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ESA: Invasive species and climate change plus geotourism

by Alycia Stigall
ESA: Invasive species and climate change plus geotourism

This summer was relatively quiet on the travel front. We had a family vacation in May to Disney World (for which I over-prepared with substantial data analysis using the myDisney App), but otherwise both Dan and I were in Athens for the summer doing analyses and writing rather than in the field collecting new data. It was really lovely!

Our Ohio sojourn ended in August, when I traveled to Portland, Oregon to participate in the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting as an invited speaker for a session about the combined impacts of invasive species and climate change on modern ecosystems organized by Cascade Sorte and Bethany Bradley.   ESA is a wonderful meeting and a great chance to simultaneously catch up with my biogeography colleagues and engage with a different segment of the scientific community than I usually do. So I was quite pleased to present about my work on fossils and the lessons we can learn from that for modern environments. I had the opportunity to catch up with some of my Quaternary paleoecology colleagues and have some really insightful and educational discussions with modern biology colleagues during the meeting.

On it’s own, ESA was very good meeting, but the best part of the trip was that Dan and the kids joined me at the conference as part of a two week volcanoes & coasts road trip. As geologists, Dan and I were excited to have the chance to visit some really exciting National Parks and also to show the kids “real” (=geologically young) mountains for the first time. We love the Appalachians, but western geology is so spectacular.

In the end, we put over 1000 miles on the rental car. We visited Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, the Jedediah Smith State Park (=Redwoods!), Orgeon Dunes, a series of state parks with tidepools along the Oregon Coast, and the Newport Aquarium. It was a spectacular trip. Mt. St. Helens was amazing and emotional.

The boat trip on Crater Lake was a real highlight. The kids LOVED climbing on the fallen Redwood logs, exploring the tidepools, and the marmots on Mt. Rainier. Overall, it was super. Maybe too much driving, but I don’t think I would have cut out any of the places we visited. It’s really fun to geek out on geology with my family who also loves geeking on geology. The kids earned four junior ranges badges along the way—they are definitely right up there with their parents as nature lovers.



Alumni Symposium: Women in Geology

Every other spring, the Department of Geological Sciences alumni converge on Athens for a weekend of networking and reunions that is centered around a full day symposium where alumni, students, and faculty share their current work. This year, our Alumni Board chose to focus on Women in Geology and asked me to give a presentation on that topic.

I was delighted to develop a presentation on this topic as it’s both near and dear to my heart (and career), and I have published several pieces on gender issues in paleontology previously (GSA Today, Priscum). So I spent the better part of two weeks diving back into the literature on implicit bias, structural barriers to women, and locating data on women at the student through professional levels. I will say, for the record, this topic is not fun to dive into. It is important and I hoped that I could make a contribution by educating our alumni broadly about these issues, but it is emotionally taxing to read study after study showing empirical data for continuing bias in geoscience—and science in general.

I focused on my presentation on data. Data that demonstrate that: YES we have many women training to be geologists (nearly 45% of undergraduates), so we are developing a strong pool of qualified female geologists. But the data also demonstrate that NO these women are not fully participating in the geoscience workforce, which his only 23% female.

That disparity CANNOT be explained by historical biases alone. Women have been earning nearly half of geoscience degrees for at least the past 15 years, but the junior work force does not match the training pool.

So I explored the reasons for this starting with overt discrimination (which is present, but less common than in decades past), sexual harassment, gendered critiques, implicit bias, and structural barriers. These issues create feedback loops that instill lower self-confidence and greater workloads for women and ultimately push women out of the workforce.

Implicit bias, in which individuals allow ingrained stereotypes to unconsciously bias our opinions and decisions, is a significant problem. If you are not familiar with implicit bias, here are a series of empirical studies you can read. I’m particularly fond of this one about hurricane names (Jung et al., 2014) and this about lab tech hiring (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012).

