Centre for Palynology Newsletter 5
The fifth Centre for Palynology Newsletter comes at the end of another action-packed year with all
the details provided herein. We hope you enjoy reading it and find it informative.
Tony Loy has provided some information on the winning of ‘The CIMP Trophy’ by the Centre for
Palynology 5-a-side football team during the ‘North Sea ‘90’ conference that was held at the BGS in
Keyworth in 1990. Despite 25 years passing since the event Tony recalls “I deemed myself too old to
play and as such was given the responsibility of manager”. Unlike Sir Alex Ferguson who can recall in
clinical detail every game he ever managed Tony cannot remember the exact details of the team but
recollects that Duncan McLean, Awad Ibrahim, Ali Ibrahim, Hisham Bakri and Paul Sumner all played,
and that the Statoil and BGS teams were defeated as the competition progressed. He also recalls
that “all of the other teams had smart kits and our lot just turned up and played in T-shirts and
shorts – I do remember that!”.
Grandispora from the Huergas Formation of the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain (courtesy of Alex Askew)
Sam Slater was awarded a Ph.D. following his viva voce exam in November. Sam’s thesis was
entitled “A Quantitative Analysis of the Dispersed Spore and Pollen Record From the Middle Jurassic
of Yorkshire, UK”. It was a NERC CASE award with Shell and jointly supervised by Charles Wellman
and Iain Prince, Katrin Ruckwied, Peter Osterloff and Manuel Vieira of Shell in Houston and
Aberdeen. Geoff Clayton was internal examiner and Chris Cleal (National Museum Cardiff) the
external examiner. Chris was an undergraduate at Sheffield (1969-1972) before completing a Ph.D.
on Coal Measures palaeobotany under the supervision of Bob Wagner. Sam has already published
two papers from his thesis (details below) with a third accepted for publication in the journal
Palaeontology. In March Sam will be taking up a post-doctoral position in Sweden continuing his
Jurassic work with Professor Vivi Vajda.
Current Ph.D. students
Steph Wood is in the final year of her Ph.D. research project. She is working on Jurassic-Cretaceous
palynology of the Gulf of Mexico. Steph’s Ph.D. is a NERC Open CASE award with Shell and is jointly
supervised by Charles Wellman and Iain Prince, Katrin Ruckwied, Peter Osterloff and Manuel Vieira
of Shell in Houston and Aberdeen. This year Steph has spent a lot of time with Jim Riding (BGS)
consolidating her dinoflagellate taxonomy and time with Shell Aberdeen manipulating her
substantial dataset in Stratabugs.
David Carpenter is in the third year of his Ph.D. research project “Charcoal, forests and Earth’s
Palaeozoic geochemical oxygen-cycle”. David is based at the University of Southampton where he is
supervised by John Marshall, but is a regular visitor to Sheffield where his co-supervisors are David
Beerling and Charles Wellman. This year David has spent a lot of time counting charcoal abundances
in his sample set spanning the Silurian-Carboniferous.
Alexander Askew is in the second year of his Ph.D. research project. He is studying the palynology of
the Middle Devonian Huergas Formation (and co-eval strata) from Asturias, the Cantabrian
Mountains and Palencia in northern Spain. Alex has undertaken two field trips and the numerous
samples he has collected yield rich assemblages of well preserved palynomorphs representing a mix
of marine and terrestrial forms. The project is a 4-year ACCE studentship funded by NERC. Alex is
supervised by Charles Wellman.
Future Ph.D. students
We are currently advertising for a Ph.D. studying the Upper Permian Zechstein sequence of north
Yorkshire. This will be based on over 16,000 m of borehole core drilled by Sirius Minerals in the
developmental stages of what will be the World’s largest polyhalite mine.
