Paleobiology & Biosignatures: April 2010

This two week summer course will be held in Utrecht, The Netherlands at the Universiteit Utrecht from July 5-16, 2010.

The history of life on earth can be studied by its fossil record. In this approach, each fossil is seen as a window into evolutionary history and paleoecology. Importantly, fossils provide us with essential information about the age of the layers they are found in. Moreover they comprise our single most valuable source of information on the environment in the past. Fossils ranging from marine micro-organisms to large terrestrial vertebrates are thus used as tools to reconstruct time, evolutionary history, climate, and ancient environments. In this course several fossil groups will be discussed and their practical applications will be explored.

A general introduction on the use of fossils to reconstruct time (biostratigraphy) will be followed by lectures on marine invertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, vertebrate paleontology and plant remains. An important part of the course will consist of hands-on exercises where you will learn how to use fossils for age determination and for environmental reconstruction. Fossil rodents are used to demonstrate how to correlate and date fossil faunas. You will investigate the evolutionary history of marine invertebrates, based on their changing morphology. Marine micro-organisms and plant remains will be employed to reconstruct ecology and environment. Finally, Mesozoic vertebrates (251-65 Ma) are used to demonstrate morphological adaptations to changing environments. The lectures and excersises will be given by staff and guests of the Department of Earth Sciences. The recreational programme will be organised by student societies and the Erasmus network.

This summer school is held under the auspices of the Graduate School of Geosciences.

For more information: [Source NAI newsletter]

Researchers from NAI's University of Wisconsin Team studied carbon and iron isotopes in core samples from 2.7-2.5 billion year old rocks in Western Australia. New iron isotope data integrated with previously collected carbon isotope data on the same samples document the sophisticated metabolic diversity of microbial communities that once lived in the region, showing that methane and iron cycling were likely coupled. Their results are published in a recent issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters. [Source NAI newsletter]