Thursday, 20 March 2014

Young scientists discover fossils at the Bennett Lecture 2014!

On Monday we welcomed 80 visiting students and their teachers to the Department of Geology for the 55th Annual Bennett Lecture. Our visitors were Geology and Biology AS level students from Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, London and Derbyshire. They took part in an afternoon of Pre-Lecture activities on evolution and fossils. As well as these visitors, the lecture was also attended by members of the public, the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, Geology Section, and staff and students from the Department of Geology.
The afternoon activities were great fun and allowed the visitors to get hands-on fossil experience and to work in teams with new people. 

The geological timeline activity asked students to work in small groups to find out about the evolution of a particular fossil group or topic through the Palaeozoic, and then present their findings. Our student demonstrators did a fantastic job in explaining new concepts to the visitors and talking about their experience studying geology. 

The microfossils activity allowed the students to pick out real fossils from a sieved sediment that contains tetrapods and many types of fish. Many scales, plant and bone fragments, and a few fish teeth were found! This activity looked at a sample we have been studying in the TW:eed Project, and the results have added to what we know about life in the early Carboniferous.
Students from visiting schools and colleges working on the activities

Some of the fantastic team of volunteers and staff from the Department of Geology

In the evening, Professor Jenny Clack gave a very interesting and well received talk about our work on the TW:eed Project, and how it is helping to reveal hidden parts of the story of the evolution of life on land. It was great to see in her talk how important our teamwork is for this project, and how my recent work on the sediments fits into the larger story that is emerging. There were many questions after the talk, one of which was ‘why did you want to be a geologist?’, to which Jenny responded that she isn’t a geologist, but a zoologist, with a fascination about ancient life on Earth. This really gave an insight into how interdisciplinary geology is as a science, and how many of the big scientific questions it seeks to address, such as the evolution of life onto land.

The day was a great success and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Do come and visit for our next Bennett Lecture in 2015!

Until next time

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Tetrapod World comes to life at the 55th Annual Bennett Lecture

We are very excited here at the University of Leicester to be hosting Professor Jenny Clack for the 55th Annual Bennett Lecture entitled ‘Life, death and resurrection in the late Palaeozoic’. The lecture is an annual event put on by the Department of Geology, which this year is on Monday 17th March. Jenny will talk about the latest findings from the TW:eed Project and how it is changing our understanding of the evolution of life on land.

The 17th March is the start of National Science and Engineering Week, so this is a great opportunity to have a public lecture about our science. Prior to the lecture we are running an afternoon of science activities for students aged 16-19. These are free to attend and link in with the themes of the lecture on evolution and Earth’s past climates, including a chance to study REAL FOSSILS! Places are still available for the activities and lecture, so do book in now for a fantastic afternoon/evening out. Check out the Bennett Lecture Webpage for more information.

What has been happening with the project recently? I have been continuing my sample processing of material from the core, more about this in the next post. In more exciting news, we had a large team meeting on 31st January at the University of Cambridge, where everyone presented their latest findings. Over 20 team members and supporters were present and it was a packed day of science! You can read all about the latest updates on tetrapods, fish, sharks, sediments, isotopes, palynology, millipedes and MORE in our 6th Newsletter, that is free to download from the TW:eed Website.

While at the meeting I took the opportunity of having my photograph taken next to a life-size drawing of Rhizodus, based on a specimen from the Carboniferous of Scotland. We know these creatures lived alongside the tetrapods – wow!  

Prior to the meeting Tim Kearsey and I also got the chance to examine in detail some of the sediments from which new tetrapod material have been discovered. We examined the sedimentology of a fantastic sample that contains rhizodonts, tetrapods, lungfish, arthropods and more, which can be seen below. The sediments reveal a story of frequent alternations between dry and wet conditions.

The sediment containing new fossil finds

Until next time