More implicit bias studies:

Implicit bias is difficult because we all have it—it’s a societal issue, not a male vs. female issue. You can assess your level of implicit bias using a set of online quizzes at projectimplicit.net.

But if we each individually learn to recognize our bias, we can then take steps to mitigate that in hiring decisions, reference letters, etc. For example, here are tips to avoid bias in reference letters that frequently consult.

Overall, women are in a much stronger position within the geosciences than ever before. We are making strides toward parity, and if men and women work together to remove the barriers to full participation by women (and other gender identities) in geoscience, our field will be even stronger.

Although, I–like all women in science–could spend hours detailing specific events of bias during my career, they have not prevented me from becoming the scientist, I am today.  Rather, some things have molded me to be a more determined advocate for myself, my students, and our community as a whole. So I spent my presentation detailing the data to help others understand both the need for change and how we can all work together to improve our field for all people and to build a science combining a broader breadth of ideas and experiences.   I am very fortunate to belong to a very supportive department and to be able to contribute to mentoring the next generation of geoscientists.

*I have not discussed racial diversity in this post. Similar proportional increases in number of geoscience degrees earned are NOT occurring for minority groups in geoscience. All the structural and implicit barriers discussed impact racial diversity as well as a series of additional constraints. More on this later.

Reflections on the International Biogeography Society Meeting in Tucson: Celebrating diversity and deep time

Reflections on the International Biogeography Society Meeting in Tucson: Celebrating diversity and deep time

This post was initially written as a guest blog for the International Biogeography Society blog

The International Biogeography Society Biennial Conference is one of my favorite meetings to attend. These conferences consistently profile outstanding and cutting edge science, opportunities to interact with a set of colleagues that I don’t have the opportunity to see at my paleontology-centric conferences, and interesting destinations to explore. This year’s conference in Tucson hit the mark in all areas.

A key strength of IBS conferences is that they are fundamentally a celebration of diversity in many ways: diversity of approaches ranging from molecular to big data and ecological to phylogenetic frameworks; diversity of focal ecosystems and taxa; diversity of temporal lens from modern to deep time; diversity of nationalities and cultures; diversity of genders and identities. This diversity makes the scientific contributions and opportunities so much stronger. Developing such a diverse conference is not a coincidence, the IBS board and meeting organizers actively work to promote scientific and culture diversity. And the dedication and hard work pays off. For example, someone like me, who studies paleobiogeography of marine life from 400 million years ago feels at home with colleagues studying geographic structure of genetic variation in modern tree species.

From my perspective, two aspects of this year’s IBS conference particularly struck me: the increasing inclusion of a deep time perspective and fossil data and increasing recognition and participation of women in biogeography.

Each of the symposia featured at least one talk involving paleodata. The “Modeling large-scale ecological and evolutionary dynamics” symposium featured paleo data in nearly every talk and showcased a wide range of paleo data from historical records to the Pleistocene. Contributed sessions, posters, and mini-talks also prominently focused on the relevance of paleodata, including analyses that employed Paleozoic data to address questions relevant to modern biodiversity concerns (abstract book here).

Geologic and paleontological data, particularly the breakup of Pangaea and the waxing and waning of the Pleistocene ice sheets, have long been incorporated in biogeographic analyses. What was exciting about this meeting is the fact that paleodata beyond those two cases are being employed and being employed broadly within the field in many different contexts ranging from species distribution models, quantifying community functioning and species richness processes, and calibrating projections of biotic impacts of future climate changes.

Rising above this pervasive paleontological mist was the fact that the winners of the MacArthur & Wilson and the Alfred Russell Wallace Awards, Jessica Blois and Margaret Davis, are paleobiogeographers, which further underscores the significance that the field ascribes to research emphasizing fossil data.

Both awardees are also women, which leads to my second point. This meeting celebrated the accomplishments of outstanding women in biogeography, like Jessica and Margaret, and at the same time acknowledged and celebrated the additional hurdles and barriers that were (and still are) faced by women in science. Steve Jackson, in his citation of Margaret Davis, provided a wonderful discussion that contextualized some of the hurdles that Margaret faced as the sole women in pollen analysis, the significance of her indomitable spirit, and the inspiration she has provided to others.

