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UCMP's summer 2014 adventures

Tony Barnosky spent much of June in South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana getting a firsthand experience with megafauna and spent the rest of the summer writing. His new book, Dodging Extinction — Power, Food, Money and the Future of Life on Earth, will be released October 1. During Homecoming Weekend at Cal, Tony will give a faculty seminar on Dodging Extinction followed by a book signing on October 10 (see calendar).

Jeff Benca spent the summer building an evolutionary teaching and research collection of living plants on the roof of the Valley Life Sciences Building. This formerly empty roof-top is now being "greened" by a diverse array of rare and unusual plants that will be used for the paleobotany course being taught by him, Susan Tremblay, and Cindy Looy.

Predictably, Bill Clemens returned to eastern Montana this summer. Working with Greg Wilson and Dave DeMar (University of Washington) — and some new, very advanced GPS units — the group returned to a number of UCMP fossil localities to determine their geographic coordinates and elevations, finding that erosion at some localities had uncovered new material. Bill also helped Courtney Sprain, a graduate student in Earth and Planetary Sciences working with Paul Renne (Director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center), collect samples for radioisotopic age determinations and paleomagnetic analyses. Courtney's research is expected to provide greater resolution and understanding of the tempo of evolution of the Hell Creek and Tullock Formation biotas.

In June, Dori Contreras collected fossils in New Mexico at a Late Cretaceous fossil flora site with three field assistants: two current undergrads and a recent IB graduate. Excitingly, she found an attached cone for a fossil redwood — a rarity at this site, one she has been studying for several years (Dori has been searching for plant reproductive material for four years; her previous advisor has been searching for over 20). The find is significant and will substantially contribute to the description of the taxon.

Lindsey Doherty spent the first part of the summer mentoring Alex Niebergall, a marine science undergraduate in the SMART program, researching behavioral aspects of the flashing display of the disco clams for which Lindsey has received an enormous amount of recent press (see blog). She then traveled to Indonesia in order to process a year-long research permit and follow up on ecological analysis from last summer. In Indonesia, she spent time in Jakarta, Raja Ampat and Bali. Lindsey found many more disco clams on the trip, but also ran into a three-meter-long crocodile at one of her dive sites and visited a cave full of human skulls. This fall Lindsey will be heading off to dive and present at the American Association of Underwater Scientists annual meeting in Sitka, Alaska.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement. Left: In Africa, Tony Barnosky had a close encounter with some rhinos. Photo by Tony Barnosky. Second from left: Jeff Benca's roof garden includes these New Caledonian endemic conifers (Auracaria columnaris). Photo by Jeff Benca. Third from left: Two dolphins glide by Lindsey Dougherty while she dives in Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Dougherty. Right: One of the diatoms from Clear Lake that Ken Finger will be looking at is Stephanodiscus niagarae, one of the lake's largest and most common diatoms. Image courtesy of Ken Finger.

Ivo Duijnstee and Cindy Looy spent most of the summer back in the Old World. In June their alma mater celebrated its 50th birthday with a two-day conference featuring talks on the current research of its scientist alums, including Cindy's. In early July the Paleontological Society of Southern Africa held its biannual meeting at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. Cindy was invited to speak about her South African work. It was a particularly successful meeting because it brought together so many paleobotanical colleagues that work in Paleozoic Gondwana and because of Witwatersrand's incredible plant collection.

Ken Finger and former Integrative Biology grad student Jack Scully spent a week at John Smol's Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL) at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, getting oriented to work on the diatoms from cores taken in Clear Lake, California. Ken and Jack will be analyzing these microscopic siliceous algae (a departure from Ken's specialty in foraminifera, calcareous microfossils) as part of the comprehensive paleoclimate study headed by Cindy Looy (see photomicrograph of Stephanodiscus niagarae, which is one of the largest and most common diatoms from Clear Lake).

