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Innovations in Palaeontology Lecture Series

We are pleased to announce that Dr Alexander (Sandy) Hetherington from the University of Oxford has been appointed as the PalAss Exceptional Lecturer for 2020/21.

In search of the roots of roots: 400 million years of plant root evolution

“Plant blindness” is the term used to describe the phenomena where plants often go unnoticed or underappreciated by humans. Plant blindness is observed in many contexts including in the study of palaeontology where plants are often overlooked simply as food for animals rather than as the fundamental underpinnings of all terrestrial ecosystems. A major goal of my research is to promote and communicate the importance of land plant evolution and the vast changes plants have made to the Earth System. In my research I utilise a diversity of techniques, including classic comparative methods, new imaging techniques and molecular approaches such as comparative genomics, to shine a spotlight on the evolution of the hidden half of plants – the rooting systems. Rooting systems are the interface between plants and the terrestrial surface and their evolution has therefore played a key role in driving plant evolution and changes to the Earth system. In this lecture I will deliver a journey about root evolution including new insights from the world famous 407 million-year-old Rhynie chert, the roots that underpinned the iconic Carboniferous coal swamp forests and finally the hidden history of roots written in the genomes of living species.

Dr Sandy Hetherington - 2020/21 PalAss Exceptional Lecturer



Want Sandy to visit your institution?

We invite interested institutions to apply to host Sandy via the Association’s website. Please provide a timeframe (between September 2020 – May 2021) during which you would like Sandy to give a lecture at your institution. The list of interested institutions will be forwarded to the him on 1st May 2020, although any applications from institutions submitted after this date will still be considered depending on the remaining time and budget. The Association will pay for any reasonable travel costs incurred by the Exceptional Lecturer in visiting each of the host institutions (up to a maximum of £500 for per lecture). The host institutions are expected to cover costs for accommodation (where necessary) and hospitality. 

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