Today, women are not usually alone in our departments or subdisciplines, but we and members of other underrepresented groups still face obstacles, additional requests on our time as token representatives, and implicit bias in reviews and in other contexts. But meetings like IBS, where a group of women met at 7:30 am over coffee to discuss shared issues and plan a support group and where we have lunch mentoring groups that discuss early career issues, provide clear and positive steps forward.

Women have been leaders in biogeography for many years, as evidenced by the Margaret Davis’s well deserved Wallace award, and women are poised to continue leading and innovating, as evidenced by female students winning 3 of 5 poster awards.

I ended the conference by raising my glass with a group of a dozen female paleobiogeographers. For me it was a fitting end to a conference that celebrated diversity of science, of timescales, and of individuals.



Geological Society of America Reflections

It is difficult to describe this year’s GSA meeting in Denver.  Overall, it was a great meeting, full of the usual pride in my students’ accomplishments, joy of reuniting with colleagues including many Stigall Lab alumni, nervousness about my own talks, and thrill of learning about the newest developments in the science of paleontology.  But I will always remember this meeting for the Paleontological Society banquet.


The Stigall lab was busy presenting cutting-edge science on a wide variety of topics. Current MS students Ranjeev Epa and Nilmani Perera gave excellent poster presentations about Oligocene freshwater gastropods from Tanzania and Pennsylvanian marine community ecology of Ohio, respectively.  Recent alumnus Sarah Trubovitz gave a talk about her MS work on Ordovician brachiopod paleoecology, and I spoke about the importance of alternating dispersal and vicariance regimes in biodiversity accumulation.

ranjeev nilmani
We had a great Stig*Allstars (=name my alumni gave themselves) dinner to kick off the meeting.  Getting together with this talented group of former students turned colleagues is always a highlight.  They are doing such amazing work as PhD students and early career scientists. I’m so very proud of them and excited to see where their careers will go.

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This year’s GSA, however, was really special as I was awarded the Charles Schuchert Award for Excellence and Promise in Paleontology from the Paleontological Society.  This was the 45th time the Schuchert Award has been presented.  It was only the 5th time that a woman received the award, and the first time a woman with children was the recipient.  After receiving the award from the Paleontological Society president, Steven Holland, I was honored to be able to give a short acceptance speech to the nearly 400 paleontologists gathered at our annual banquet.  I focused my remarks on the challenges to women and minorities in paleontology alongside the standard series of thank you’s.  This the first time that increasing participation has been addressed specifically in an award speech, and I felt both very compelled and nervous about making these comments.  I am very glad that I did!  Continuing to engage in conversations about women and minority challenges are very important for continued progress in our (or any) discipline.

Stigall Schuchert Speech schuchert

The full text of my speech is below, and it will eventually be published in the Journal of Paleontology.

For the Charles Schuchert Award, 25 September 2016

Thank you, Bruce, for your generous words. I deeply thank the Paleontological Society for recognizing me with this honor. I truly am very grateful and humbled to be selected as the 2016 Schuchert Award recipient. As a brachiopod worker from Cincinnati, the Charles Schuchert award holds special significance to me. I am also deeply honored to now be included among the prestigious set of 44 prior awardees. It is particularly gratifying as I am only the fifth woman to receive this award, and first woman who was a mother at the time of the award.

I am extremely thankful to be a paleontologist today. Paleontology is becoming an ever more inclusive and collaborative science. As I look out from this podium, I see a wonderful diversity of paleontologists –diversity of scientific approaches, diversity of focal taxa, diversity of gender, diversity of ethnicities and nationalities. Our diversity makes our discipline stronger.

