Silicofossil Group Report Summer 2004

The accidental and untimely death of our friend and colleague Jean-Jacques Pichon, on 9 November 2003 was a shock to us all. Jean-Jacques was a CNRS Research Scientist at the Department of Geology and Oceanography, University Bordeaux I, he was 49. We find the words of his former research students, Leanne Armand and Xavier Crosta, very fitting; they wrote to the DIATOM-L listserv, “As a diatom paleoceanographer for more than 20 years, he was a pioneer on quantitative Southern Ocean paleoceanography. Jean Jacques has always been very actively involved into the preparation and active running of research cruises in the Southern Ocean on the French RV Marion Dufresne I and follow-up RV Marion Dufresne II since their inception in the 80’s. Those who had the chance to share ship-time with him remembered his constant good mood, availability, and working efficiency. Jean Jacques Pichon is survived by his beloved wife and two children to whom we address our sincere condolences”. The Micropalaeontological Society would also like to express condolences to his family, friends, and all those he inspired and influenced in diatom world, he will be sorely missed.

June saw the first joint meeting of the Silicofossil and Palynology groups, held over 2 days (9-10th) in the School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University. Judging by the turn-out and enthusiasm, it seemed such a gathering had been long awaited. You can read the meeting report and full abstracts of all the presentations here and we’d like to say a big thank you to all those who took part. It was a fun and informative meeting, a first-step towards spreading the word on the integration of both fossil groups and certainly worth the effort of organising. On the back of this initial success, we’re motivated to continue holding joint meetings of this nature, say, on a regular basis (in addition to our regular group meetings). Watching this space for future announcements is a good idea, although for more frequent updates in-between newsletter editions, we recommend getting yourself on our email list since this is the way we can more effectively communicate with you. Contact Cathy or Ivo – we will be happy to add you to our list.

We’re delighted to announce that Simon Nielsen successfully defended his Ph.D thesis in March this year. His research on “Southern Ocean Climate Variability”, was supervised by Nalan Koc (Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø) and Xavier Crosta (Department of Geology and Oceanography, University Bordeaux I). He was connected to the University of Tromsø through Morten Hald. Simon has recently taken up a 3-year postdoctoral position at the University of Florida to work with David Hodell (University of Florida) for the first two years and Lloyd Burckle and Bob Anderson (both Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, NY) for the last year. The first 2 years will involve the study of ice-rafted sediments (petrological composition, geochemical analysis), stable oxygen isotope analysis and analysis of radiolarians, sponge spicules and bryozoans. The last year is dedicated to diatom work at LDEO. The aim of the project is to trace ice-rafted layers within South Atlantic sediment cores to determine their provenance, while the microfossil work will be used to establish the boundary conditions during these ‘South Atlantic IRD’ events. We wish him the best of luck in the States.

It must be something in the air as we are also delighted to announce that our very own secretary Ivo Grigorov (Southampton Oceanography Centre) passed his Ph.D. entitled Southern Ocean Palaeoceanography of Laminated Sediments, in July. Ivo was supervised by Alan Kemp (SOC) and worked on Ocean Drilling Program Leg 177 from the South Atlantic as well as USJGOFS-AESOPS moored sediment trap array in the Southwest Pacific with the aim to test whether deep-sea diatom mats can be used as a temperature-independent proxy for the location of the Antarctic Polar Front, on geological timescales.

A few thoughts about our future plans within the Silicofossil Group. We generally attract fewer participants to our meetings than do, say, the calcareous groups to theirs. This reflects, in part, a fewer number of silicofossil workers in general. However, it is also a reflection of our relative infancy as a group (founded in 1998) within the Society. It occurred to us that a good many European silicofossil workers probably are unaware that the group exists, judging by the list of names – and relative lack thereof of European silicofossil specialists, in the Society’s directory. Without overlapping with other organisations, e.g., The International Society for Diatom Research, we feel we have a very worthy and necessary role to play in bringing together diatomists and radiolarian workers throughout the UK and Europe, via the web, email and workshops. Since the Society dropped the “British” part of its name a couple of years ago, there is no time like the present to push forward with promoting ourselves (and along with it, the Society in general) within Europe and elsewhere. This is our job (Cathy’s and Ivo’s) as the silicofossil group representatives. However, you could assist us greatly by providing us with some information regarding any recent silicofossil projects (that means anything from diatoms, radiolarians, silicoflagellates, Ebridians, phytoliths, etc.) you or your students have undertaken. You may have noticed in the past that our ‘project news’ has revolved around what’s been happening within the UK – we’re not biased, its purely that we’re unaware what interesting things the rest of you have been doing! Tell us, and we’ll post it on this website.

Catherine Stickley
Ivo Grigorov