closely coupled to high latitude warming and reduced meridional sea surface temperature gradients indicating that climate was the main driver of the observed changes. Possible causes for the decline in denitrification and corresponding reduction in ODZs include (i) a reduction in wind-driven equatorial upwelling and primary productivity, and/or (ii) an increase in deep-ocean ventilation. 

Sandy Hetherington

The image show Sandy Hetherington smiling at the camera and holding a piece of Rhynie chert in his left hand. Sandy is a white man with dark hair wearing jeans and a shirt. The background is an old barn with rock samples on a wooden table.

University of Edinburgh, UK

March 8, 2022

The Rhynie chert in 3D, new insights into the earliest preserved terrestrial ecosystem

The 407 million-year-old Rhynie chert provides a unique window into an Early Devonian ecosystem teeming with life. Studies of the Rhynie chert over the last 100 years have provided enormous insights into early land plants, animals, fungi and a rich microbial community. However, there are still many unknowns about the Rhynie chert, most notably the macroscale features of the ecosystem. 3D digital reconstruction techniques provide a key resource for extracting new information from the Rhynie chert and the talk will describe how these techniques are changing our understanding of plant rooting systems.

Michela Johnson

Image is of Michela Johnson (mask on, as per museum regulations) hanging with one of the Macrospondylus specimens on display at Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart.

Naturkundemuseum, Germany

March 1, 2022

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Jurassic Giants: Exploring the Ecology and Evolution of Teleosauroids (Crocodylomorpha;

Teleosauroids, a group of Early Jurassic to Early Cretaceous crocodylomorphs, have long been thought of as relatively conservative compared to their sister taxa, the whale-like
metriorhynchids. However, this is far from the truth; they’ve been found to be very diverse in terms of morphology, habitat and feeding ecology. As such, they represent some of the most
successful, numerous and globally-distributed fossil crocodylomorphs. In addition, new work is now being done to examine teleosauroid biomechanics, growth/size distribution and ontogeny.

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