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Alycia Stigall

5th International Palaeontological Conference = Family trip to Europe!

by Alycia Stigall

The main meeting for me this summer was the International Paleontological Conference in Paris, from July 8-12th.  Dan and I typically attend the IPC meetings (prior conferences included IPC3 in London in 2010 and IPC4 in Mendoza, Argentina in 2014).  These are really broad international conferences with the potential to meet with international colleagues that we don’t see at the Annual GSA meetings.

Due to the timing of this year’s meeting, we decided to take our kids for their first European adventure.  So spent a week in Paris to attend the conference and explore then a week in the Swiss Alps. It was a really fantastic plan!  A very nice mix of European capitals and amazing nature.  The kids can’t wait to go back!

Here is a write up I did for Ohio University:

OHIO Paleontologists Stigall, Hembree Present in Paris – Ohio University | College of Arts & Sciences

Ohio University paleontologists Drs. Alycia Stigall and Daniel Hembree, both professors of Geological Sciences, presented at the 5th International Paleontological Congress in Paris (IPC5), France in July. The IPC5 is the largest gathering of professional paleontologists globally, and this meeting included more than 1,000 participants from around the world. All …

And some of my favorite photos:

IGCP 653 Synopsis and Photos

Here is my longer, formal report about all the exciting things that happened as part of the IGCP 653 meeting.

Annual meeting synopsis and photos | IGCP 653

The main Annual Meeting of the IGCP 653, titled “Trekking Across the GOBE (Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event): From the Cambrian through the Katian”, was a great success. The main meeting on the Ohio University campus, brought together a group of 60 scientists from eight nations. Read the Ohio University writeup here.

 

IGCP 653 Annual Conference

In my role as co-leader of the IGCP 653 project, I have a variety of jobs.  One is the social media/website/communications/membership director for the project.  Another is to convene occasional symposia at meetings, like this one that I co-led with Rebecca Freeman at 2017 Annual GSA meeting in Denver.  The most significant role so far, however, has been to organize the IGCP 653 Annual Meeting at my home institution, Ohio University.

Planning an international conference is a complex endeavor, and I spent substantial amount of the 2017-2108 academic year planning everything from the meeting website, meeting rooms, banquets, housing, arranging catering, acquiring grant support, printing name tags, producing the abstract volume, developing shuttle schedules to move participants from the Columbus airport to Athens, identifying volunteers to run field excursions, and then helping them with logistics, plus managing the finances of the entire system.  Needless to say, it was a tremendous effort, and the support of my co-organizers (especially Dan Hembree!) and the students workers during the meeting week was critical to success.

Overall, the meeting went very well.  We welcomed over 60 scientists from 8 countries to Athens.  The pre-conference excursion to the late Cambrian through Middle Ordovician strata of Great Basin of Utah and Nevada was spectacular, and the mid- and post-conference excursions to Kentucky were outstanding.  Everyone went home with plenty of brachiopods–and some other fossils, perhaps–and a greatly improved understanding of the stratigraphy, geochemistry, paleontology, and other facets of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

It was extremely rewarding to welcome my colleagues to campus after months of planning.  I learned a great deal in the process and was able to get to know some amazing people much better than I otherwise would have if it wasn’t my meeting.  However, I will also be very pleased to be an attendee and not an organizer for the foreseeable future.

Geological Sciences Hosts International Conference on Campus – Ohio University | College of Arts & Sciences

Ohio University hosted the Third Annual Meeting of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) 653 in June. This conference, titled “Trekking Across the GOBE (Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event): From the Cambrian through the Katian” brought together a group of 60 scientists from eight nations. Participants engaged in three days of scientific …

 

 

Women in Science Panel

by Alycia Stigall

I recently participated in a panel for a Women in Science class (PBIO 2170) on campus.  The students had very well considered questions, and the answers of the other panelists were very illuminating as well.

Women in Science Share Research Experiences, Career Insights – Ohio University | College of Arts & Sciences

A panel of Ohio University researchers made their love for science, math and engineering clear as they shared their scientific expertise and career insights with a Women in Science class on April 12. The class is made up of freshmen through seniors representing colleges across Ohio University. In groups composed …

 

Stigall profiled in FOSSIL Project Newsletter

I was recently interviewed for the FOSSIL Project Spring Newsletter.  The conversation was largely focused on how I became a paleontologist, my favorite things about paleontology, my passion for outreach and education, and advice for young people considering a career in science.