Mark Goodwin had a busy summer. In the Hell Creek Formation of eastern Montana, Mark (1) prospected for new dinosaur and microvertebrate localities, (2) visited old localities, (3) found an association of Thescelosaurus bones, and (4) supported the field research of UCMP alum Greg Wilson's University of Washington grad students, who were also working in the area. Later, with David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum, Mark examined Upper Cretaceous rocks exposed along the Milk River in southern Alberta. North of Rudyard, Montana, Mark and David confirmed the stratigraphic level of certain UCMP localities central to Mark and David's collaborative research. Mark then traveled to Ekalaka, Montana, where he was an invited speaker at the 2nd Annual Dinosaur Shindig. He spent a week in the field with a crew from the Burpee Museum in Illinois helping to collect a couple Triceratops skulls and confirming other dinosaur localities. Mark worked with Montana State University grad student Nate Carroll and undergrad Jack Wilson to describe a new "Dracorex" pachy skull, and was able to squeeze in some time in the collections at the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman.

Carole Hickman spent 15 days visiting and photographing spectacular geological and paleontological sites in the provinces of Atlantic Canada with a group led by Doris Sloan. Highlights included observations of Ediacaran fossils (the oldest body fossils of multicellular organisms) on the Bonavista Peninsula at Port Union, Newfoundland; the Global Boundary Stratotype Section (GSSP) for the Cambrian-Ordovician boundary at Green Point, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland; the first appearance of graptolite fossils in deep-water shale immediately above the Cambrian-Ordovician boundary; and Pennsylvanian coal-age lycopsid tree trunks preserved in standing position in the Joggins Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement. Left: Cindy Looy (right) with Heidi Holmes, John Anderson, and Conrad Labandeira in Witwatersrand University's paleobotanical collections. Photo courtesy of Cindy Looy. Second from left: Mark Goodwin collects the fossil bones of the dinosaur Thescelosaurus in the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, eastern Montana. Photo courtesy of Mark Goodwin. Third from left: Carole Hickman observed this specimen of the Late Proterozoic (Vendian) Ediacaran Charniodiscus from Earth's earliest record of macroscopic life, Port Union, Bona Vista Peninsula, Newfoundland. Photo by Carole Hickman. Right: Carole found the oldest fossil graptolites appearing 4.8 meters above the Cambrian/Ordovician boundary at Green Point, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. Photo by Carole Hickman.

This summer, Jenny Hofmeister returned to Catalina Island for her final field season at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. She continued her adventures in SCUBA diving and started a new and exciting project tracking octopuses using acoustic telemetry. In collaboration with Alaska Pacific University, and with funding from the UCMP, Jenny tagged 10 Octopus bimaculatus individuals and tracked them over a period of 14 days. This is the smallest octopus species to be tracked and only the third time tracking has been done successfully in any octopus species. As a result of this work, Jenny was invited to give a public lecture at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach in November. Jenny also coauthored a recent paper appearing in Advances in Marine Biology (Volume 67) entitled "Transitions during cephalopod life history: The role of habitat, environment, functional morphology and behaviour."

Shih-Yi (Winnie) Hsiung traveled to the University of Exeter in England and took over 150 oak pollen SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) images from 23 modern oak taxa (all California natives) and some unknown fossil oak taxa which showed detailed wall ornamentations. The high resolution SEM images will help to quantify the wall features of modern oak pollen and assist in the identification of fossil oak pollen. Winnie plans to present her results at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver in October. While in England, Winnie visited the World Heritage sites Stonehenge and the Jurassic Coast, and beaches in Devon.

Tesla Monson attended the 16th International Symposium on Dental Morphology/Paleodontology Conference in Zagreb, Croatia, where she presented her paper, "Identification of a derived dental trait in Papionini relative to other Old World Monkeys," recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Monson and Hlusko 2014). After a successful series of "The Graduates" on KALX radio, Tesla plans another round of the show this fall. The Berkeley Science Review featured the research of two of her subjects (Jenna Judge on wood falls, limpets, and conservation, and Ashley Poust on dinosaur eggs and early mammals).

