Project 587 - Identity, Facies and Time - The Ediacaran (Vendian) Puzzle

This project is particularly interested in the precise timing of Proterozoic events, the effects that changing environments of the time, climates, global ocean and atmospheric chemistry and palaeogeography had on the development and diversification of animals, culminating in the spectacular Ediacaran/Vendian faunas. These biotas are best represented along the Winter Coast of the White Sea in Russia, the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, the deserts of southern Namibia and the coastal outcrops of Newfoundland, but other, less biodiverse, faunas may provide significant input regarding the origin and demise of this unique metazoan assemblage. Furthermore, working out what controls the makeup of these globally distributed assemblages, facies or evolutionary stages, with their biostratigraphic implications, is a central issue to this proposal.

This project aims to extend the work begun by IGCP493 (2003-2009) in attempting to locate additional material from areas with a sparse Ediacaran biotic record (South America, Middle East, Siberia, Mongolia), but with marked palaeobiogeographic interest; to closely compare those settings (using sedimentology and detailed basin analysis, carbon and oxygen isotope input, palaeogeography) where some of the most abundant Edicaran biotas have been collected. This project will allow the proposers and associates to increase significantly the data base (and stimulate further discussion and joint research) of some of those less biodiverse, yet specimen abundant, assemblages, such as those in Namibia, as well as classic sites in the Ukraine, Siberia, and the Urals, and microsites in Mongolia, China, the White Sea, Australia. The project will attempt to push further back in time and examine older assemblages, such as those in the Bangamall Basin of Western Australia and new material from Tasmania, where some of the oldest probable records of multicellular organisms have been reported. We hope to access other sequences that themselves predate the oldest metazoan producing sediments in a hunt for the ancestors of the Ediacarans.  Beyond that some younger sediments, such as the Kangaroo Island Cambrian locales and others globally will be searched for the offspring and latest survivors of the Ediacarans in a quest to work out what happened to this diverse and enigmatic fauna that was successful for at least 40 million years.

In doing so, we wish to bring together researchers across many disciplines to examine and gain experience with the Ediacaran assemblages worldwide, to involve students and non-scientists, artists, documentary makers, etc. in the hope of markedly increasing the amount of material from some of the lesser known locales, refining the dating of all of these locales, and popularizing the research results to a broader audience. By understanding the sequence and rate of occurrence of such biotic events during the Neoproterozoic and their drivers, we may gain useful wisdom concerning predicting future climate and setting down policy that insure future sustainable habitability of the Earth.

  • Field Conference to Charnwood Forest (UK): 23-26 September 2011

Carried in the field in Charnwood Forest at several locales, in the Museum at the University of Leicester, and at the British Geological Survey in the Leicester region. Participants included Peter Trusler (graduate student), Dr Phil Wilby (Geological Survey), Prof Patricia Vickers-Rich, and both students and staff of the University of Leicester, Oxford and the Geological Survey as well as members of the Charnia Research Group, based in Leicester. The purpose of this short and informal conference was to share detailed information concerning the morphology and geological setting of the Charnwood ediacaran fauna with those known from Namibia, Russia and Newfoundland.

  • Conference: 2-5 September 2011 - 6th Science Centre World Congress, Cape Town (South Africa)

Several members of IGPC587 attended this conference (Dr Corrie Williams, Sandra Thong, Lydia Low) and showcased with detailed exhibition information research outputs of IGCP587. The presented at poster sessions where they highlighted the variety of media used to communicate results of research in our UNESCO project to the general public and make it available in the form of publications and exhibitions to science centres and schools around the world – emphasizing Africa. “First Life” – a documentary in part showcasing the research and field expeditions of researchers involved in IGCP587 (and previously IGCO493) was released.  This David Attenborough production with Altantic Productions, the BBC and the Discovery Channel won 3 Emmy Awards in September. This documentary was brought tot he attention of the attendees of this conference.

  • Field Conference on the Nama Group in Southern Namibia: 4 August-12 September 2011

This conference brought together researchers (especially early career researchers) who are working on the final stages of evolution of the Ediacaran (Vendian) biota in an area where the last of these early animals have been discovered (graduate students David Elliott, Peter Trusler (Australia) and researchers Prof Michael Hall (Australia), Prof. Guy Narbonne (Canada), Dr Li Chiawei (Taiwan), Prof Patricia Vickers-Rich (Australia), Prof. Ulf Linnemann (Germany), Dr Andrey Ivantsov (Russia) and science writer Elizabeth Finkel). As well, Dr Corrie Williams, Sandra Thong, Jeff Smith and Lydia Low, exhibition managers and teachers also attended to see first hand the research on which they based their exhibitions and teaching materials and programs. The research attendees represented a broad range of specialties from palaeontologists, sedimentologists, basin analysts, regional geologists, geochemists, geochronologists, taphonomists, in order to produce a series of papers and a monograph on the last of the ediacarans and their environmental context. The conference was spread over a longer time in order to allow a more detailed investigation and reporting of this clearly significant locale which represents the “last stand” of the ediacarans and planning for the next set of meetings and excursions for 2012.

Convernors: Prof Patricia Vickers-Rich and Prof Mike Hall (Monash University, Australia) under the auspices of the Geological Survey of Namibia (Director Dr Gabi Schneider)

  • Conference on Neoproterozoic Sedimentary Basins and Field Excursion to the East Sayan Mountai Ranges: 30 July-14 August 2011 in cooperation with IGCP 512

The conference was preceded by a workshop, with participation of leading experts on Proterozoic microfossils from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Irkutsk, and Novosibirsk who brought their collections for examination by Subcommission members [Neoproterozoic Subcommission (ICS)]. Collections of Ediacaran and Early Cambrian macrofossils, small skeletal fossils, and trace fossils from Siberia of importance for. During the conference the participants were provided an opportunity to examine a cores of boreholes with important Vendian sections from territories of Angara-Lena Block, Nepa-Botuoba Anticlise, and eastern part of West Siberian Plate, including the borehole Vostok-3, the Siberian locality of Namacalathus and the world’s fourth locality of Cloudina-Namacalathus assemblage. After the conference a geological excursion to the Uda River, the East Sayan Mountain Ranges was run allowing examination of the most accessible sections of the Siberian Vendian...” This gave a broad spectrum of researchers from China, Brazil, Australia, Germany and Russia to interact and assess not only the palaeoclimatic and palaeontologic data first hand from this region, but to interact and present in an informal manner their various interpretations of the past history of this critical section to working out the climatic, environmental, paleaogeographic and life history of this region during a dynamic period of earth history, from near the end of the Neoproterozoic.

Convernors: Dr Mikhail Fedonkin, Dr Alexey Kontorovich, Dr Julius Sovetov, Dr Larisa Konstantinova, Dr Dimitry Grazhdankin

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