Unpacking Antarctica


[KU Choral Chant] EDITH TAYLOR: My research specialty is Paleobotany, which is the study of fossil plants. And what we can tell about the fossil climates from the plants. This particular grant was to collect Jurassic fossils from Antarctica. This is really the only site where there are very many of them. So it's 6,000 pounds worth of fossils that were collected in November/December by our team working in Antarctica. CARLA HARPER: Everybody says it's like Christmas in April, and it certainly is. EDITH: Carla Harper, our graduate student, collected a lot of fossil wood, which we use to learn about the ancient climates in Antarctica, because it wasn't always as cold as it is now. CARLA: So in addition to the Jurassic localities that we collected fossils, we also looked a time periods called the Permian and Triassic. So you have the Permian which was pretty cool, in temperature.

You have the Triassic which was much warmer. And then you have the Jurassic, which was even hotter. And so looking at that, you have intense climate change and what's amazing is that all the plants are changing, but the fungi and the microbes are pretty much doing the same thing back then as they are today. And so, if we can understand why do they have that sort of resilience, whereas the plants are changing, maybe we can see what they're going to be doing today in this ever-changing climate world. [music builds] CARLA: I've been working on Antarctic material for the past five years. But then to actually go there and then put it all into context, it's like, oh this is where everything comes from, this is why we do it. It reignited my passion, it's something I know I certainly want to continue with for a very long time.