Our Smith Lecture speaker this week is Selena Smith from the U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. She is speaking on "Insights into plant evolution and paleoenvironments in past warm worlds." Abstract below.
Smith Lectures are Friday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, in Room 1528 C.C. Little Building. A reception is held following the lecture in 2540 C.C. Little. The events are free and open to the public. A full schedule for the term may be found on our website:
Best regards, -Anne
Academic Student Services
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Michigan
The fossil record provides us with data to study how and why life and ecosystems have changed over Earth's history. These natural experiments are especially important now as we seek to understand what might happen with future global warming. The Cretaceous and Paleogene represent past warm worlds with a biota most similar to today, and plants are a critical component of the fossil record to understand because of their role as primary producers and their strong links to the environment. Monocot flowering plants represent one interesting group to study because of their economic and ecological importance. Using the Zingiberales (bananas, gingers, and relatives) as an example, I will show how new approaches allow us to interpret better their fossil record and gain insights into past environments and into the evolution of key groups. Specifically, phytoliths can be used to track tropical environments, and synchrotron X-ray tomography provides a powerful tool to identify fossils, such as the key fossil Spirematospermum in Zingiberales, and place them in an evolutionary context.