Friday, 18 January 2013

Our first TW:eed team meeting

On Wednesday we held our first TW:eed team meeting at the University of Leicester. 17 people from the team met up for an afternoon of talks and discussions on the work we have been doing in the last 5 months. We also discussed future plans for the project such as drilling the borehole.

Some of the TW:eed team at the meeting. From left to right: Melanie Leng, Tim Smithson, Tim Kearsey, David Millward, Jenny Clack, Sarah Davies, Dave Carpenter, Jon Lakin, Janet Sherwin, John Marshall, me, Ket Smithson, Rob Clack. Absent are the National Museum of Scotland team of Nick Fraser, Andy Ross and Stig Walsh, who had to leave promptly to catch a train.

Jenny Clack told us about some of the fantastic new tetrapod and fish fossils that they have found throughout sites in the Scottish Borders, Northumberland and the Midland Valley of Scotland. It is wonderful to see that so early on in the project so many specimens have been discovered already, and that they can tell us so much about evolution in the early Carboniferous. Tim Smithson, Ket Smithson and Rob Clack from the Cambridge team, along with Sarah Finney and project partners have been busy identifying vertebrate material and piecing together skeletons. Large arthropods have also been found as well as some exceptional ray finned and lobed finned fish fossils, some of which Ket is studying for her PhD project.

Dave Millward and Tim Kearsey from the BGS updated us on progress with the borehole, which we are planning to start drilling in April. This will be a 500 metre long borehole to produce a rock section throughout the entire Ballagan Formation that we can date and use to correlate the field discoveries. The preservation of fossils, sedimentary structures and geochemical signatures should be much better in the borehole compared to field sections that are open to the elements, so its provides a great opportunity for further study in those areas.

The National Museum of Scotland team (Nick Fraser, Andy Ross and Stig Walsh) are co-ordinating fieldwork plans for the summer of 2013, including a significant palaeontological excavation. Nick Fraser is also planning a symposium at the vertebrate palaeontology conference SVPCA, in commemoration of Stan Wood. Look out for more details of this in the coming months.

John Marshall and PhD students Dave Carpenter and Jon Lakin from the University of Southampton gave us an update on recent Devonian-Carbonifeous fieldwork in Greenland and Bolivia. John and Jon have been using sedimentology, palaeobotany and palynology to identify the glacial phases of the Mid Palaeozoic Ice Age and relate this to the end Devonian mass extinction. The sequence of deposits from these sites will be compared with our work in Scotland from the same time interval to build up a global picture. Dave is studying the fossil record of charcoal through the Palaeozoic and its link to the intensity of fires and the oxygen content of the atmosphere. It was an excellent demonstration of how stratigraphy and palynology can be used for much more than just providing a date for the rocks!


My rock display of cementstones and sedimentary log through the Ballagan Formation. Each cementstone is a different rock type or contains different fossils.

I displayed some of the cementstones from the Ballagan Formation that I have been processing, to discuss with the team their different mode of formation and the environments that may have been present. I also laid out a graphic of the sedimentary log I drew while in the field, to discuss the patterns present and the link to fossil finds. Melanie Leng, Sarah Davies, Master’s student Janet Sherwin and I updated the rest of the team on our plans for further sedimentology, geochemical and micropalaeontological work from tetrapod-bearing sites. This includes working on boreholes (more in the next post!) and field sites. We also aim to increase the links between the blog and website, such as posting upcoming meetings and talks on both.

Now it is time to go back down the basement for more sawing, splitting and crushing rocks. There is always something new, so I wonder what I will find today?

Until next time


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear Carys,
    I live in Ballagan House (or more precisely, in the Stables of Ballagan House. I often walk in Ballagan Glen (indeed own a small part of it). I have often wondered which parts of which strata would be worth looking at for fossils when I walk by.
    Care to come by and show me next time you're in Scotland? If so email me at R.Insall[at]

    See photo -

    Best, Prof. Robert Insall