Click on any photo to see an enlargement. Left: Jenny Hofmeister will be able to track the movements of this octopus now that it has been tagged. Photo courtesy of Jenny Hofmeister. Second from left: Jenny releases a tagged octopus at the place that it was captured. Photo courtesy of Jenny Hofmeister. Third from left: Winnie Hsiung took time out to visit Stonehenge. Photo courtesy of Winnie Hsiung. Right: Tesla Monson with a statue of her namesake, Nikolai Tesla, in Croatia. Photo by Tesla Monson.

Emily Orzechowski participated in the Paleontological Society's Stratigraphic Paleobiology field course in the Tobacco Roots Mountains of Montana and the Larval Biology course at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories.

Research Associate Julia Sankey and her students at California State University, Stanislaus, are helping the UCMP prepare Pleistocene mammal fossils collected at the Fairmead Landfill (near Chowchilla, Madera County) in 1993 and stored at the museum's Regatta facility. This summer, Sankey's student volunteers learned how to prepare fossils under the guidance of CSU lab technician, John Wheeler. This project started small several years ago and has grown in popularity and productivity. Over the past year, 18 student volunteers have contributed over 300 lab hours preparing fossils.

Camilla Souto attended the 7th North American Echinoderm Conference — a small conference held in honor of Dr. David Pawson, a great echinoderm worker recently retired from the Smithsonian Institution — at the University of West Pensacola in early June. Upon returning to Berkeley, Camilla worked with Erica Clites and Renske Kirchholtes on the Menlo Park Project at the Regatta facility, georeferencing and assigning ages to the fossils.

Allison Stegner spent two months in San Juan County, Utah, doing catch-and-release trapping of small mammals and excavating a woodrat- and raptor-generated Holocene cave deposit. For part of this work, she was joined by Berkeley undergraduate assistant Molly Hardesty-Moore. Back in Allison's hometown in Vermont, she taught a class on mammal teeth for kids at the local library linking fossil to modern species.

Brian Swartz (Ph.D. 2011, Padian Lab) started a research position at the University of Pennsylvania this fall and looks forward to getting back to Paleozoic research; he will study the paleoichthyology of early vertebrates. After receiving his Ph.D., Brian transitioned away from the Paleozoic and focused on global change in the Anthropocene. Brian and colleagues from Berkeley and Stanford have an open access book (with Springer) coming out next summer about this research, entitled Speciesism in Biology, Culture, and Sociopolitics.

In partnership with San Francisco State and the University of New Orleans, Lisa White led another group of high school students on a geological field trip, part of the METALS geoscience education program. The trip to the southern Louisiana coast emphasized the Mississippi River delta system, post-Hurricane Katrina land loss and shoreline retreat, and the societal impacts of sea level change on Gulf Coast communities. Later in the summer, and after organizing the Think Evolution and Understanding Global Change workshops for teachers (see Tidbits), Lisa was an instructor in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) "School of Rock" workshop for high school teachers. Held at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and the Environment, Lisa was back to her micropaleontology roots leading an activity for teachers on microfossils (foraminifera and diatoms) in deep sea sediments.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement. Top left: One of Julia Sankey's students prepares a large fossil bone collected from the Pleistocene-age Fairmead Landfill site. Photo by Julia Sankey. Top middle: Camilla Souto (left) with David Pawson and Luciana Martins at the NAEC meeting in Florida. Photo courtesy of Camilla Souto. Top right: Allison Stegner taught children about mammal teeth at a local library in her home town in Vermont. Photo courtesy of Allison Stegner. Bottom left: Allison lowers a bucket of sediment from a cave deposit that will be screened for small mammal bones. Photo by Molly Hardesty-Moore. Bottom middle: Lisa White at a workshop for high school teachers at the University of Delaware. Photo courtesy of Lisa White. Bottom right: Some of the high school students that accompanied Lisa White on a METALS geological field trip to the Mississippi River delta. Photo by Lisa White.