15 June 2012

Suitcase full of forams

I've worked with tropical planktonic foraminifera of up to ~150.000 years old. And modern Arctic benthic foraminifera. And modern salt marsh foraminifera. But that's only the beginning! In Norfolk we cored sediments that may well be 400.000 years old. And they have lots of shallow marine benthic foraminifera in them. Some I know; some I don't. So I mailed the guy who had published the only article I had found with foraminifera in them from that same time and place. He was the first author; the foram work had actually been done by the second author. He had been cc'd; he immediately mailed back with an offer for help, but not only that. He said he was organising a workshop on foraminifera taxonomy; would I be interested in coming? All the great names in benthic foraminifera taxonomy would be there. So I said yes!

I wanted to have these knowledgeable people look at my specimens; they would be the people to give me a massive leg-up in getting familiar with them. When I mailed them they declared themselves willing. Yay! That will make things much easier. It’s not easy to sort it out yourself; there are so, so many species you can’t just leaf through a catalogue until you find something that looks like what you see through your microscope. One of our retired professors in geology does have a catalogue; it fills a book cupboard. And we don’t have a big reference collection. It really helps if people point your nose in the right direction.

So in order to get ready for this workshop I put many, many forams in microslides. They will come with me! And if that would not be enough microfossil friends; the organiser also asked me to bring specimens of a specific species he was doing research on. We happen to have lots of these in our collection! I hope all goes well.

Blogger insists on having this picture in portrait format! Beats me why...

So with my thousands of little dead friends I will go back to beautiful St Andrews. I look forward to it, but I’m also a bit apprehensive; the grandfather of UK benthic foram research is there… his writing style suggests he doesn’t suffer microfossil fools. And I might qualify as one. We’ll see! I feel honoured to be able to find out. I hope I return with my head filled to the brim with foram knowledge, learned from the best. I will report back!

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