However, barriers to full and equitable participation in science for women and minorities remain considerable. Implicit bias, higher expectations, under recognition, harassment, and isolation remain substantial concerns. As a society and as individuals, we are taking positive steps to increase dialog, foster support groups, promote awareness, and tackle our own inherent biases. Like all women who continue in science, I have overcome such challenges in my career, but tonight I stand here excited and optimistic that the future of our discipline will be one of ever increasing inclusion.

I would not be here tonight without the support of my family, colleagues, and friends, and I’d like to take the rest of my time to recognize some of them. First I must thank my parents. As teachers, they have been steadfast in their support of my love for learning, rocks, and fossils. When I was a child, they took me to national parks in 47 states, they accompanied me to rock and mineral shows, gave me a copy of a 1962 Golden Guide to Fossils, and allowed me to disappear into the nearby stream to hunt fossils for hours at a time. Those early experiences surrounded by loving support gave me the confidence to truly pursue my goals and dreams.

As an undergraduate at the Ohio State University, I had the amazing good fortune to learn morphology and systematics (with a Swedish accent) from Stig Bergström who taught me the importance of deeply understanding a clade and of adopting promising new approaches during one’s career. Loren Babcock instilled in me a sense of boundless enthusiasm for prehistoric creatures. And Bill Ausich taught me how to be an excellent scientific citizen, the importance of loving your clade, and above all pursing excellence in science. I am so thankful for the enduring support of Bill and Stig, which has been instrumental in my development as a scientist.

I graduated from OSU with a career goal to resolve early arthropod phylogeny–but quickly reoriented my research interests to studying the complex impacts of biogeography and ecological change on macroevolutionary patterns. In graduate school at the University of Kansas, I worked on phyllocarid crustacean phylogenetics of my master’s thesis, but rapid realized the limitations of working on uncommon fossils for my research agenda. So I shifted my focal taxon to rhynchonelliform brachiopods, and I haven’t look back. (Although I greatly enjoy working with conchostracans from time to time) Brachiopods are truly awesome.

Throughout graduate school, Bruce Lieberman was amazing mentor in every dimension of the word. He taught me how to construct a project, how to succeed in publications, and the importance of perseverance. Even beyond graduate school, Bruce’s promotion of my career has been immeasurable, and I thank him very deeply.

In my twelve years at Ohio University, I have been privileged to work with very supportive colleagues in our Geological Sciences department, an immensely talented set of paleontologists sprinkled across campus, and fantastic collaborators in the Patton College of Education. Working in a department with the master’s as our terminal degree offering, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working very closely with each of my graduate students. My greatest scientific joy has been mentoring and encouraging my students—now numbering 13—as they develop from scientific novices to confident, accomplished scientists conducting research publishable in top journals. I am very proud of them, and certainly wouldn’t be standing here before you tonight without this exceptional group of students turned collaborators, many of whom are here to support me tonight.

Although I did not know many women paleontologist as a student, I have benefitted greatly from knowing and learning from many amazing women as a professional. In particular Margaret Fraiser, Sandy Carlson, Brenda Hunda, Lisa Park Boush, Dena Smith, and Peg Yaccobucci have been co-conspirators and role models in various ways. I thank the women who trailblazed in the cohorts ahead of mine, and I am greatly inspired by the women in the junior cohorts behind me.

I also thank my colleagues outside of this room. My approach to science has been considerably broadened and enriched by collaborations with modern biogeographers and ecologists as well my international colleagues with whom I’ve studied fossils on all seven continents.

Finally, and most importantly, I must thank my husband, Dan Hembree, who has been my partner in this journey since our first day of graduate school at Kansas. He has always believed in me, even when I did not. His friendship, laughter, encouragement, and discussions have made my science and my life so much richer, and I can’t imagine either without out him. Lastly, our children Max and Josie make everything awesome. It has been invigorating to re-explore the wonders of fossils through their young eyes.

Thank you again, to the members and Council of Paleontological Society for this recognition. I will strive to fulfill the promise inherent in this award and serve our community well in the years to come.