You can read the online version (which looks nicer) at this link: https://www.myfossil.org/featured-professional-alycia-stigall/

A PDF version is available here

 

 

Two new publications on the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event

Hot off the presses!  

The Stigall Lab has two new articles published in the Lethaia special issue “Contextualizing the Great Ordovician Biodiversificaiton Event”. This special issue derives from the IGCP 653 opening meeting in Durham in October 2016, and includes papers on many aspects of the GOBE and related topics.  You can access the entire issue online here.

Our lab has two contributions:

Stigall, A.L. 2018. How is biodiversity produced? Examining speciation processes during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. Lethaia, 51 (2), 165-172. https://doi.org/10.1111/let.12232.

–In this paper, I make the case that it is critical to consider biological aspects of speciation, not only aggregate diversity counts, when seeking the causes of diversification events, such as the GOBE.

Trubovitz, S., & Stigall, A.L. 2018. Ecological revolution of Oklahoma’s rhynchonelliform brachiopod fauna during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. Lethaia, 51(2), 277-285. https://doi.org/10.1111/let.12233.

–This is the second half of Sarah Trubovitz MS thesis, which examines community structure and body size in brachiopod communities across the GOBE in the Simpson Group of Oklahoma.

IGCP 653 Field excursion and workshop on the Fezouata Formation

by Alycia Stigall
IGCP 653 Field excursion and workshop on the Fezouata Formation

I was very fortunate to attend the IGCP Project 653  outstanding workshop and field excursion in Marrakech and Zagora region of Morocco from February 12-16, 2018.

This was a fantastic trip!  Morocco is a fantastic country with amazing geology and really wonderful people.  The Fezouata outcrops were really tremendous, and I was able to collect some specimens for my teaching collection as well.

Click here to read my write up and visit photo galleries that I posted as the media czar for the IGCP project. A few bonus photos are below.

Bayesian estimation of Ordovician dispersal pathways

 

Today was an exciting day for the lab.  The paper on Ordovician dispersal pathways led by Adriane Lam which incorporates her primary MS thesis research came out. This paper is exciting for several reasons.  First, it’s always great when a student gets their research published! Second, this is the first use of bayesian biogeographic modeling with Paleozoic taxa.  Third, this project represents an evolution beyond a MS thesis project, through collaboration and improvements with additional authors at other institutions, namely Nick Matzke.  I am really so thrilled with how this paper came out.  It is a landmark is methods and has important implications for understanding Ordovician biogeography.  The only downside…Adriane titled it “Dispersal in the Ordovician” as  play on “Pirates of the Carribean” so I can’t get the Pirates theme song out of my head….

Lam, A.R., Stigall, A.L, Matzke, N.J. 2018. Dispersal in the Ordovician: Speciation patterns and paleobiogeographic analyses of brachiopods and trilobites. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 489: 147-165. Online

Key Points:

  • Bayesian and ML methods were successfully implemented with Ordovician taxa.
  • Founder event speciation was important in the evolution of Paleozoic taxa.
  • Taxa with different larval strategies responded similarly to climate shifts.
  • Ocean currents were key influences on invertebrate dispersal patterns.
  • Results indicate most evolution within clades occurred during climate shifts.

 

Science—what am I up to anyway?

Science—what am I up to anyway?

It’s occurred to me that I have been writing quite a bit about broadening participation in science lately and have not actually talked much about what science I have been up to. So here is a brief update about recent developments on that front.

At the IGCP 653 meeting in Yichang, China, I presented new research on some very interesting and rare fossils from the lower part of the Cincinnatian Series. Over the past few years, I have been very fortunate to receive a series of rare fossils collected by some of the fantastic amateur paleontologists of the Dry Dredgers in Cincinnati, Ohio. In particular, Ron Fine, has collected some intriguing brachiopods from the lower Cincinnatian Kope Formation (Edenian Regional Stage) that look like they belong to lineages otherwise only known as invasive taxa from the upper Cincinnatian (Richmondian Regional Stage). These pre-Richmondian “invaders” comprise an interesting set of species that shed light on invasion dynamics in the fossil record.

