2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Permian and Triassic icehouse to greenhouse paleoenvironments and paleobotany in the Shackleton Glacier Area, Antarctica

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Meghan Walker / Leslie Blank

Principal Investigator

Dr. Edith Taylor

University of Kansas Lawrence
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Lawrence, Kansas


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Shackleton Camp / Shroeder Hill / Nilsen Plateau


The research focus of this collaborative proposal is to collect fossil plants, fossil wood, stratigraphic, sedimentologic, paleosol, and geochemical data from plants and the rocks that contain them. The goal is to reconstruct the extent of the Gondwana glaciation in the Shackleton Glacier (SHG) area, the invasion and subsequent flourishing of life following glacial retreat, and the eventual recovery of plant life after the Late Permian biotic events. Only in Antarctica does a complete polar-to-near-polar succession occur across this climatic and biologic transition. The SHG area is an important one as it is one of the few regions in the world where the Permian-Triassic Boundary (PTB) is exposed within terrestrial rocks. In addition, outcrops in the SHG area extend from the glacigenic deposits of the Upper Carboniferous-Lower Permian through to the Upper Triassic. These outcrops thus record ecosystems and the plants that inhabited them from the Gondwana icehouse, into the Late Permian-Early Triassic greenhouse, and into presumed "full recovery" of floras from the PTB extinctions in the Late Triassic.

Field Season Overview

The field team will deploy to Shackleton Camp by LC-130 aircraft and will then fly by Twin Otter to two satellite camps, Alfie's Elbow (Site 1) and Nilsen Plateau (Site 2), where they will collect fossilized plants, rocks, and fossil logs. Three scientists and a project mountaineer will begin the season at Site 1; a fourth scientist will join the team during the camp move to Site 2. The team will spend one-to-two weeks at Site 1, and will access most sampling sites by foot. If possible, there will be one Twin Otter reconnaissance flight to survey a potential camp site and cache for snow mobiles and sampling locations at Site 2. Most sampling sites at Site 2 will be accessed by snowmobile. Approximately 800 pounds of rocks and fossil logs will be retrograded to Shackleton Camp.

Deploying Team Members

  • Peter Braddock
  • Anne-Laure Decombeix
  • Erik Gulbranson (Co-PI)
  • John Isbell (Team Leader)
  • Rudolph Serbet