October Meeting Announcement — First Lecture of Fall 2018!

Join us on Fri­day, Octo­ber 12th at 7:00 pm in Room 132 of the Archae­ol­o­gy Build­ing (55 Cam­pus Dri­ve) for our first meet­ing of Fall 2018! Dr. James Basinger (Depart­ment of Geo­log­i­cal Sci­ences, Uni­ver­si­ty of Saskatchewan) will be pre­sent­ing “Fos­sil Forests of the Cana­di­an High Arc­tic: A Win­dow into Polar Envi­ron­ments Dur­ing a Peri­od of Glob­al Warmth”. All are wel­come!

Abstract: Cana­di­an High Arc­tic: A Win­dow into Polar Envi­ron­ments Dur­ing a Peri­od of Glob­al Warmth
Cli­mate change is dom­i­nat­ing our glob­al envi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness, and Humanity’s role in glob­al warm­ing is now a mat­ter of con­sen­sus among the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. Our impact on Earth’s cli­mate, and the con­se­quence, in turn, on ecosys­tems, exists, how­ev­er, with­in the con­text of con­stant change. The fos­sil record illus­trates Earth’s chang­ing cli­mate, and nowhere is the con­trast between past and present so vivid as in the polar regions.

Remains of ancient polar com­mu­ni­ties are pre­served in the Cana­di­an High Arc­tic, most notably on Axel Heiberg Island, where mum­mi­fied fos­sil forests of Mid­dle Eocene age (45 mil­lion years old) are found. Tree stumps are still root­ed in their ancient soils, and for­est-floor lit­ters are pre­served in exquis­ite detail. As revealed by these fos­sils, the Arc­tic once host­ed tow­er­ing cedars and dawn red­woods, rich hard­wood forests of wal­nut, oak, sycamore, and birch, and upland forests of pine, larch, and spruce. Lush veg­e­ta­tion thrived in the warm, humid polar envi­ron­ment of this “Green­house Earth”, and arc­tic tun­dra and ice did not exist.

Glob­al cli­mate has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, as first the South­ern, then the North­ern Hemi­sphere slipped inex­orably into an Ice Age. Arc­tic fos­sils help us under­stand how Earth’s cli­mate changes and appre­ci­ate the impact of glob­al cli­mate change. These great changes in cli­mate occur nat­u­ral­ly in response to evo­lu­tion of the Earth Sys­tem, pro­found­ly alter­ing Earth’s bios­phere over geo­log­i­cal time. Humans have become agents of cli­mate change, and we must antic­i­pate our impact on Earth’s envi­ron­ments. Per­haps the Arc­tic fos­sil record may serve as a win­dow onto both the past and the future.

Dr. James Basinger received a B.Sc. in Bot any at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta. He then earned an M.Sc. in 1976 and Ph.D in 1979 at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alber­ta in Pale­ob­otany. After two years as a post­doc­tor­al fel­low in the U.S.A., Aus­tralia, and Cana­da, he joined the fac­ul­ty of the Depart­ment of Geo­log­i­cal Sci­ences in the Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Saskatchewan in 1981. He served as Head of the Depart­ment of Geo­log­i­cal Sci­ences from 1997–2003, Asso­ciate Dean Sci­ence from 2004–2007, and Asso­ciate Vice-Pres­i­dent Research from 2008–2016.

His research pro­gram on the evo­lu­tion of plants and envi­ron­ments has includ­ed exten­sive field-based research in West­ern Cana­da and the Cana­di­an High Arc­tic. Since 1982 he has inves­ti­gat­ed the remains of fos­sil plants in north­ern­most Cana­da and was involved in the much-pub­li­cized dis­cov­ery of the 45–60 mil­lion- year-old fos­sil forests of Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere islands. These fos­sil forests pro­vide a win­dow into Earth’s past, to a time when glob­al cli­mate was much warmer than present, and forests exist­ed through­out the polar regions. His arc­tic research has also brought to light one of the best sources of some of the world’ s old­est land plants, in 400-mil­lion-year-old rocks of Bathurst Island, in the cen­tral Arc­tic Arch­i­pel­ago of Cana­da.