Earth Sciences

Facilities

Paleobotany Laboratory

Paleobotany at SMU includes facilities for the preparation and study of plant fossils from the microscopic to macroscopic scales, including palynology, and the study of leaves, fruit, seeds and woods.
The S.M.U. Paleobotany and Palynology Laboratories are maintained by Dr. Bonnie Jacobs.

Plant macrofossils are prepared in the collections laboratory using an air scribe, or in the chemical preparation lab for processing small samples for cuticle (epidermal) studies.  Preparation is followed by study and documentation with a dissecting microscope, and a Leica epifluorescence microscope and accompanying software for the imaging and analysis of plant cuticle cells (see image at right).  Plant macrofossil analyses usually focus on understanding taxonomy and systematics of plant groups, biogeography, environments of deposition, and the reconstruction of past vegetation and climate.

Palynological research in the lab consists of the chemical and/or physical separation of pollen and spores from sedimentary matrix, the microscopic analysis of pollen and spores for identification and quantification within a sample, and the interpretation of the results of analysis. Pollen analyses usually focus on understanding environments of deposition and the reconstruction of past vegetation and climate.  Facilities include a laboratory for chemical preparation, biological microscopes for study of pollen slides, and a modern pollen reference collection.  Imaging capabilities are supported by a digital SLR camera mounted on a trinocular microscope and accompanying software. 

Current paleobotanical research includes analysis of pollen, spores and plant macrofossils from Oligocene and Miocene strata of the Ethiopian Plateau.  The goals of these studies are to understand better the nature of vegetation and climate from sites dated 28 and 22 million years ago, and what they can tell us about changes at regional and larger spatial scales between the Paleogene and Neogene.   For more information, see: http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/29/a-fossil-hunt-in-ethiopias-mush-valley/