Three Ichnoplanet students at the University of Saskatchewan receive awards from the International Association of Sedimentologists!

Dr. Maximiliano Paz has received the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) Postdoctoral Research Grant. He is currently studying the sedimentology and ichnology of the Cambrian-Ordovician Los Cabos Series. These funds will be used to cover one month of fieldwork expenses to log 4000 m of the succession in the rocky cliffs of western Asturias, Spain.

Jack Milligan has received the IAS Judith McKenzie Fieldwork Award. He is studying the sequence stratigraphy and taphonomy of dinosaur bones including describing osteic bioerosion trace fossils from the latest Cretaceous Frenchman Formation. This funding will cover fieldwork expenses to measure coastal floodplain and fluvial outcrops along the Frenchman River Valley of southwestern Saskatchewan.

Federico Wenger also received the IAS Judith McKenzie Fieldwork Award. He will be studying the sequence stratigraphy and ichnology including the degree of bioturbation, ichnodisparity, and ichnodiversity to understand the different environmental zones of the Devonian Talacasto Formation, in the geological province of Precordillera, western Argentina. This funding will help finance the trip to the study area.

Congratulations to Maximiliano, Jack, and Federico, and best of luck with your fieldwork, and thank you to the International Association of Sedimentologists for helping fund Ichnoplanet research at USask!

Written by Jack Milligan

Modern animal life could have arisen in a storm-dominated deltaic environment

Our understanding of how and where the ancestors of modern life evolved has been the question of many paleontologists for a long time. Recently, an international team of sedimentologists and paleontologists, including Dr. Luis Buatois, Dr. Gabriela Mángano, and Dr. Maximiliano Paz, demonstrated that a world-famous Cambrian soft-bodied fossil assemblage in Yunnan province, China, lived and died in a delta front environment affected by storms. The Chengjiang Biota records the exquisite preservation of soft-bodied marine invertebrates, including worms, early arthropods, and early vertebrates. This assemblage is around 518 million years old, around the time of the famous Cambrian explosion, where modern communities of animals first started to truly diversify. The Chenjiang biota has a similar faunal makeup to the Burgess Shale biota from British Columbia, Canada. The team analyzed a core taken from Cambrian outcrops in Yunnan, China, and discovered that the sequence of strata was formed in a shallow marine, deltaic environment. High rates of sedimentation and indications of high salinity point to this deltaic environment being dominated by storms and river floods. These kinds of sediments help us to understand the exceptional taphonomy of fossils from these Cambrian assemblages.

Figure. Block diagram showing the storm-flood-dominated delta and associated cores showing depositional sequences. (From F. Saleh et al., 2022)

The full article can be accessed in Nature Communications.

Written by Jack Milligan

Trilobite fossil recovered from southwestern Saskatchewan subsurface Earlie Formation core sample

During his studies on the subsurface geology and ichnology of the Basal Sandstone Unit and Earlie Formation in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Ph.D. student Andrei Ichaso conducted core analysis of the study area. One of the studied core samples records the tide-influenced marginal-marine shales of the middle Cambrian Earlie Formation (~500 Ma), and also happened to capture something else. The complete body fossil of a trilobite, a Paleozoic marine invertebrate, was caught and preserved within the drill core! The trilobite was identified by a National University of Cordoba Ph.D. student, and former M.Sc. student in the Department of Geological Sciences at USask, Neal Handkamer, as Modocia. The specimen is around 32 mm long and recovered from a drilling depth of 2.3 km. This discovery marks the first occurrence of a trilobite body fossil of Cambrian age from the province of Saskatchewan. Following this discovery, the trilobite was featured on the front cover of the 2023 Saskatchewan Geoscience Calendar from the Saskatchewan Geological Society!

Congratulations to Andrei on this awesome and remarkable find!

Written by Jack Milligan

Dr. Anthony Shillito receives Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to conduct research at USask on animal aquatic-terrestrial transition

Dr. Anthony Shillito from the University of Oxford, England, is one of the recent recipients of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, which allows exceptional scholars to continue their research with the help of federal funding.

Dr. Shillito’s project at the University of Saskatchewan will be focused on understanding why animals began the transition from marine to terrestrial, and the factors that may have played a part in establishing terrestrial faunal communities. He has previously conducted fieldwork looking into this research question in places such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Canadian Arctic. His work will look at this transition through the perspective of the trace fossil record including burrows and trackways, including analysis of the sedimentology associated with these important fossils. Congratulations on receiving this prestigious award Anthony, we are excited to have you join our research group!

You can read more of Dr. Shillito’s research on his ResearchGate page!

Written by Jack Milligan

Dr. Mángano named Distinguished Professor at USask

We are excited to share that our own Dr. Gabriela Mángano has been named a distinguished professor by the University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Professorship Advisory Committee.

She was recognized for her breadth of contributions in the areas of ichnologic and sedimentological research on an international scale. She has mentored and supervised many students, many of whom are underrepresented in the geosciences, including women and minority groups. Congratulations Gabriela on this amazing achievement!

She also received the award for Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists back in 2018.

Written by Jack Milligan

Dr. Buatois recipient of the 2022 Raymond C. Moore Medal for Paleontology by SEPM

We are thrilled to share that Dr. Luis Buatois has received the 2022 Raymond C. Moore Medal for Paleontology from the Society for Sedimentary Geology. This prestigious international award recognizes accomplished researchers who have contributed a great amount to the field of paleontology (see SEPM interview on YouTube).

Today, Dr. Buatois is regarded as one of the world’s renowned experts on animal trace fossils, and the early history of life on Earth through the lens and framework of ichnology. He supervises a large group of students and serves on editorial boards for geological and paleontological journals. From all of us at Ichnoplanet, congratulations Luis!

Written by Jack Milligan