The wildFIRE Lab visits Vancouver for the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

It was to be the first major conference of the academic year, name badges at the ready and guidebooks in hand; it was time for GSA 2014!

The Geological Society of America (GSA) hosts annual meeting of geologists and Earth scientists to present and discuss recent research, share new insights in their respective fields, and also have a few palaeofire scientist pop along too! This year the venue for the conference was in Vancouver, Canada, with five members of the Palaeofire group venturing across the pond to present some of the wildFIRE Lab’s recent research. The visiting group consisted of Dr Claire Belcher, Dr Victoria Hudspith, Alastair (AJ) Crawford and first timer Nick Walding.

The wildFIRE Lab was well represented this year with 6 talks being presented across multiple sessions and a poster being presented on behalf of Stacey New who unfortunately couldn’t join us at the conference. Subject matter ranged from wildfires being both a cause and consequence from environmental change at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary; to charcoal morphological changes; to a post-fire assessment of All Saints bog in Ireland through to future climate-driven changes in fire regime.

Dr Claire Belcher kicked off proceedings for the wildFIRE group with her Pardee Keynote Symposium talk entitled; ‘Cause or Consequence? Wildfires at the Jurassic-Triassic and Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary’. This talk explored the mass extinction events at both of these points in time and highlighted the potential role of wildfires as causes or consequences of the major environmental changes seen at these times.

On the following day, the group had a number of presentations in the Technical Session ‘Co-Evolution on Earth’s Surface: Terrestrial Ecosystem and Environmental Interactions’ convened by Jon Wilson and Ellen Currano.  During this session talks were heard from Dr Claire Belcher, Dr Victoria Hudspith, Alastair Crawford, and Nick Walding (full abstracts can be viewed by clicking on peoples names). A special mention also needs to go to guest speaker Albert Simeoni, a collaborator of the wildFIRE group from the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, for giving an exciting talk entitled ‘Experimental study of fire behaviour during prescribed fires in New Jersey’ and collaborator Dr Cindy Looy from Berkeley for her talk on the earliest evidence of a fire adaptive trait.

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Nick, Claire and Vicky in front of Stacey’s poster in the exhibition hall

Later that day, Dr Claire Belcher presented a poster on Behalf of Stacey New entitled; ‘Tracing the signature of smouldering peat fires in the Holocene’. This research used experimental charred peat particles to assess the likely morphologies of char resulting from the burning of peat, and then applied these findings to peatland cores to assess whether such morphologies can be seen in natural peatlands.On the final day of the conference Dr Victoria Hudspith presented her research into Latest Permian Chars and how they likely derived from wildfires and not coal combustion, and so potentially bringing into question support for the mechanisms involved in the Permian-Triassic extinction events. See her paper in Geology.

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Image: Vicky presenting her Permian Chars research

Overall the conference was a success for the wildFIRE Lab! This is the first time so many members of the group have presented their research together at a large international conference with our research be well received by the academic community. A shame however that we couldn’t escape the rain of the SW of the UK, Vancouver seemed just as wet!


Blogged by Nick Walding