Why I think the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary is super important

Mass extinctions are insanely catastrophic, but important, events that punctuate the history of life on Earth. The Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary, around 145 million years ago, was originally thought of to represent a mass extinction, but has subsequently been ‘down-graded’ to a minor extinction event based on new discoveries.

However, compared to other important stratigraphic boundaries, like the end-Triassic or the end-Cretaceous, both time periods representing mass extinction events, the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary actually remains really poorly understood. This is both in terms of what was going on with different animal groups at the time, and what environmental changes were occurring alongside this.

Well, I have a new research paper out now that synthesises more than 600 research articles, bringing them together to try and build a single picture of what was going on around this time! It’s free to read here, and is essentially the literature review from my thesis, or as I like to think of it, the justification for my existence as a researcher!

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What are the key questions in palaeoecological research?

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=1032

Last year, a throng of palaeoecologists from the world around descended into Oxford to discuss what the 50 most pressing questions in palaeoecology are. I was happy to see some great scientists and communicators among them, including Anson Mackay, Jacquelyn Gill, and Gavin Simpson, which gives me real hope that these questions were crafted with more than just ‘science for the sake of science’ in mind, and I think this really shines through in their article.

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Conservation biology – let’s get integrated!

This was initially posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=600

Conserving our world’s biodiversity is currently one of the biggest challenges we face. I wrote a post recently about some of the issues palaeontologists face when trying to make our science relative to current conservation management and biodiversity issues (and have written elsewhere about this too). This is very much a developing issue within which palaeontology is framing itself, as with ever squeezing science budgets around the world, scientists are being forced to find the hook or application that makes their research ‘relevant’ to broader society. The role that palaeontology can play for both climate change and biodiversity patterns and processes is the natural progression of science accompanying such shifts.

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More sedimentology than you can shake a stick at

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=549

Welcome to Day 3 of the EGU Annual Meeting. Do check the Geology for Global Development page too for some cracking updates on the sessions, particularly on the more ‘applied’ side of the geosciences, by Rosalie Testovin. This post is a quick break-down of some cool science from the morning session on the interaction between tectonics (faulting and folding from plate-related movements) and stratigraphy (the way in which rock packages are linked with each other). Naturally, I had to cover this one, as it was co-sponsored by the Geological Society of London (I’m an ex-employee), and was convened by a member of my department (Dr. Alex Whittaker) at Imperial College with another giving a talk (Prof. Phillip Allen). Here’s a quick break down of some of the talks (at least in as much detail as to be expected from a vertebrate palaeontologist):

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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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