The Micropalaeontological Society

All posts in AGM

The Annual General Meeting was held on 20th November at University College London.

Following Society business, two talks were presented.
ICS on Stage

Felix M.Gradstein
Chairman of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS)
Geological Museum, University of Oslo, Norway

The most important issue presently on the agenda of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) is the completion of the definition of stages scheduled for the year 2008; the author will outline the concept in its historical and its actual context. Special challenges exist with the definition of Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician and Quaternary stratigraphic units.

A newly created Stratigraphic Information System (SIS) is making important stratigraphic informationy easily available world-wide and also plans to offer assistance with teaching of stratigraphy in the earth-science curriculum of universities and high-schools. The URL stratigraphy.org is the official website of  ICS and its SIS. Geoscientists can now quickly find key stratigraphic information like stage boundary stratotypes, the International Stratigraphic Guide, the Standard Stratigraphic Chart with its colour coding scheme(s) and the standard Geological Time Scale.

ICS is also in the process of creating an electronic science journal called E-Strata.

In 2004 a new version will be published of the Standard Geological Time Scale with many stage boundaries dated significantly different from before, particularly in Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic, Lower Jurassic, Lower Cretaceous and Paleocene.

ICS is in the steering committee of the CHRONOS Network for Earth System History that develops Integrated Databases, Portals and Toolkits linked to the standard time scale. CHRONOS will  deliver a dynamic, interactive and refined framework for Earth System History based upon a network of comprehensive databases spanning the evolution and diversity of life, climate change, geochemical cycles, core-to-crust processes and other aspects of the Earth system.  Research and outreach portals equipped with powerful analytical and visualization tools will enable exploration and understanding of our evolving planet. The industry supported Network of Offshore Records in Geology and Stratigraphy (NORGES) developed and operated by the Geology Museum of Oslo University will link to and benefit from CHRONOS.

Freshwater diatoms as monitors of environmental change in the tropical Americas

Prof. Sarah Metcalfe  (Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh, UK)

The impact on the environment of both climatic change and human activities is of growing concern. It is clear that tropical areas are particularly vulnerable to both, but usually lack the long term monitoring data which can provide some form of baseline assessment of natural variability and sensitivity to disturbance. Freshwater diatoms can provide alternative archives of change over a variety of timescales. Results from Mexico and Belize are used to illustrate applications of diatoms to issues of climate change and human disturbance over timescales from millennia to sub-decadal. Increasingly, such reconstructions exploit not only the diatom assemblages per se, but the isotopic signatures preserved in the diatom frustules. Whilst offering many advantages for reconstructing environmental change there are conditions which hamper diatom studies and some of these are also discussed in the Central American context.

The Annual General Meeting was held on 21st November at University College London.

Following Society business, two talks were presented.

Microvertebrates and macroevolution – unravelling the origin and early history of the vertebrate clade
Dr Paul Smith, Dr Philip Donoghue and Dr Ivan Sansom (School of Earth Sciences, University of Birmingham)

The study of Early Palaeozoic microvertebrate faunas has, in the last decade, had a major impact on the understanding of vertebrate palaeobiology. A review of pre-Silurian vertebrates carried out as recently as 1991 concluded that only five species could confidently be included in the clade. Since then, a number of key discoveries have been made, many of them reliant on micropalaeontological methodologies. For example, the first armoured fish are now known to be present in the Late Cambrian, and the biodiversity of Ordovician vertebrates is far higher than previously suspected, even at high taxonomic levels. One particularly important change has been the increasing recognition that conodonts are vertebrates, which has both changed the temporal perspective of vertebrate phylogeny and increased the known generic and specific diversity by two orders of magnitude. Together, these developments demonstrate the importance of integrating micropalaeontological and traditional, vertebrate macrofossil, datasets since neither picture is complete in itself. The new discoveries have a significant part to play in elucidating the phylogeny of the group and in testing evolutionary scenarios, in assessing the completeness of the fossil record of early vertebrates, and in the determination of biogeographic and large-scale ecological patterns and processes.

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