The first joint meeting of the Silicofossil and Palynology groups

The first joint meeting of the Silicofossil and Palynology groups
9-10 June 2004
School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University, UK.

Conveners: Catherine Stickley (Cardiff), Susanne Feist-Burkhardt (NHM) and Henk Brinkhuis (Utrecht).

Download Meeting Abstracts (pdf 184 kb)

Q: What do you get if you mix dinoflagellates with diatoms?
A: A daft diet, all slime ‘ n O2-gas! [anagram; go on, try it!].

While some diatomists may object to being described as specialists in the study of slime (apologies, but you know what we mean), it’s a meaningful play on words. Firstly, dinoflagellates, at least the heterotrophic ones, are suspected to dine on such a diet of diatoms (there’s another pun in there somewhere about delicious siliceous…!) and secondly both (phyto-)plankton groups have an extremely important role to play in the exchange of gases between ocean and atmosphere, and therefore in the carbon cycle. Applying such ideas to the past, these are two very good reasons for the joint study of both groups in the fossil record.

Q: What do you get if you mix dinoflagellate cyst specialists with silicofossil specialists?
A: A mini-symposium at Cardiff University on 9-10 June 2004.

The idea for such a gathering had been discussed a few years back between Cathy and Henk following our participation in ODP drilling to the Tasmanian Gateway (Leg 189, March-May 2000). Here, nearly 240m of Eocene sediments containing silicofossils (diatoms, ebridians, radiolarians, silicoflagellates) and dinoflagellate cysts, both in such abundance and beautiful state of preservation to keep any micropalaeontologist busy for a lifetime. It was not, of course, the first time silicofossils and organic-walled microfossils had been recovered together, but it gave us the motivation to integrate our results, particularly in the absence of co-occurring calcareous microfossils. The idea behind a joint meeting of like-minded specialists was an attempt to demonstrate how effectively both groups can be integrated and to encourage discussion on how we, as specialists of either group, might work together in a broad sense. This of course, would be the way forward for any integrated microfossil study, however, the approach is more challenging than for, say, the calcareous groups since we tend to routinely destroy each others specimens in the lab even before we get to the microscope! Preservation may be another issue, but in fact you’d be surprised how often biogenic silica and organic matter are preserved together.

Unity of both silicofossil and organic-walled microfossil groups is, therefore, entirely achievable, as demonstrated by a number of the presentations at the meeting. We invite you to read the abstracts printed below for a more detailed insight into the sorts of work being undertaken. We wish to extend our thanks to all those who took part in the meeting, contributor or spectator, and for helping to make it a success and lots of fun. We hope we got the message across that as specialists in either group we can work together in many ways and that you were inspired by the work of those you were not previously familiar with. In this respect, the meeting was a necessary first step in the right direction. Two of the presentations also involved calcareous nannofossil data, which goes to show there is no reason why we shouldn’t also involve the other groups in future.

Despite a bomb scare (no-one hurt) at Swindon train station, which meant some unfortunate London delegates made it no more than halfway to Cardiff, we were very encouraged by the attendance of over 30 (more than expected). It was especially good to see quite a few of you from overseas, since one of our aims within the society, having dropped the “British” part of the Society’s name 2 years ago, is to reach out beyond the UK. Judging by the excellent presentations and the lively follow-up discussions during the wine-reception and the group dinner at La Trattoria Pulcinella, we feel it was a very useful experience worth repeating, say, in another 2 years. Utrecht University has been offered as a possible venue for the next one (thanks Henk); we’ll certainly keep you informed on progress towards that.

In the meantime, HB and CES are convening the following session at the AGU Fall Meeting (San Francisco, December 13-17, 2004): PP13: From Greenhouse to Icehouse: Palaeogene Global Change, Phytoplankton response, and atmospheric carbon removal, which we encourage you to submit an abstract to. Further details on this session and how to submit an abstract are available at the American Geophysical Union website See you there!

The meeting co-conveners:
Catherine Stickley (Cardiff), Susanne Feist-Burkhardt (NHM), Henk Brinkhuis (Utrecht).

Download Meeting Abstracts (pdf 184 kb)