About UCMP : News and events : UCMP newsletter

UCMP's summer adventures 2008

Every summer, many of the UCMP faculty, staff, and students leave Berkeley behind and scatter around the world for meetings and research. As you will see, 2008 was no exception!

Tony Barnosky returned in late June from a sabbatical year in Santiago, Chile, where he was on a Fulbright Fellowship and wrote a book about the ecological effects of climate change from the paleontological perspective (it's called Heatstroke: Saving Nature in the Age of Global Warming and will be published this winter by Island Press). Research for the book included trips to various parts of the Andes, the Amazon, Easter Island, northern Patagonia, and the southern part of the Atacama Desert. While in Chile, Tony also began work on Quaternary extinctions in South America with graduate student Emily Lindsey. In July, he left for excavations of Quaternary mammals at Samwel Cave near Lake Shasta, where he is working with Stanford researchers Liz Hadly and Jessica Blois on an NSF-funded project to trace California biodiversity through time. In early August he and UCMP researcher Marc Carrasco spearheaded a symposium on Geoinformatics at the 33rd International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway.

In July, Bill Clemens returned to eastern Montana to work with UCMP alum, Greg Wilson. In addition to collecting screening concentrates, which are being sorted by long-time UCMP associate Harley Garbani, Greg and Bill made plans for future development of research on the geology and biotas of the Hell Creek and Tullock formations. During the first week in August, Bill was in the Hanna and Carbon basins of southern Wyoming helping with a field conference sponsored by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming. During three days in the field the leaders, Jay Lillegraven (a postdoc at UCMP in 1968-69), Jaelyn Eberle, Penny Higgins, and Mark Clementz, convinced the more than 30 participants that an understanding of the geology of the Western Interior based on detailed field work is prerequisite to paleobiological research.

Mark Goodwin traveled to Montana for summer fieldwork in the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek and Judith River Formations. This year, a helicopter provided efficient transportation to previously inaccessible or difficult to traverse steep badlands, so that he and Jack Horner were able to prospect in relatively unexplored areas of the Hell Creek Formation, eastern Montana. The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) field crew had already located a number of Triceratops skulls before Mark arrived, much to his delight. One of these turned out to be a nearly complete disarticulated skull of a small juvenile Triceratops, representing an ontogenetic stage previously unknown. The skull, when prepared and assembled, will be ~50 cm long. It will be incorporated into ongoing cranial ontogenetic and morphological studies by Goodwin and Horner and a new book they are writing on the natural history and fossil record of Triceratops. Additional subadult and adult Triceratops skulls were also discovered and collected while Mark was in the field.

Bill Clemens looks for earliest Paleocene microfossils Mark Goodwin with Dan and Lila Redding
Left: Bill Clemens looks for earliest Paleocene microfossils in the Hellís Hollow area of Garfield County, Montana. Right: Mark Goodwin with Dan and Lila Redding on the Reddingís farm near Rudyard, Montana. UCMP field crews have worked with Dan and Lila and their family since the 1980s and the Reddings have established, with the Museum of the Rockies, the Redding Field Station in support of paleontology, public education and research.

Next stop was along the Canadian border in northcentral Montana, north of the small town of Rudyard. Here, long term studies by Mark, Jack, UCMP and MOR graduate students continues and this field research is facilitated by Dan and Lila Redding and the Redding Field Station on their farm. While Mark and Dan were out prospecting, Dan picked up an important piece of a pachycephalosaur (dome-headed) dinosaur skull that Mark will study and compare with other known pachycephalosaurs from the Judith River Formation. UCMP has one of the best collections of pachycephalosaurs from the Judith River Formation of Montana and this will add to it.