Current M.Res. students
A new departmental initiative is the Masters in Research (M.Res.) degree. The course is a full 12
months in duration and is largely project based but includes taught courses in research skills. The
first cohort of students includes two palynologists. Berkin Oktay (Turkish Petroleum) is undertaking a
project on Ordovician-Silurian palynomorphs from Turkey. Innocent Mvamba (Tanzanian Petroleum
Development Corporation) is working on Cretaceous palynology from boreholes recently drilled in
Berkin Oktay (left) and Innocent Mvamba (right) undertaking training in palynological processing
Visiting Professor of Palynology Geoff Clayton
Geoff has been a frequent visitor over the year acting as an ‘unofficial supervisor’, internal examiner
and general sounding board regarding all things palynological. Geoff continues work preparing our
‘Palynology Impact Case Study’ for the next iteration of the national Research Assessment Exercise
(in approximately 4-years time). In the last Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) departments were
judged on research outputs (publications), research funding, esteem indicators and Impact Case
Studies. The latter were new to the system. They consist of detailed reporting of how research
within your department impacts industry. We intend to prepare such a Case Study for the next
research assessment that highlights how our palynological research is used in the hydrocarbon
Geoff & Charles at the Christmas Dinner
This year six undergraduate students selected palaeontology for their Level 3 project topic. They
have been undertaking a palaeoecological analysis of a cuticle coal from the Ravenscar Group of the
Yorkshire Jurassic. The samples yield stunning cuticles, largely belonging to the pteridosperm plant
Pachypteris papillosa, in addition to diverse assemblages of beautifully preserved dispersed
The undergraduate Level 3 project students studying Jurassic plant cuticles and dispersed spore/pollen assemblages
We have a single Level 4 M.Biol.Sci. masters student studying palaeontology this year. Emma Russell
is working on chitinozoans and scolecodonts from a Middle Devonian horizon in the Huergas
Formation in northern Spain that is unusually rich in such remains.
Emma checking out the ‘scolecodont-producing’ annelids in the Alfred Denny Museum
The 2015 Palaeontological Association undergraduate prize was awarded to Chloe Walker-Trivett.
Chloe’s 4th-year M.Biol.Sci. project involved a study of the enigmatic Devonian ‘plant’ Pachytheca.
Chloe collected colonies of the modern cyanobacteria Rivularia and compared their anatomy to
fossil Pachytheca demonstrating remarkable similarities that suggest that Pachytheca may indeed
represent a colonial cyanobacterium.
Dr Jenny Morris who has just completed her three-year post. doc. working on the NERC standard
grant “Evolutionary rise of deep-rooting forests and enhanced chemical weathering: quantitative
investigations into the current paradigm”. During her time with us Jenny produced outstanding work
that is beginning to emerge in the literature (see below) and will continue to do so for the next few
years. Jenny has accepted a new post-doctoral position on a recently awarded 3-year NERC standard
grant “The origins of plants: genomes, rocks and biogeochemical cycles” (P.I.s Philip Donoghue,
Dianne Edwards, Harald Schneider, Charles Wellman, Ziheng Yang). Jenny will be based in Bristol
with Phil Donoghue.
Professor Philip Donoghue FRS on his election to the Royal Society--an honour bestowed on only a
very few palaeontologists. Phil studied for an M.Sc. in Palynology at Sheffield 1992-1993 and was
awarded a merit for his dissertation “The palynology and stratigraphy of the Gorstian-Ludfordian
stage boundary at Leinthall Quarry, Ludlow Anticline, Herefordshire”. Phil went on to complete a
Ph.D. in conodont studies under the supervision of Dick Aldridge at the University of Leicester.
During his time in Sheffield Phil resided in Ken Dorning’s rented property, as was customary at the
time, living with the likes of Rod Black, Paul Dodsworth, Jane Evans and others of that generation.
Unfortunately due to everybody being away at the CIMP meeting we were unable to attend the
Yorkshire Fossil Festival that this year was held in York. Hopefully next year it won’t coincide with a
major palynological conference!
The Sheffield Centre for Palynology stand at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival in Scarborough last year
Laboratory, Collections and Library News
Last year Bob Keen took over the role as Laboratory Manager following the retirement of Steve Ellin.
Unfortunately this year Bob also decided to take early retirement. We are hoping to hear about a
new appointment soon! We have had some significant building work in the lab as Chemistry
construct a new corridor that runs through the end of our rock crushing room. Altho