XI International Palynological Congress, 4 – 9 July 2004, Granada, Spain

Conference Centre, Granada, Spain, 4 to 9 July 2004

More than 500 delegates did attend this very successful meeting and a total of about 800 contributions were presented either as oral or poster presentations. Despite the large number of participants, only four sessions were held simultaneously. This arrangement turned out to be very useful, and in this way clashing of interesting talks was reduced to a minimum.

A bit unusual for the participants coming from more northerly countries, the meeting officially started in the evening of Sunday the 4th at 19:00h with the Welcoming Speeches and a first Plenary Session. The advantages of adopting the Andalucian daily rhythm became immediately obvious when we left the air-conditioned interior of the conference centre at 21:30h for the Cocktail Reception on the roof terrace of the Conference centre. With still nearly 30°C (85° Fahrenheit for the British and US colleagues) we enjoyed the breathtaking views over Granada to one side and the Sierra Nevada to the other, while chatting to colleagues and friends and degusting the first Spanish wines and gastronomic delights.

The next four days were densely packed with an intense scientific programme. Sessions were held from 8:30h in the morning to 20:30h or later in the evening with just an hour lunch break and short breaks in the morning and the afternoon. In the following I will report on parts of the scientific programme, concentrating on those sessions relevant to palaeopalynology, but unavoidably somewhat biased by personal interest. Please note that all abstracts are published in the Spanish journal “Polen”, including an index of all authors. It is also worth checking the conference website for the list of participants.

On Monday morning, the sessions (g) on Palaeopalynology and Evolution started off with a keynote lecture by Barrie Dale on dinoflagellate cysts as ecological/palaeoecological indicators. In the short time available, Barry tried his best to give an overview and describe the need for integrating biological, geological and environmental information. Several talks on dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs and dinoflagellate biology followed this introduction. In the evening (at 19:30h) Karin Zonneveld summarised the knowledge on calcareous dinoflagellates as environmental tools. Later in the morning, the first session on Palaeozoic palynology (CIMP symposium) took place, sessions which were organised by Thomas Servais and Charles Wellman. Palaeozoic palynology was very well represented. The session started with talks in more or less stratigraphical order from the Cambrian to the Devonian, dealing with all aspects of acritarch, chitinozoan, prasinophyte and (crypto)spore research. A very interesting and well-attended session (a4) took place in the afternoon, unfortunately in parallel to the CIMP symposium, on palynomorph wall chemistry, structure and assembly, organised by A. Hemsley. In the keynote lecture, J.W. de Leeuw et al. explained carefully how scarce our knowledge on the structure and composition of the organic macromolecules composing palynomorphs still is and outlined the possibilities of newer technologies that will, hopefully, shed some light on these still enigmatic substances in the future.

Tuesday was again a day very strong in Palaeozoic, but also Precambrian palynology. The morning was dedicated to the continuation of session (g4) on Upper Palaeozoic palynology, followed after lunch by session (g2) on Precambrian palynology – with e.g. some amazing results presented by Kathy Grey on acritarchs from Australia, and the session (g5) on pre-Jurassic palynology of the Arabian plate and the adjacent regions, organised by Bernard Owens and Florentin Paris. Other interesting talks to the palaeopalynologist were found in the afternoon session (b2.2) on the evolution of angiosperm pollen characters (e.g. by J. E. Doyle). The last two hours of the afternoon were dedicated to the poster sessions (g1) to (g4), where the poster presenters had the opportunity to present in a few minutes the main results of their work in the lecture theatre.

After this hard day of listening and scientific discussions, most of the participants opted for a well-deserved social event and attended the Andalusian dinner. …. Music, Flamenco, buffet dinner in the beautiful garden settings not far outside Granada.

On Wednesday, a long day started for Henrik Nøhr-Hansen, who organised the session (g6) on Mesozoic palynology together with K. Nuñez Betelu. Starting with the Triassic of Qatar, Austria and Mexico, the talks proceeded through terrestrial and marine palynology of the Mesozoic and ended at the K/T boundary. I felt a special interest in a number of talks dealing with early angiosperm pollen from the Lower Cretaceous. E.g. the contribution of U. Heimhofer et al., presented by Peter Hochuli, in which they provided new, much better age dating (younger than previously thought) of the well-known, early angiosperm pollen bearing deposits from Portugal.

During lunchtime on Wednesday, the AASP luncheon took place in the conference centre’s restaurant. A special point on the agenda was the bestowal/presentation of the AASP Medal of Scientific Excellence to David Wall and Barrie Dale. Martin Head presented the eulogy/laudation for both of them for this biggest honorary award in palynology. David Wall was not present but a letter of response upon receiving the medal was read out to the audience. Barrie Dale was there to accept the award and gave an honest, modest and very emotional word of thanks. Barrie clearly was deeply moved by receiving this great honorary award and his emotion was quite infectious for all those who attended the scene.

Thursday was the last day of scientific sessions. Again a full day of talks, from early in the morning to late in the evening. This day was essentially dedicated to Tertiary palynology, session (g7), and to pollen databases, sessions (i1) and (i2). The programme concluded in the late afternoon with the 2nd IFPS Plenary session and the Closing Ceremony.

In the evening then, there was the final Gala Dinner, where all participants were invited to attend. This took place in another beautiful Hazienda-like garden setting. The wine and food was just gorgeous. I cannot remember when I last had a similar meal, and I had quite a few occasions during the years I spend in the French cultural society/surroundings. After the dinner, the event was not over. Some stayed on and danced until late in the night, trying to be back the next morning, in time for the departure to the joint visit of the UNESCO Word Heritage site of Alhambra, in Granada.

In short, it was a great congress: a very good scientific programme and a very thoughtfully organised social programme. Congratulations to our Spanish fellow palynologists for this successful organisation of the 11th IPC. During the Granada meeting it has been decided that the next IPC will take place in four years in Bonn, in Germany. The Germans will have to work hard trying to match the success of the meeting in Andalucia.

Susanne Feist-Burkhardt
Chair, Palynology Group