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Alycia Stigall

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.

Ohio University story about the Schuchert Award

by Alycia Stigall

Stigall Honored with Prestigious ‘Best Paleontologist under 40 Years of Age’ Award – Ohio University | College of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Alycia Stigall, Professor of Geological Sciences, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society. This prestigious award, known colloquially as the “Best paleontologist under 40 years of age,” is presented annually by the Paleontological Society, an international professional society devoting to …


Stigall to recieve Charles Schuchert Award

by Alycia Stigall

I am extremely honored to be selected as the recipient of the 2016 Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society. This prestigious award is given to a paleontologist under the age of 40 who’s early career reflects excellence and promise in the science of paleontology, and thus reflects the objectives and standards of the Paleontological Society.

The award is named for Charles Schuchert, an Cincinnati-born paleontologist whose career emphasized using Paleozoic brachiopods as tools to understand large scale patterns in Earth’s history.  I have always greatly admired Schuchert as a scientist, and I am very grateful to receive this award from my home society reflecting my impact on the field of paleontology.

It is a high honor to be included among this list of past recipients.


Early summer = field reconnaissance

Early summer = field reconnaissance
Springtime flowers atop the 550 outcrop

The best part of Spring semester ending is the flexibility of schedule to head into the field!  Relatedly, Nilmani and I have spent several days scouting field sites for her MS thesis examining paleoecology of the Ames Limestone.  The Ames is an extremely well-known marker bed throughout the Appalachian Basin and has been the subject of many petrological, faunal, and ecological analyses over the years.  Nilmani’s project will add to this body of knowledge by examining how community structure varies at multiple spatial scales.

Armed with a productive year of preliminary analyses and background study, Nilmani is ready to tackle her main research this summer.  Step 1 is identifying outcrops.  We’ve visited over a dozed previously described locations throughout Athens, Hocking, Morgan, Noble, Muskingum Counties.  Some sites are extremely promising for her thesis work.  Others, not so much.

Overall, we’ve had a lot of fun exploring the rocks, fossils, wildflowers, wildlife, and general region of SE Ohio.  And as always, perhaps my favorite parts of “spring training” is having solo time in the car and field to really get to know my students.

Paleontological Society Grant Sucess

Both Ranjeev and Nilmani were awarded Student Research Awards from the Paleontological Society.  Fittingly, Nilmani’s research of Carboniferous paleoecology will be supported by the N. Gary Lane award, while Ranjeev received the Robert J. Stanton and James R. Dodd Award for his Cenozoic research.


Sarah masters her final defense!

by Alycia Stigall
Sarah's first brachiopod find

Sarah’s first brachiopod find

Sarah impressed both the audience and her committee with her expert defense of her groundbreaking research uncovering the signal of GOBE diversification within articulated brachiopod communities of the American midwest.  Congratulations, Sarah! You’ve come a long way from finding your first brachiopod in Oklahoma!

I’m excited to see what new scientific adventures are in store for you as you pursue your PhD at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In other news, Sarah also presented her thesis results at the Annual Ohio Academy of Science meeting and the Ohio University Student Expo during the past week, where she was awarded first place in geosciences.  If you missed these exciting presentations, be sure to catch Sarah’s talk at the upcoming IGCP 591 meeting in Ghent, Belgium.

Nilmani passes her thesis proposal defense!

by Alycia Stigall
Nilmani meets the Ames Limestone for the first time

Nilmani meets the Ames Limestone for the first time

Nilmani did a great job today presenting and discussing her planned thesis research “Hierarchical spatial patterns in paleocommunities of the Late Pennsylvanian Ames Limestone.”  Congratulations, Nilmani!  Now it’s time for some field work 🙂

Ranjeev defends his MS proposal!

Ranjeev explores his thesis specimens

Ranjeev explores his thesis specimens

Congratulations to Ranjeev on his excellent presentation and masterful defense of the proposal for his master’s thesis “Paleoecology of the freshwater gastropods from the late Oligocene Nsungwe Formation of Tanzania: A window into the initiation of the East African rift system!”

What’s that fossil?

The Ohio University Communications and Marketing Office released a news story highlighting the Stigall Lab’s work on the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life app.  I am really very proud of the hard work that so many graduate and undergraduate students have put into making the Ordovician Atlas project come to life.isorophus


Read the full story here: