Antarctic=Academy Town Square 9/13

While Antarctic ice sheets are changing at an alarming rate and scientists are racing to predict the continent’s future, one scientist is more interested in its past.

Earlier this year, paleontologist Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University made the institution’s first expedition to the southernmost continent in search of evidence of the evolution of fish species related to the rise of the first limbed animals.

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, Daeschler will recount his extraordinary adventure and scientific research in an illustrated presentation as part of the Academy Town Square series. The talk, entitled “Antarctica: Fossil Exploration at the End of the Earth,” is free and begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Registration is requested to ensure seating. To register, visit the Academy’s website.

Paleontologist Daeschler collected many Devonian-age fossils in Antarctica, here packaged and ready to take with him back to Philadelphia. Photo by John Long

In December 2016 and into January, Daeschler, associate curator of vertebrate zoology, joined a team of researchers from four universities on an expedition into the Transantarctic Range, a portion of the 2 percent of Antarctica that is not covered in ice year-round. Their goal was to collect fossilized backboned animals that lived there before the time of the dinosaurs and to try to pinpoint centers of evolutionary change.

They came away with a trove of 390-million-year-old fossils that are currently being curated and studied at the Academy in Philadelphia, making the institution a center for research on Devonian-age Antarctic fossils.

Daeschler, PhD, also a professor at Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biodiversity, Earth, and Environmental Science, will recount the sometimes-harrowing conditions at this bleak windswept landscape of rock and ice. With magnificent photographs and a knack for storytelling, he will describe the methods and tools used for fossil exploration and survival, and what scientists are learning about the evolution and extinction of species.

A small exhibit of some fossil specimens from the expedition will be on display for the event.

The Academy Town Square series is designed to engage and provide relevant educational content to the public on environmental issues. The series is made possible by Warren Environmental Counsel. For future talks, visit ansp.org.

To read a series of posts by Daeschler written while he was based at McMurdo Research Station, the U.S. Antarctic research center, visit the Academy Blog.

Post by Carolyn Belardo