IGCP 653 Kickoff meeting recap

IGCP 653 Kickoff meeting recap
IGCP 653 Field trip group photo

Our new IGCP Project 653: Onset of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event formally kicked off with our opening meeting at Durham University in England at the end of September.  It was a really fantastic event, a small meeting with lots of time for lively discussion of topics such as “Just what is the GOBE?” and “When did it start?” and “How do environmental changes, such a decreased sea temperature, actually cause the process of speciation to occur?” and “Is the Dariwilian increase simply a brachiopod pattern or it is more general?”  I am excited to explore these topics and more with my colleagues as the project progresses.

My formal write-up and image gallery are over on the IGCP 653 website here.

Durham meeting in photos | IGCP 653

The opening meeting of IGCP 653: Onset of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event held September 25- October 1st at Durham University. Dubbed “Ordovician by the Lakes” due to the proximity of the conference room to Van Mildert College lake and the field excursion to the English Lake District, participants certainly had plenty of water to contemplate both from the meeting setting and the Ordovician seas.


Ordovician meets the Anthropocene @ ESA

Ordovician meets the Anthropocene @ ESA

IMG_5997For my final adventure of the summer, I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to present an invited talk about lessons learned from invasive species in the fossil record at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting.  I was very honored to be part of an exciting symposium titled: “Ecological novelty in the Anthropocene: Are novel communities novel ecosystems?” convened by Jacquelyn Gill and Alejo Ordonez.

The organizers did a wonderful job of arranging a series of presenters who explored the issue of ecosystem novelty from multiple perspectives including conceptually, experimentally, and policy implications.  My talk (abstract here) provided the deep time context and an exploration of what does novel mean within a non-human context.

As a scientist who studies the deep history of life (~450  million years ago), I am always very cognizant of the different lenses with which we can study and discuss patterns at varying temporal scales.  One of the key concepts that was emphasized, particularly in the panel discussion at the end of the session, was that novelty is continuously being produced.  Earth does not now, and never has, existed in a steady state for extended temporal intervals.  So it is extremely important to consider consequences and definitions when attempting to generate a conservation plan.  What is it that you are attempting to conserve?  Is it a species?  Is it ecosystem services? It is energy flow and functioning?  These are incredibly important questions that must be answered by policy makers.  They are also the types of issues that the fossil record can help to provide insight into as well.
In addition to the formal session, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the other speakers over meals and down time.  I made some new colleagues with potential new collaborations, and learned quite a bit about various areas of ecology that will help me to consider my paleontological questions with new eyes and insights.  This was my first time to an ESA meeting, and I hope it will not be my last.IMG_6011

Side notes: Poolside hammocks and bar at the ESA hotel were a nice touch! And the place was crawling with Magicarp and Psyduck (which I dutifully captured for my kids, right for my kids).


Paleozoic geology of the Welsh Basin: IGCP 591 Conference Field Trip

Paleozoic geology of the Welsh Basin: IGCP 591 Conference Field Trip
Silurian outcrops

Thanks to a successful grant proposal to the College of Arts and Sciences Professional Development Fund (note: it’s always good to write proposals internal funding opportunities!), I was able to join the post-conference field trip to examine the Paleozoic evolution of the Welsh basin.  The outcrops in Wales are famous for both their interesting geology and historical significance.  The Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian systems were each named for Wales: Cambria was the Roman name for Wales, and the Ordovices and Silures were Welsh tribes.

During the trip, our fantastic field trip leader, Mark Williams (University of Leicester), developed the story of the Welsh basin from inception as part of the microcontinent Avalonia to the collision of Avalonia and Baltica at the end of the Ordovician and then the final collision with Laurentia during the Acadian Orogeny (learn about Welsh Geology here).