At Yichang, I argued that interbasinal species invasions (or immigrations) could be considered in a hierarchical context, with ranks including ephemeral invasion, incursion epibole, and biotic immigration events. I am currently expanding this invasion hierarchy into a full article for Annual Reviews in Ecology and Evolutionary Systematics. (AREES), so I won’t elaborate here, but I think this is a really exciting and potentially transformative concept about the assembly of diversity through time.

At the GSA meeting in Seattle, I am presenting research related speciation mechanisms and how we can move from a basic correlation of diversity with Earth systems events to a causal mechanism for increasing diversity based on the process of speciation. Much of the arguments for this talk are in press already within my Lethaia paper (here).

So…for the near term, these are the scientific questions that I am investigating and the questions that keep me up at night: how do we really resolve speciation processes in the fossil record, how can we use that information to understand diversification during the Ordovician Radiation/Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, and how do invasions (of varying intensities) contribute to diversity patterns of life through time?*

*obviously these questions are best addressed with data about articulated brachiopods from the Ordovician Period

IGCP 653: Yichang Reflections

IGCP 653: Yichang Reflections

I’m currently on a 12 hour flight from Shanghai to Chicago as part of my 3 flight (and 29 hour) itinerary home from the 2nd Annual IGCP 653 meeting in Yichang, China. I can say, unreservedly, that this was a fantastic meeting!

Attendees included more than 60 delegates from 10 nations. The fact that most attendees were Chinese—and I am not—provided a wonderful opportunity for me to meet many new and upcoming scientists—both students and early career professionals that I have not previously had the opportunity to interact with. I was so impressed by the quality of their science and their ability to communicate at a high level on an international stage. What a talented group of young scientists! I am incredibly encouraged and inspired by them.

Of course, I was also able to reunite with (and meet new) colleagues from Europe, Africa, and North America as well. Truly this meeting met the spirit of UNESCO, our funding agency for the IGCP project, in terms of bridging international divides and fostering common interests and collaborations.

At this conference, provocative scientific ideas were espoused—generating substantial discussion, important geologic sections were visited (including the GSSPs for both the Hirnantian and Dapingian stages!), and cultural differences were both explored and celebrated. It’s exciting both how much we have learned about the Great Ordovician Biodiverisfication Event in terms of ocean chemistry, oxygenation patterns, diversity patterns of metazoans and also how much we have to learn—such as when did this event start and end, whether such things can be clearly defined, and what does that mean for the Earth system?

Speaking for myself, my favorite parts were probably the fact that we had an international assemblage of brachiopod workers to talk with (it’s great-and rare to be among people that love my favorite fossils as much as I do!) and that there were so many dynamic young female researchers in the group.

As anyone who is relatively close to me knows, I am very concerned with increasing participation in science on both a national and international level. I was so encouraged to see so many young and dynamic female scientists! Female students earned awards for both poster and oral presentations. This is pretty groundbreaking.

To place this in context, I had a conversation with a colleague, who I generally admire very much as a scientist, in which he said to me one evening {I’m paraphrasing} “You know, we always try to hire men instead of women for permanent jobs. You can’t say that in open meetings, but in secret meetings, we always say this.” I asked why this was the case and was told that it could be problematic for women to both be in charge of or be the majority of a field team to remote regions. I pushed back on this concept (I certainly was told the similar things as a grad student), and my friend said “Well, most women are not like you. They are not assertive and independent.” On one level, I was glad that my colleague appreciated that some women could be leaders, but it also made clear to me that there are many countries where women still need to fight hard to be considered scientific equals. I am not special. Female scientists need the chance to grow and shine and deserve the same support as our male colleagues.

The male student at our table noted that the female students work much harder and achieve higher levels of excellence than the male students. He sees the value in this contemporaries, and I am heartened that over time this view will win out…but I’d much rather we achieve equity in the near term and not wait 20 years and lose out on the great science these young women could have done by excluding them.

I hope that my work in the international community can help to foster a sense of empowerment for female (and other underrepresented) scientists in both the USA and other nations. At this meeting, I was assertive. I capitalized on my leadership as a co-chair of IGCP 653 role to be present, to chair sessions, to judge and present awards, to invite everyone to Athens, Ohio in 2018, and I hope that seeing one woman do that in a sea dominated by male leadership can help to inspire the fantastic and talented women that I met at this meeting to be assertive and empowered in their own scientific lives.