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PhD: Unearthing Antarctica’s role in the Late Cretaceous evolution of flowering plants

Project Title

Unearthing Antarctica’s role in the Late Cretaceous evolution of flowering plants


University of Kansas

Supervisors and Institutions

Brian A. Atkinson, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas Selena Y. Smith, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan

Funding Status

Funding is in place for this project

Project Description

Project Summary: The Late Cretaceous diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms) in the Southern Hemisphere is poorly understood due in part to the limited sampling of well-characterized fossil plant reproductive structures. This research will elucidate Antarctica's role in the evolution of angiosperms by recovering and characterizing the diversity of Late Cretaceous flowering plants, placing them within a phylogenetic context, and testing for biogeographic links between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres as has been observed for animals. Previous paleobotanical reports and preliminary data indicate that Late Cretaceous deposits within the Larsen Basin of West Antarctica yield diverse structurally (three-dimensionally) preserved floras that include rare fossil flowers, fruits, and seeds. The exceptional preservation of these fossils allows us to record morphological, anatomical, and histological data essential for placing these extinct taxa in a phylogenetic framework from which their evolutionary and biogeographical context can be determined.

The Paleobotany labs at the University of Kansas (KU) and University of Michigan (UM) are looking to recruit two PhD students (one at KU and one at UM) to work on our recently funded project examining the diversity, evolution, and biogeographic history of angiosperms in the Cretaceous of Antarctica. This project will include Antarctic fieldwork and training on plant structure, phylogenetics, specimen curation, microCT, and field collecting.

We are particularly interested in potential PhD students who want to be part of an inclusive, cooperative, and diverse team comprising both KU and UM labs! Preferred qualifications include some experience with at least two of the following: a) plant structure, b) phylogenetics, c) and/or paleontology and fieldwork.

Contact Name

Brian Atkinson

Contact Email

Closing Date

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Expiry Date

Saturday, December 5, 2020
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