Our itinerary took us to southern Wales to sites around St. Davids, Marloes Peninsula, and Freshwater West as well as to a few locations in central Wales near New Quay.  We examined mostly Cambrian through Devonian strata, with some bonus late Pre-Cambrian volcanics.  We visited sites mapped by Murchinson, localities that contributed to the development of the classic Benthic brachiopod assemblages, well-studied exposures of the Old Red Sandstone, and newly recorded debris flows related to Ordovician glacial lowstands.  Along the way, we were presented with a broad array of depositional environments, tectonic influences, and fossils (mostly trace fossils).

Overall it was a tremendous learning experience.  I was impressed by the diversity of geology that could be observed in a small area—it’s definitely not the simple flat-lying rocks of the North American midcontinent!  Visiting classic locations located in dramatic (or romantic as our leader liked to say) coastal scenery was thrilling.  The discussions with my international colleagues (representing eight countries) in the field, in the car, and at meals were stimulating and very productive.  I was able to meet and get to know quite a few new (to me) geologists with similar interests.  Observing the same rocks and comparing interpretations is a rapid way to develop new friendships and potential collaborations.  I am extremely glad that I was able to participate in this trip.  There were not very many brachiopods, but the rest of the experience made that minor hardship very insignificant.


A brief travelogue with photos and comments:

Day 1: We drove from Ghent, Belgium to Piselli Hills, Wales.  This was a LONG travel day (7:00am to 6:30pm in a minibus).  But we took the ferry across the English Channel saw the fantastic White Cliffs of Dover (and also the correlative White Nose near Calais).  Yay Cretaceous chalk!  The geology was pretty boring after that (just very minor rolling hills with no outcrops) until we reached Wales.  Wales is extremely complex geologically, so topography and outcrops became much more intriguing.  We also experienced the expected misty rain of Wales upon arrival.

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Day 2: We spent the morning on Pwell Deri Bay near Dinas Mawr examining Ordovician bimodal volcanics and graptolitic shales (although no one has seen a graptolite here in decades!) with some very cool pillow basalts at the base of the sequence. We were kept company by fantastic scenery, many shore birds, and a curious seal. Over lunch break, we explored St. Davids Cathedral, the location of the longest continuous Christian worship in Britian.  The Norman cathedral was strategically located in a valley so the Vikings wouldn’t notice it and destroy it as they did the two prior cathedrals.  Interesting intersection of geology and anthropology.  We spent the afternoon at Porth Maen Melyn examining the shallow marine succession of Cambrian strata.  On our way back to the hotel, we visited a Neolithic Burial Chamber dating to around the same time (and made of the same rocks) as Stonehenge.  In fact, the rocks of Stonehenge were quarried from the Ordovician intrusive suite near our hotel, and then transported a long way over water to the Salisbury plains.

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Day 3: Today focused on the Silurian of the Marloes Peninsula.  The section is again shallow water through continental deposits that indicate the docking of Avalonia with Laurentia and associated basin inversion.  This is a fun area for historical reasons, as Murchinson also mapped this coast.  Although one formation was named “Coraliferous”, I was underwhelmed by the fossils.  Sadly, these poor rocks have been faulted and subjected to low grade metamorphism, so while there are nice layers of brachiopods, they are very difficult to access.  I felt very lucky to normally work on rocks like we have in Ohio.   The continental deposits, “Old Red Sandstone”–now the Red Cliff Formation, however, were spectacular!

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Day 4: We continued exploring the continental deposits of the Welsh basin margin at Freshwater West.  As all of our exposures are coastal and the tidal range is immense!, we couldn’t begin geology until after lunch.  So we made a historical excursion to Pembroke Castle in the morning.  The castle was impressive and geologically situated (aren’t they all) on a limestone cliff, atop a cave, in fact.  Our tour guide enthusiastically shared stories of the castle’s history and substantial importance (although perhaps overstated) in Engligh and world! history.   Fun fact: because the 800 years old castle is made of limestone, little stalactites grow from the ceiling.  After lunch, we headed back to the beach to explore more of the Old Red Sandstone and the Silurian to Devonian contact.  Again, the paleosols and continental trace fossils (both root structures and burrows) were spectacular!  The beach was also incredibly pleasant to walk along.  It was interesting for me to compare the intertidal communities of Britian vs. those I know better from the Bahamas.

