2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

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

no photo available


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / 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 Glacier Camp / Collinson Ridge / Mounts Butters and Weaver / Graphite Peak / 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

Seven participants, including a project mountaineer, will work from three satellite camps at Collinson Ridge, Mt. Butters, and Graphite Peak over the course of six to seven weeks.

The entire team will establish the first camp at Collinson Ridge and conduct helicopter-supported day trips from that location. After approximately one week, two of the team members will separate from the group and establish a second satellite camp at Mt. Butters. Later in the season, five of the team members will establish a third satellite camp at Graphite Peak while the other two team members return to Shackleton camp to collect samples from Mt. Weaver and Nilsen Plateau on day trips by Twin Otter aircraft.

Total sample retrograde for the 2017-18 season is estimated to be approximately 8000 lbs. of fossil plants, logs, and rocks. Approximately 6500 lbs. of these samples are anticipated to come from the Collinson Ridge area and on day trips conducted from that site.

Deploying Team Members

  • Brian Atkinson
  • Erik Gulbranson (Co-PI)
  • Carla Harper
  • John Isbell (Team Leader)
  • Elizabeth Ives
  • Rudolph Serbet (Team Leader)
  • Daniel Uhlmann