2015 workshop summary

2015 Workshop Of Sino-US Collaborative Research In Paleontology


“Rise of Modern Biological Diversity in the Phanerozoic”


April 4-6, 2015


Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA


Steering Committee of US Scientists: 

Dr. Peter J. Makovicky (NSF-Award PI for the workshop), Field Museum of Natural History

Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo (Co-PI), The University of Chicago

Dr. Patrick Herendeen, The Chicago Botanic Garden


Chinese Coordinators for the workshop:

Prof. Xiangdong Wang, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, CAS

Prof. Tao Deng, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS


Granting Agencies:  The US National Science Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China


Overview - Sino-US Collaborative Research on the Rise of Modern Biological Diversity In the Phanerozoic (2015) was a cross-disciplinary workshop.  It brought together nearly 60 participants, including key players and junior researchers from China and the US in paleontology, evolutionary biology, taphonomy, and biostratigraphy, and geochemistry, and other expertise areas.  All participants from multiple disciplines share a common interest in understanding the rise of modern biodiversity in the Phanerozoic and the assembly of modern ecosystems.


The 2015 workshop was held in April 4-6 in Chicago and hosted by the Field Museum of Natural History.  It was a continuation of a series of bilateral workshops to address Critical Transitions in the History of Life (www.criticaltransitions.org), starting in 2005 and co-sponsored by the US National Science Foundation and National Natural Science Foundation of China.


Aimed to capture recent, high profile research activities, the workshop program had five broad themes with 33 Platform presentations by experts at all career stages to provide brief summaries of the status of current research.  These presentations were followed by extensive, moderated discussions to identify new research directions and initiatives.  Additionally, a poster session had 10 posters by graduate students and postdocs.


On April 6, 2015, a majority of participants toured the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) Advance Photon Source (APS) facility, coordinated by Dr. Carmen Soriano-Hoyuelo and Dr. Peter Makovicky.  Introductory seminars by APS staff provided overview of the APS facility and exemplary applications of synchrotron tomography and imaging in geological sciences including paleontology.  Several workshop participants presented the studies of fossils using synchrotron tomography at the APS beam lines.  After the presentation, workshop participants toured APS Beamline 2. Both workshop participants and APS scientists expressed strong interest fostering new research using the APS Beamlines.


Intellectual Merit - The rise of modern biodiversity during the latter part of the Phanerozoic is one of the most important questions in evolutionary biology, paleontology, and geological sciences.  The history of Earth and its diverse life were transformed by the rise of modern clades of life and their assembly into modern ecosystems during the Mesozoic Era.  From the Triassic through the Cenozoic, the rise of modern vertebrate lineages, the emergence of angiosperm plants, and the radiation of hyper diverse arthropod groups have profoundly changed the Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems. To study this great transition, it is crucial to decipher the evolution of Mesozoic and Cenozoic paleoecological communities through the rise of the modern groups of invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants.  It is equally important to understand the response of these ecosystems to the changing physical environment.   In recent decades, major research advances and fossil discoveries were made in China and in the US, toward understanding the critical transitions in the history of life that gave rise to modern biological diversity, which is also a focus of intense conservation efforts. From 2005 to 2012, the US National Science Foundation and China’s National Natural Science Foundation have co-sponsored a series of seven bilateral workshops to address Critical Transitions in the History of Life.


Dr. Peter Makovicky (NSF Award PI), Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo (co-PI), and Dr. Patrick Herendeen organized the 2015 workshop in Chicago, with joint organizational effort by Prof. Xiangdong Wang (Nanjing) and Prof. Tao Deng (Beijng).  The invited Chinese and US scientists are active in the research related to the rise of modern biological diversity, and have complementary strengths and resources to support bi-lateral collaboration on the research of the critical transitions in the history of life.


Each of the previous US-China Geology and Paleontology Workshops from 2005 through 2013 (www.criticaltransitions.org) had simultaneously covered several critical transitions.  A new and unique emphasis (thus also a merit) of the 2015 Chicago workshop was on a central theme - the Rise of Modern Biodiversity in the Phanerozoic. The workshop was aimed to highlight the new and powerful tools of improving temporal calibrations, integrating molecular and fossil datasets in evolutionary reconstructions, quantitative and ecomorphological analyses of the fossil record, and advances in biogeochemistry and sedimentary geology, all of which are broadly applicable to studying all critical transitions in the history of life. The workshop discussed a range of topics: integrating molecules and fossils in studying the history of major clades, deciphering the evolution of ecosystems that led to the modern biodiversity, taphonomy of major Mesozoic and Paleogene lagerstätten, and the utility of databases for studying major biotic change.  A tour of the workshop participants at the Advance Photon Source of the Argonne National Laboratory showcased the rapid development of synchrotron tomography and imaging in geological and paleontological research, for the US and Chinese scientists.


Broader Impacts - The rise of modern biological diversity during the last 250 million years is of major interest not only to paleontologists, but also to molecular evolutionists, organic geochemists, sedimentologists, and to evolutionary biologists who employ quantitative approaches to study large-scale macroevolutionary patterns.  The 2015 Chicago workshop helped to disseminate the new knowledge and the latest advances on these topics of wide interest.  The workshop participants also identified a range of multidisciplinary research for future collaboration by the US and Chinese scientists.  To promote opportunities for junior scientists to build career network and to be involved in international collaboration, the organizers recruited seven postdocs and seven graduate students from the US and China to join the workshop.  All graduate students made either platform, or poster presentations at the workshop.

     National Science      Foundation

National Natural Science Foundation of China

    Geobiodiversity     Database