Geotimes
Highlights
Palynology
Fredrick J. Rich and Gordon D. Wood

The science of palynology was further advanced by the work of the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists (AASP) and the American Quaternary Association (AMQUA), two organizations with large international memberships. Previous contributions to this "Highlights" issue have acknowledged technical contributions in palynology while limiting recognition of individuals. This year, we focus on some of the personal efforts that make the science what it is.

AMQUA held its biennial meeting in Anchorage in August 2002. Margaret Davis, recently retired from the University of Minnesota, was awarded AMQUA's Distinguished Career Award for 2001. More than four decades of research in Quaternary paleoecology have led to this recognition. Davis' interests include the analysis of ancient records of climate change as she promotes interdisciplinary research in genetics, paleoecology and environmental change as a means of addressing the serious biodiversity problems we now face.

AASP, in conjunction with the British Micropalaeontological Society and the North American Micropaleontology Section of SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), met at University College London, in September; a post-meeting field trip took place on the Isle of Wight. For many attendees, a chance to view William Smith's original map ("the map that changed the world") was a highlight of the trip. The AASP Medal of Scientific Excellence was awarded to Svein Manum, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oslo. Manum was recognized for four decades of contributions to the study of land plant palynology, paleobotany, dinoflagellate cyst morphology and stratigraphy.

Every science needs an emissary to the public, as we all realize how important it is to be known outside the walls of our own institutions. In the case of North American palynology, the popular view of the science has been notably shaped by Vaughn Bryant Jr., palynologist and director of the Center for Ecological Archaeology at Texas A&M. Bryant's work with the diets of ancient Americans (National Geographic Magazine, October 1984) is well known. He has expanded that work to include the analysis of phytoliths and starch grains which, in association with the fossil pollen of cultivated species, is leading to an improved understanding of ancient agriculture on this continent (Science, v. 299, p.1029-1030).

Stanislas Lobosiak, University of Lille, an internationally known and respected palynologist whose most recent contributions to the discipline concern Gondwananpalynomorphs, was honored with a special issue of the Review of Palynology and Paleobotany (v. 118, p. 1-4). This volume contains 19 papers on subjects ranging from chitinozoana-acritarchs-miospores to palynofacies and molecular organic chemistry. Unfortunately, Loboziak passed away while the volume was in press.

Another leader in the field, Geoffrey Playford, University of Queensland, was honored with a symposium at the World Paleontological Congress in Melbourne, Australia. Playford has published a number of papers and is often a visiting scientist in both academia and industry. His most recent contributions have centered on South American palynomorphs. A volume in his honor is being prepared for publication.

Palynological contributions in the "Carboniferous of the World" proceedings (Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists) concerned primarily South American assemblages. Papers by Geoffrey Playford and Rodolfo Dino, Gordon Wood and colleagues, and by Duncan McClean and Craig Harvey detailed palynological information from the Amazonas Basin of Brazil, the Madre de Dios Basin of Peru and the Sierra de Perija of Venezuela.

The Permo-Triassic extinction event was the subject of several palynological papers. However, a new twist on interpretation of this horizon was tendered by Foster and colleagues (Palynology, v. 26, p. 35-58). They studied the taxonomy and biological affinity of Reduviasporonites, a palynomorph historically assigned to the fungi. This form has a worldwide occurrence spanning the Permian-Triassic boundary, where its abundance "spikes." Previously, this spike was attributed to saprophytic fungal infestation of land plants involved with the extinction event. Foster and co-authors present geochemical evidence that Reduviasporonites may be algal rather than fungal. Their analysis may result in reinterpretation of the paleoecological significance of this fossil.
Martin Pearce and others (Marine Micropaleontology, v. 47, 3/4, p. 271-306) studied the paleoecology of the Upper Cretaceous in the United Kingdom, using an integrated palynological and geochemical approach. Evidence suggests a connection between palynological associations and global cooling, siliciclastic supply, water depth and turbidity. This was further supported by geochemical evidence (carbon and oxygen isotope excursions).

Among the interesting discoveries of 2002, Eckart Schrank illustrated and discussed assemblages of acritarchs from Upper Cretaceous Egyptian strata (Review of Palynology and Paleobotany, v.123, p. 199-235). These fossils, ranging in size from 4-17 microns, were recovered in abundance from phosphatic sandstones, leading the author to suggest that the microorganisms lived interstitially (psammon). From the Tertiary, Karl Erb (Geotimes, v. 48, no. 1, p. 5) and Erica Crouch and Pi Willumsen (AASP Newsletter, March 2003) report that cores from the Ross Sea (Cape Roberts Project) show that Antarctica was covered with tundra 24 million years ago. While the findings may not be so surprising, the detail that palynology gives the analyses is intriguing — plants included New Zealand flax, chickweeds, bell flowers and buttercups. Ice finally overwhelmed the wildflowers between 15 and 3 million years million years before the present.

The American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists is pleased to announce that Palynology: Principles and Applications has been reprinted. This 32-chapter, 1,330-page publication sold out in its original printing, but is available once more from Vaughn M. Bryant Jr., at Texas A&M University (vbryant@neo.tamu.edu). Readers will have a chance to see who else contributes to the success of this science.

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Rich is a professor in the Department of Geology and Geography at Georgia Southern University. He is also past-president of AASP. E-mail: frich@gasou.edu.

Wood divides his time as a consulting paleontologist with the irf group, inc., and as a technical communications and knowledge management consultant with ExxonMobil, Upstream Production Central Technology Organization-Nigeria/Cameroon/Equatorial Guinea. E-mail: eakbros@compuserve.com.

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