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Day 5: We left the basin edge and went deep into the basin center (near New Quay) to investigate Ordovician to Silurian deep water deposits.  We were impressed by the thickness of basinal deposits (several kilometers) vs. the relative thin marginal succession of the past few days (a few 100 meters).  The basinal deposits included turbidites and debris flows in varying amounts.  In some places, dramatic channel cuts were obvious, but at other sites quiet water trace fossils (like Nereites) were dominant.  Certainly an interesting environment!

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Day 6: We began our LONG drive back to Ghent.  Most of the field party departed from Heathrow, but I traveled back to Belgium with the field trip leaders and van drivers.  We left our hotel and 8am, and we arrived in Ghent at 10:30.  It was a long day.  But the Ghent Festival was happening, so Thijs Vandenbrouke (who organized the conference and field trip), Mark Williams, and I headed back to the medieval town center for one last dinner and beers.  A great end to great trip.

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Link to full Belgium/Wales Album

IGCP 591 meeting wrap up

IGCP 591: The Early and Middle Paleozoic Revolution formally ended on a high note. The Ghent meeting, expertly organized by Thijs Vandenbroucke, showcased exciting advances and new techniques as well summarized the status of more than 115 research projects as poster or oral presentations featuring 148 meeting attendees and their coauthors. The theme for this meeting was “modeling” defined broadly, and keynote speakers presented about oceanographic modeling, generating global climate models, astrochonrology, statistically analyzing models of biodiversity change, and geochemical models. This was a wonderful way to conclude the six year project—showcasing both where we have come and what we have learned over the project while simultaneously provide a clear and inspiring agenda for continuing the work of this group beyond the formal end of the project.

The conference was well organized to facilitate discussion among attendees while taking advantage of historic settings to provide a backdrop of Flemish culture. Our scientific sessions, coffee breaks (coffee is very important!), and lunches were held in a former medieval Dominican monastery.
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The opening reception was held in the Castle of Counts, which dates to 1180. We enjoyed the Ghent Jazz Festival. We had a conference dinner of traditional Belgian dishes.

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These all-conference social events are really crucial to fostering scientific discussions, brainstorming new collaborative projects, and strengthening international ties within the scientific community. At each events, I had the opportunity to meet new scientists (I require myself to have a conversation with at least one new colleague per day) and engage in high-level scientific discourse with colleagues that I may see only once a year or less. My students (ok, they are recent alumni) had the opportunities to network broadly and develop their own scientific communities.

My research group gave three presentations this year, one each by myself, Adriane Lam, and Sarah Trubovitz focusing on Middle to Late Ordovician diversity and dispersal patterns. Feedback from colleagues afterwards was very positive and provided new ideas to consider for future work.

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I will very much miss meeting with this broad Paleozoic community, but I am excited about continuing and building on many aspects of many of these collaborations in the new project which I am co-leading, IGCP 653: The Onset of the Early Ordovician Biodiversification Event. I hope to welcome many of my colleagues to Ohio in summer 2018 for a stimulating conference there.

Link to full Belgium/Wales Album

IGCP 591 Ghent meeting anticipation plus parenting

IGCP 591 Ghent meeting anticipation plus parenting

I am very excited to be able to participate in this international conference. I am looking forward to the usual conference items: invigorating new science, meeting up with friends and colleagues, intense scientific discussion and the potential for new projects and ideas to emerge. For the past five years, I have participated in summer meetings of the IGCP 591 in Cincinnati, Sweden, Estonia, Virginia (also the 10th ISOS meeting), and now Belgium. Joining this group began partly by happenstance, when I was sent a personal email about the Cincinnati meeting. It was only three hours away, so I said “Of course I should participate! I won’t be able to attend the field trips because my daughter is still a baby, but I can be away for one night right now”, but joining this group has been tremendously impactful for my career. So I’d like to write a little bit about the importance and significance of international collaboration and participation in this post.

