2013 workshop in early August at Kunming, China

    On August 4-6, 2013, the annual Critical Transitions workshop was convened in Kunming, Yunnan Province in southern China. Twenty-two US participants were supported (travel expenses paid for) by this grant, The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) paid expenses for the meeting and logistic expenses while in Kunming. The workshop also attracted 34 Chinese participants from across China, supported by NSFC. Diverse paleontologic specialties were represented. A total of 52 presentations were given by US and Chinese geologists and paleontologists, followed by three separate group discussions by workshop participants (see attached schedule of presentations). In the third day, two field excursions were organized that toured the Cambrian Chengjiang Fauna site and the Mesozoic Lufeng Dinosaurs Park.

    The main objective was to provide an engaging forum for encouraging international, cross-disciplinary collaborations that tackled major challenges in the history of life and their environment. The workshop helped to identify grand challenges in the coming years and formulate strategies for tackling the toughest questions that are beyond individuals or single countries. Specialists in geochronology, geochemistry, biostratigraphy, zoogeography, paleoenvironment, and systematics were expected to generate several grant proposals from this forum.

    The Kunming workshop was one of the largest of such gathering in a city that has increasing importance in both vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, including research areas such as Cambrian explosion, rich Mesozoic dinosaur fossil sites, and important discoveries of primates in late Cenozoic. Participation by many local paleontologists and geologists were also important.

    Following two previous Critical Transitions workshops in Beijing, a book was published by the Columbia University Press in 2013 on the Late Cenozoic Mammalian Biochronology of Asia. This book is expected to become a standard of reference for many years to come not only for students of mammalian biochronology in Asia, but also for the global geoscience community. The geochronologic framework to be published in above mentioned book will be of major significance to all geologic community, who works the Neogene basins in Asia. It will also be a major resource for mammalian paleontologists around the world for their works on intercontinental geochronology and biogeography.

    The PIs made a concerted effort to encourage participation by graduate students and attempted to reach out to people who have never had the opportunity to collaborate with Chinese colleagues before. This is especially true during the Kunming workshop, in which we allocated about 50% of the funds to graduate students or early career faculty. We anticipate that this will lead to further training of Chinese and American graduate students.

    The original Critical Transitions website was run through the Earth-Time initiative at MIT. During the Los Angeles workshop in 2012, decisions were made to migrate the web content to a new management structure by the same people who run the Geobiodiversity Database (http://www.geobiodiversity.com/) hosted on the server of the GBDB team. The migration is was complete at the opening of the Kunming workshop and the new web can be viewed at: http://criticaltransitions.org/. With this new link, we hope to leverage the Geobiodiversity Database web content and drive interests.

     National Science      Foundation

National Natural Science Foundation of China

    Geobiodiversity     Database