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Ecological uniformitarianism — help or hindrance to palaeoecology, palaeoclimatology and conservation biology?

Date: 2‒3 July 2024
Location: Online (by Zoom)
Hosted By: The Palaeontological Association
Organised By: ALA Johnson and J-F Cudennec (University of Derby), EM Harper (University of Cambridge), JAI Hennissen (British Geological Survey), RJ Twitchett and TS White (Natural History Museum, London)   
General Contact Email: 


Following the success of a pump-priming event in 2022 (Ecological uniformitarianism – key or lock? + YouTube video-recording), this online meeting will reunite a diverse community of earth and life scientists to discuss the stability of ecological niches. Earth scientists have long taken the (pseudo-)uniformitarian view that niches are stable and hence that the environments of fossil organisms can be interpreted from the ecology of modern counterparts. Niche change is, however, demonstrated by many invasive species. Whether niches are stable or labile has major implications not only for interpreting past environments but also for predicting future communities in the face of ongoing climate and other environmental change. We invite offers of talks (deadline 29 March 2024) concerning niche stability/lability over various taxa and timescales to complement invited lectures from a set of prestigious speakers (see below). Online publication of the proceedings is planned under one of the Association’s titles.


The organisers are keen for participants from the wide range of scientific fields to which the topic relates and from economically disadvantaged as well as advantaged backgrounds. To the latter end, funds generously contributed by the Quaternary Research Association will be used to provide a waiver of the £20 registration fee for participants from low and lower-middle income countries (as defined by the World Bank). 

Further information


Registration (£20 for those without a fee-waiver) will open on 5 January 2024 — a link to the registration/payment site will be provided here by then. Intending speakers will need to register by 29 March 2024 (see below); others by 7 June 2024 (later registration with a surcharge of £5). 

Abstract submission

As wider publicity has only just started, the deadline for abstract submission (and registration of intending speakers) has been put back to 29 March 2024. We will communicate decisions by 12 April 2024 so that there is ample time for talk preparation. Abstracts should be prepared in Word according to the following format and submitted as an email attachment to Prof. Liz Harper at Abstracts will not be accepted without prior registration.

Title (bold, 12pt, Arial, centred)
<blank line>
First name Initial. Last name1, 2nd author, 3rd author (bold, 10 pt, centred, presenting author underlined; use superscript numbers to indicate institutional affiliation)
<blank line>
1Affiliation (10pt, centred; in this order: Number (superscript), Department, Institution, City, Country)
Email: Presenting Author email
<blank line>

Abstract (11pt, no indentation, left-justified, only species names in italic, British English, 350 words maximum, no references or figures, no abbreviations)

Presentation guidelines

Talks should be in English and accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, Invited speakers will be allocated slots of 30 minutes; slots of 15 and 5 minutes will be available to other speakers (please indicate your preference at abstract submission). We aim to schedule the 5-minute (‘lightning’) talks in one or more groups, with a discussion session applying to all talks following each group. Speakers with 30- or 15-minute slots should aim to leave a few minutes free at the end of their talk for discussion. PowerPoint presentations (maximum of five slides for 5-minute talks) may be in either 16:9 or 4:3 format, although the former is preferred. They should be provided to the organizers (email attachment or We Transfer) by 28 June 2024 for emergency ‘central’ use in case screen-sharing is non-functional (presentations will be stored on a secure drive to ensure confidentiality of unpublished materials that may be included). Please make sure your presentation is Windows PC-compatible for this eventuality. We will endeavour to schedule talks according to the local day-time of speakers.

Conduct of the meeting

The meeting will be recorded and the video placed on the Association’s YouTube channel. Participants are expected to comply with the Code of Conduct for Palaeontological Association Meetings.

Manuscript submission

It is intended to publish papers relating to the meeting in either Palaeontology or Papers in Palaeontology, subject to the usual review process. Accepted papers will be collected into a ‘virtual’ issue (see this example). Manuscripts must be submitted by 6 September 2024, in accordance with the Information for Authors

Confirmed (invited) speakers

Paolo Albano (Anton Dohrn Zoological Station, Naples) — future species’ ranges from last-interglacial evidence
Joanne Bennett (Australian National University) — evolution of thermal tolerance
Kate Britton (University of Aberdeen) — reconstruction of Quaternary mammal niches
Harry Dowsett (US Geological Survey) — stability of foram environmental preferences
Jean-François Cudennec (University of Derby) — niche stability and change in Cenozoic bivalves
Greg Dietl (Cornell University) — niche issues in relation to conservation palaeobiology
David Horne (Queen Mary, University of London) — Quaternary‒Recent ostracod niche stability
Bruce Lieberman (University of Kansas) — metabolic rate and species extinction/survival
Sierra Petersen (University of Michigan) — Δ47 estimates of habitat change in molluscs
Lynn Wingard (US Geological Survey) — restoration of the Everglades ecosystem: guidance from the past

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