Plan of action!

Crikey, it’s been 3 months already?! *panics* At Imperial College, new PhD students have to produce an initial plan of study within the first three months of setting off, and submit it for independent assessment. Having uploaded mine just now (not in the slightest bit late..), I figured I’d share it here! It’s a broad outline of what I’m aiming to do for the next wad of months – any comments or feedback will be massively appreciated!

Proposed title of thesis: Diversity crash at the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary: a forgotten mass extinction?

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Deep Time Diversity Dynamics

Recently, a really important paper by Alex Dunhill of Bristol University, UK, (@AlexDunhill on Twitter) has been published looking at the problems of using rock outcrop area as a sampling proxy for understanding patterns of biodiversity in deep geological time. What this paper highlights is the important distinction between geological and anthropological sampling proxies, and their relative importance in an on-going international series of projects and collaborations in understanding the patterns and processes that influence biodiversity through geological time.

The reason that this topic is so thoroughly studied are two-fold. Firstly, the co-evolution of the Earth and it’s floral and faunal constituents through time is one of the most important questions of our time, relying on integration of molecular systematists, palaeontologists, geologists, zoologists and botanists (and microbiologists, I guess..). Secondly, understanding the responses of organisms during times of high ecological pressure, high global extinction rates, and strong climatic fluctuations is of obvious importance in the modern world, during this time of rapid global climate change and increasing anthropogenic pressure on the environment. Therefore, studies like this are crucial in aiding our understanding the diversity dynamics of extinct, but still highly relevant, groups. Continue reading