Dr. Jacquelyn Gill at UF

Today, PCP PIRE and other members of the University of Florida welcomed Dr. Jacquelyn Gill as she spoke about her research on extinction and climate change during the Pleistocene and how it can inform us about future climate change. Dr. Gill explained that large-bodied mammals helped buffer plants from changing climate and that megafaunal extinction may have caused plants to become more susceptible to the effects of climate change. Dr. Gill stressed that ecological interactions are strong factors in what decides a plant’s geographic range and that climate alone is not enough to explain geographic range – we should carefully consider these interactions when we are discussing conservation strategies for modern species. Dr. Gill is also an advocate for increasing diversity in the sciences.

To learn more about Dr. Gill’s research, follow her on Twitter and read about her lab on her webpage.


Fossil Friday 3/4/16: A fossilized fruit (Oreomunnea grahamii)


UF 00621-59109, the holotype of Oreomunnea grahamii. The specimen is shown in a lateral view (A), an apical view (B), and in cross section (C). Figure modified from Herrera et al. 2014.

For this week’s Fossil Friday post, I would like to show you a fossilized fruit called Oreomunnea grahamii. It was found in 2007 at the Lirio East locality of the Cucaracha Formation and is Early Miocene in age. This fruit belongs to the Family Juglandaceae, which is commonly known as the walnut family of trees. Before the discovery of this fossil fruit, the occurrence of the modern Neotropical genus Oreomunnea was mostly restricted to the microfossil record in the form of pollen.

To learn more about this fossil fruit discovery, download the publication by clicking here.


Herrera, F., Manchester, S. R., Koll, R., and Jaramillo, C. 2014. Fruits of Oreomunnea (Juglandaceae) in the early Miocene of Panama. Pages 124-133 in W. D. Stevens, O. M. Montiel, and P. Raven, editors. Paleobotany and Biogeography: A Festschrift for Alan Graham in His 80th Year. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St Louis, MO.


Field Training at the University of Florida!

Hi all,

I am the new 2015-2016 PCP-PIRE field intern! A little about me: My name is Dipa Desai, and I came to join the PCP-PIRE project through my interest in paleoclimate science. I arrived in Gainesville last week, and have since been training with the paleobotany, invertebrate paleontology, and vertebrate paleontology departments here at UF.

The technique I’ve been learning are ways to prepare the fossils for research. In the paleobotany lab, I helped Nathan, the resident paleobotany expert and post-doc, to create acetate peels of the cross-sections of calcitic mudstone chock full of fossilized plant material. As you can see, the peel below shows a cross-section of a Parinari fruit pit, similar to a peach pit, as well as several other sections of fossilized wood and seeds.

IMG_20151002_094119_906[1]In the vertebrate paleontology lab, I learned how to prep the fossils as they come back from the field. Similar to a puzzle, I glued broken bone fragments back into complete specimens using B-72, a mild adhesive that is reversible with acetone. I also worked on removing larger bones from the plaster jackets that paleontologists use to protect the fossil en route to the lab. I used acetone to wet the matrix surrounding the bone, and gingerly brushed it off to slowly uncover more of the fossil. This particular fossil is from Thomas Farm locality in Florida, but it still gave me a good sense of how to prepare some the vertebrates I will be excavating out of Panama! IMG_20150929_132640[1]IMG_20151002_092113_508[1]In invertebrate paleontology, I created silicone molds of fossils that were preserved as internal casts. Aly and I created clay dams around the targeted cast, and poured silicone into it and let it set. The following day, we peeled the silicone molds off to reveal a 3D cast of the fossil! Here is an example of one Aly did today:IMG_20151002_095834_470[1]I definitely learned a lot these past two weeks, and I’m excited to take these skills to the field!

Identifying Fossil Wood

Hello! My name is Carolyn Thornton and I’m a recent graduate from the College of Wooster in Ohio and a new museum intern in paleobotany. I’ve already had the opportunity to work on projects with fossil wood and leaves from Central America, as well as modern fruits from the family Chrysobalanaceae. A 19 million years old version of these fruits was described by Chris Nelson for a Fossil Friday a few weeks ago.

We’ve made the most headway with the fossil wood project. The wood was collected from the Miocene of Panama at Lago Alajuela and we’re working to describe them in enough detail that we can identify them and use their features to understand paleoclimate. So far we’ve definitively identified one wood to the family level.

wood 063124

Fossil wood that would later be revealed to be a member of the family Elaeocarpaceae.

I started with a particularly well-preserved piece of fossil wood (above) and cut it so that we had the three views necessary to completely describe it. Continue reading

Fossil Friday 8/28/15: A Fossil Fruit and its Tree


For today’s Fossil Friday, we have two plant fossils belonging to the genus Parinari in the family Chrysobalanaceae. Paleontologists always get excited when they find fossils from multiple parts of an organism, like finding the jawbone and vertebrae of a mammal, or in this case, the wood and fruit of the same tree. Continue reading

Tennessee Road trip!

