Centre for Palynology Newsletter 5 - University of Sheffield /file/ Centre for Palynology

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    Centre for Palynology Newsletter 5

    December 2015


    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)

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    Graduating Ph.D.s

    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.

    Steph Wood

    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.

    David Carpenter

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    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.

    Alexander Askew

    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

    coastal Tanzania.

    Berkin Oktay (left) and Innocent Mvamba (right) undertaking training in palynological processing

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    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

    exploration industry.

    Geoff & Charles at the Christmas Dinner

    Undergraduate teaching

    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


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    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

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    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.

    Congratulations to…

    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

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    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


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