Leslea Hlusko joined Dr. Jackson Njau from the National Museum of Natural History in Arusha, Tanzania for another summer of fieldwork as part of the Tanzania International Paleoanthropological Research Project. This year they focused on fossil collection, geological mapping, and dating of the Mt. Hanang district in central Tanzania. Leah Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate in Earth & Planetary Sciences here at Berkeley, joined the field crew. Leah works with Paul Renne in the Berkeley Geochronology Center and will be starting in October as a visiting researcher with another Berkeley Natural History Museum, the Human Evolution Research Center. The TIPRP 2008 field crew are shown in the photo at left alongside one of their two vehicles. This fieldwork was supported by funding from the National Geographic Society's Waitt Grant Program.

Randy Irmis headed back to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico in May and the early part of June to continue excavation at the Hayden Quarry in the Late Triassic Chinle Formation. He was joined by Sarah Werning and UCMP alum Sterling Nesbitt. The success of the first two field seasons continued and the crew excavated hundreds of new specimens, including many early dinosaurs and relatives. Randy returned to work on his dissertation here in Berkeley before he heads to his new position in Utah (see page 3) in January.

Leslea Hlusko with the TIPRP 2008 field crew in Tanzania Sterling Nesbitt and Sarah Werning excavate a dinosaur skeleton at the Hayden Quarry.
Left: Leslea Hlusko (far right) with the TIPRP 2008 field crew in Tanzania. Top row from left: Samweli Tonge, Danieli Tonge, Justin Steven. Middle row from left: Jackson Njau, Leah Morgan, Ahadi Msuya, Frank Bambo, Leslea. Bottom row from left: Frank Mataro, Sikujua Ramadhani, Daniel Mainoya. Right: Sterling Nesbitt and Sarah Werning excavate a dinosaur skeleton at the Hayden Quarry.

Over the course of two months, Erin Meyer traveled to eleven islands in the West Indies this summer for her second season of fieldwork, including three islands in the Bahamas (see cover photo), three islands in the Turks and Caicos Island, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and three islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With tropical storms and hurricanes threatening her fieldwork toward the end, she still returned with 655 tissue samples from 22 different localities, data from 16 ecological surveys, shells from each location, and thousands of photographs of animals and field sites. This fall she will be investigating the population genetics and analyzing the survey data to explore the phylogeography and ecology of the West Indian Topshell (Cittarium pica), an endemic snail to the region and a species harvested by humans for the past 7,000 years. Studying the genetic and ecological relationships between populations of this snail will lead to an understanding of how larvae move around within and between these islands, informing our understanding of population connectivity and marine reserve effectiveness in the region. Beyond her fieldwork, Erin also experienced the unique cultures, met the local people, and explored the breathtaking ecosystems on each of the eleven islands, leaving her with unforgettable memories and inspiring stories.

This fieldwork was made possible by grants through the UCMP, Conchologists of America, Berkeley Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Department Integrative Biology, and the UC Berkeley Graduate Association. Field support and assistance were provided by Brian Riggs (TCI), José Cedeño (Puerto Rico), Rafe Boulon (USVI), and Michael Beetham.

Emily Lindsey spent the bulk of the summer learning programming, statistics, and paleoecological modeling at the Paleobiology Database Summer Course at the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis down in Santa Barbara. She also presented a paper at the International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway.

Erin Meyer on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas Emily Lindsey with a giant inflatable plesiosaur in front of the Oslo conference center.
Left: Erin Meyer searches for Cittarium pica on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. Right: Emily Lindsey with a giant inflatable plesiosaur in front of the Oslo conference center.

The Lipps Lab had a group adventure in July, attending the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — a meeting of about 3,000 reef workers — with each lab member presenting a paper or poster. Michele Weber presented a paper on symbionts in Tridacna, which was well received by the giant clam workers, Lorraine Casazza had a wonderful poster on the raised reefs of the Egyptian Red Sea, Scott Fay discussed the distribution of symbionts in forams, and Jere Lipps waded into the reef restoration controversy on the side of leaving them alone rather than cluttering them up with strange, foreign substrates or wire and rebar. They met many old and new friends, and the meeting was a great success for them all.

