Thursday, 2 October 2014

Team TW:eed microfossil madness!

This August and September microfossil madness returned again! I have been working with six University of Leicester undergraduate volunteers on the micropalaeontology aspect of the project. It has been a busy six weeks with a lot accomplished!

Working with me on two-week placements each, the volunteers have been doing two main tasks: 1) splitting large sediment field samples along the bedding planes and examining these surfaces for fossils; 2) acid processing and sieving small sediment field samples, then picking through the material for microfossils and identifying what we found. 
Some of the vertebrate microfossils, photographed on the SEM

We have discovered some fantastic fossil specimens from different types of fish, plants, eurypterids, ostracods and more! The work placement was a chance for the volunteers to experience the day-to-day life of science research and contribute to the findings of this project. Together we examined a hundreds of samples and picked over three thousand microfossil specimens. The value of this group effort is that we can now get a fuller picture of what life in the Early Carboniferous was like in different ancient environments. I hope it has also given the students some additional experience to succeed in their future research careers in earth science.

Here are some photos of the volunteers in action:


Jenny and Rob Clack visited us for the afternoon in September, and enjoyed examining some of the fossil specimens, including an actinopterygian jaw with teeth. They have since been back in the field exploring some new sites, see the TW:eed Project Facebook Page for a report.

Until next time

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Fossil Hunting!

Last week members of the Team TW:eed spent a day at one of the coastal field sites hunting for fossils. Vertebrate fossils were first found in rocks on the beach at this locality in the 1970s.  Stan Wood collected there in 1999/2000 and found more material and possibly found the fossil horizon in situ. The rocks form part of the Ballagan Formation and the tetrapod and lungfish material from this site are being studied as part of the TW:eed project. Last week the aim was to re-visit the site and locate the fossil-bearing horizon in situ (in its original position within the rock strata).

A loose piece of rock from the fossil-bearing horizon
The team found more lose pieces of matrix containing bone and other fossils and have a good idea where the in situ horizon is. But despite digging two trenches through the shingle to get down to bed rock we were unable to locate it. Because of this, we think it maybe a restricted lens of sediment, like those seen in other localities. It just goes to show how rare the fossils are and how a combined effort is often necessary to achieve our aims.
The TW:eed Team hard at work digging a trench to search for the fossil horizon: Tom Challands (University of Edinburgh), Dave Millward and Rachael Ellen (BGS), Nick Fraser and Stig Walsh (NMS) and Tim Smithson (UMCZ Cambridge) took the photo

This week Jenny Clack and other members of the team are out in the Scottish Borders continuing work at a few other important sites. Fingers crossed for a fantastic fossil-finding week!

Until next time