This past weekend June 19-21, 2015 I finally had the chance to visit Dawson Clay Pit at Henry County Tennessee, where the fossilized leaves that I am studying were collected. I was accompanied by Nathan Jud, Terry Lott, Dawn Mitchell and Kefren Arjona. We departed from the Museum at 8:30 am towards Tennessee….


Well, its a long way from Gainesville, rollin’ north on 75. We pass through the state of Georgia, heading towards Milan, Tennessee. It was a 14 hour drive to reach Dr. Roger Moore’s house whom was kind enough to give us a place to spend the night. He guided us through the Dawson Pit locality, were we spent most of the day on Saturday collecting new specimens for the museum collection. Most of the fossil leaves were collected from a dark colored shale which is part of an oxbow lake deposit interpreted by Dilcher (1973) . We didn’t find any new species from which we didn’t already have in the museum’s collections but we did find leaves with well preserved cuticle which we will analyze under a epifluorescence microscope.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The cuticle shows the cellular or epidermis details of the leaf’s surface. The cuticle is like a waxy layer that prevent excess water loss and it help controls the gas exchange from the leaf to the atmosphere. Studying the cuticle can be very useful for the identification of plant species, since each species has its own epidermal features and pattern IMG_20150620_142501533_HDR We had a great weekend up in Tennessee, now to analyze the cuticle of the leaves and if possible add them to my research manuscript.


Taylor T. N, Taylor E. L., Krings M., 2009, Paleobotany: The biology and evolution of fossil plants, second edition,  USA, 13-15pp

PCP PIRE Fall 2015 Museum Internship Application Now Available!

Ariel Guggino

Spring-Summer museum intern Ariel Guggino examines leaf fossils in the paleobotany collections at FLMNH.

PCP PIRE’s museum internship application for Fall 2015 is now available!  Fall 2015 museum interns will be able to explore questions dealing with the paleobiology of the Neotropics at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Applicants interested in all aspects of paleontology including paleobotany, invertebrate paleontology, and vertebrate paleontology are encouraged to apply.

Justy Alicea

Spring-Summer museum intern Justy Alicea 3D scanning a fossil turtle skull.

This internship for undergraduates/post-baccalaureate students coincides with the University of Florida Fall Semester (August 24 – December 18). A monthly stipend is provided, as is assistance with locating housing in Gainesville, FL.  Applications are due July 1, 2015. Click here for application instructions.

Fossil Friday 4/17/15: Fossil Plants preservation and Identification

We all must have had in a point of our life heard about how extinct organisms remains become fossilized, either by books, movies or even in the Discovery or History channel. There are many different types of fossilization processes including Permineralization, Cast and Molds, Replacements and Crystalization,  and Carbonization, We often encounter these in the context of animal shells or bones, but what we hardly ever hear about is the preservation plant fossils. Plants, just as the megafauna, can be preserved in the rocks. Typical plant fossils are wood, seeds, roots, flowers, pollen, and leaves which are by far the most commonly preserved macroscopic plant part. Continue reading

Sweet Home Alabama!

For the past few day I have been in Alabama with Prof Steven Manchester and his class IMG_20150328_083224885_HDRsearching for fossilized leaves. We departed from the Museum at 1 pm on Friday and arrived in Birmingham, Alabama  at 9 pm. We rested for the night at a hotel and early in the morning headed to Cahaba Environment Center at Living River. At the site we meet up with other professor from the area whom would be our guides. Continue reading

Update: Spring Break in Panama

The members of PCP PIRE that traveled to Panama for Spring Break have been collaborating with the field interns to collect plant, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils in several localities, both old and new. On Friday the group left the field early to visit the Biomuseo, a museum that focuses on the history and biodiversity of Panama. PCP PIRE, STRI and several other institutions have made contributions to the museum and it was the first time that many members of the Spring Break crew had seen the museum since its construction phase. The museum includes permanent and temporary galleries that explain the history of Panama: its geologic history and how the Isthmus came to be, its evolutionary history and biodiversity, and its cultural history and how humans have shaped the landscape of Panama. One temporary exhibit centered on contributions made by PCP PIRE and other institutions and included details of our discoveries so far as well as paleoart and casts of fossils made by members of the project. It was an amazing experience to visit the museum and see what we have discovered through the course of this project and how we are sharing our discoveries with the public.


The Spring Break crew listen to a tour guide explain the details of the architecture of the Biomuseo. Photo © Dawn Mitchell.


The Spring Break crew discuss the geology of the Isthmus of Panama as they walk through the “Building the Bridge” exhibit, which narrates the geological history of Panama. Photo  © Dawn Mitchell.


Members of the PCP PIRE Spring Break crew explore the “Worlds Collide” exhibit at the Biomuseo. The exhibit includes life-size statues of animals clashing in a representation of the Great American Biotic Interchange after the Isthmus of Panama was fully formed. Photo © Dawn Mitchell.

The Spring Break group is wrapping up their fieldwork on Saturday and will be headed back to Florida on Sunday. Be sure to check back next week to hear from our museum interns about their experience in the field!