After ICRS they went on a field trip to the Florida Keys to see some fossil reefs and collect forams. While they travelled all the way to the southernmost point in the continental US, the chief goal was to visit the legendary "foram farm," a seagrass bed near the Keys Marine Lab. The marine lab was very friendly and accommodating. They didn't see any manatees in the seagrass, which was disappointing, but the foram farm really lived up to its reputation. They collected tons of new living material, including Archaias, a foram with green algal symbionts, and Sorites, which has dinoflagellate symbionts and came away with another impression of reefs to contrast to those we knew from Moorea and the Red Sea.

Kaitlin Maguire joined the Rukwa Rift Basin Project in Tanzania collecting vertebrate and invertebrate fossils from Cretaceous and Paleogene deposits.

Michele Weber finds a nice late Pleistocene coral in a raised reef on the Florida Keys Kaitlin Maguire scanning a rock surface for microfossils
Left: Michele Weber finds a nice late Pleistocene coral (to the left of her right hand) in a raised reef on the Florida Keys. Right: Kaitlin Maguire scanning a rock surface for microfossils.

Brian Swartz travelled to the United Kingdom and Sweden to visit museums in Cambridge, London, Uppsala, and Stockholm. Brian is describing a new tetrapod precursor from the Devonian (~380 Ma) of western North America and needed to compare it to other closely related critters from other localities and housed in these museums. Thus, his trip consisted of an extended stint in comparative anatomy, looking at important specimens of key taxa like Eusthenopteron, Panderichthys, Acanthostega, Ichthyostega, and Tulerpeton. Since returning from Europe, Brian has been completing the description of this material (including a fully articulated specimen of an animal about one meter long) and studying the environmental history of tetrapod precursors, looking at various types of geological and paleontological data. This includes looking at the age, taxonomic affinity, environmental signature, and geographic distribution of taxa also found at the same localities where important tetrapod precursors are found. Sifting through this data can provide important insight into the environmental history and ecological origin of terrestrial vertebrates. The Natural History Museum in London has one of the best Devonian vertebrate collections in the world (in a space probably as large as all of UCMP — just for Devonian vertebrates!) and much of this data was collected there this summer.

Jann Vendetti spent the summer in Japan on an NSF EAPSI (East Asian Pacific Summer Institute) fellowship studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. She was based out of Nagoya University, and traveled to eight cities, six fish markets, and nine (fossil and extant) museum collections looking at buccinid whelks. Jann collected whelk tissue samples from 26 species, made protoconch molds of more than 60 shells, and took pictures of more than 200 fossil and extant specimens. In her travels Jann was awed by four Japanese castles, six Buddhist temples, 13 Shinto shrines, hundreds of beverage vending machines, and thousands of loud cicadas. One of her adventures involved an interview that ended up in the local newspaper of the northern Honshu town of Rikuzen-Takata. While in Japan, Jann also came to deeply appreciate the relatively cool summers of Berkeley compared to the sweltering Honshu summer; she learned to love eel fillets over rice and green tea slushies with sweet red bean; and depended on 7-11 for more meals than she cares to admit. For a first-hand account of Jann's summer in Japan, view her field reports available on the UCMP website.

Brian Swartz working on a tetrapod precusror at the Cambridge Museum of Zoology Jann Vendetti was interviewed for this article in the <i>Tohkai Shimpo</i> newspaper
Left: Brian Swartz working on Acanthostega gunnari, a tetrapod precusror, at the Cambridge Museum of Zoology. Right: While collecting data in Japan, Jann Vendetti was interviewed for this article in the Tohkai Shimpo newspaper.

Bill Clemens photo courtesy of Greg Wilson; Mark Goodwin courtesy of Mark Goodwin; Leslea Hlusko courtesy of Leslea Hlusko; Sterling Nesbitt and Sarah Werning by Randy Irmis; Erin Meyer courtesy of Erin Meyer; Emily Lindsey courtesy of Emily Lindsey; Michelle Weber by Jere Lipps; Kaitlin Maguire courtesy of Kaitlin Maguire; Brian Swartz courtesy of Brian Swartz; Jann Vendetti clipping courtesy of Jann Vendetti.