As you may or may not know, I am very shy and slow to feel comfortable or make friends with new people. It took me the better part of a decade to build a large enough group of friends and colleagues at GSA to feel really at ease in the American paleontological community. There are many times that I still retreat instead of engaging with paleontologists that I have known for years, and I wonder later if my instinct to hide when awkward or scared comes across as coldness or rudeness on my part.

The IGCP program, however, promotes meetings that are much more personal than GSA, with the ability to interact with colleagues in an inviting setting. I found that the group in attendance at the Cincinnati meeting (only about 40 scientists) was so welcoming and really wonderful, that I really looked forward to joining the Lund meeting the next year. That trend has continued with subsequent meetings, and now I count many of my international colleagues within my close group. In fact, I am now co-leading IGCP 653, which partially follows up on IGCP 591, and includes many of the same scientists.

What is much more interesting than my personal journey, really, is the diversity of the participants of the IGCP projects. I love that these focused meetings bring together scientists that integrate a wide variety of scientific perspectives including biostratigraphy, taxonomy, sedimentology, paleoecology, stratigraphy, climate models, oceanography, and more. There is typically only one session at a time, so all attendees are able to attend talks that align not only with their specific interests, but also their tangential interests, which provides the opportunity to learn new things that I may not have learned had I focused on only on sessions aligned with specific interests. The ability to interact with and learn from people with diverse perspectives is incredibly enriching and productive. This also differs substantially from my typical GSA experience where it is more difficult to attend diverse sessions.

I am also always uplifted by the significance that primary field and specimen-based research is given at these meetings. Certainly databases and derivative or synthetic analyses are also presented and are important, but I find true joy in learning about data from a specific set of rocks and specimens. Remembering that specimens and outcrops are the core data of our field is very important.

Each IGCP or ISOS meeting I attend, I return optimistic, invigorated, and ready to tackle the Ordovician world with a broader perspective. So I am very much looking forward to these next few days in Ghent. The organizers have assembled a really wonderful schedule. I hope that the presentations given my myself and my students/alumni are well received. I am excited to learn new things and discuss shared and divergent ideas with my international colleagues.


Bonus point about being a mother of young children who travels frequently:

I recently purchased a globe (that talks and play national anthems, so fun!) for our daughter’s 5th birthday. She was excited to examine where I was going on this trip. She asked good questions like: How many people live in Belgium? Why is it so little (in comparison to neighboring France and Germany)?

It was really nice talking to my children on the phone from the plane before I took off. Until now, I have typically avoided talking with them on the phone as they haven’t figured out how to effectively talk on the phone and the reminder of my absence makes them sad afterwards. Today seemed different. Our seven-year-old son started to have a real conversation clearly on the phone, and our daughter was also doing quite well. She even asked a question about what I had done during my day. I really miss being with my family.

I look forward to taking them on future trips with me as they get older and more permissive of travel that doesn’t directly align with their personal objectives. A wonderful part of my work is being able to meet and work with people from many countries and cultures. My husband (also a globe-trotting paleontologist) and I hope to be able to share that with our children so that they grow up to be excellent global citizens.

Stockholm Paradigm Workshop

by Alycia Stigall

In early March, I participated in a workshop at the Tovetorp Research Center near Stockholm, Sweden focused on the “Changing ranges in a changing world.”  The workshop brought together an international group of scientists with expertise in parasitology, insect ecology, and biogeography to discuss the ways in which species shift their geographic and host ranges and the implications of these expansions for diversification and emerging infectious diseases (EIDs).  I learned a lot, met outstanding new colleagues, and reconnected with others during the workshop.  Several important breakthroughs occurred, so stay tuned for upcoming publications on the “Stockholm Paradigm.”

Tovetorp Group Photo