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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Plotting for the Earth. Sciences.

This was originally posted at: http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/earthbound/plotting_for_the_earth_sciences

So a cool paper came out a while back about using plots when attempting to construct stories as a mode of communicating in Earth Science. I cannot, as always, emphasise my frustration when someone writes an article that’s supposed to be broadly educational, and sticks it behind a paywall. In this case, it might have reached the target audience of practising institutionalised Earth scientists (hello), but not the many who aren’t fortunate to have a subscription.

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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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The values of social media and blogging for academics

This was originally posted at: http://blogs.egu.eu/palaeoblog/?p=517

At this years European Geosciences Union General Meeting (Vienna), I’ve been asked to be on a panel discussion describing the ways in which I think using social media and blogging can enhance academic careers. Sometimes, talks of this kind can be very echo-chambery, and there are plenty of really cool guides already out there online. This was a chance though to actually directly target a group of academics who may not have any experience of these things though, so was an opportunity to mobilise a new wave of ‘web 2.0’-active academics. Of course, I’m writing this in advance of the actual discussion, so it might be the case that only a few people turn up and live-blog the entire thing, in which case it might be viewed as a little preaching-to-the-convertedy.

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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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