The Sprigg lecture series provides visitors with access to the latest research and thinking around scientific and cultural discoveries at a local and global level and to engage with scientific ideas that affect them and their world, now and in the future.
These free lectures commemorate the life of Dr Reg Sprigg AO, a remarkable South Australian geologist who discovered the world’s oldest fossilised animals in the Flinders Ranges in 1946, now internationally recognised as the Ediacara fossils.
Online bookings for Sprigg lectures will open one month before the event.
7 April 2015
From the Cambrian of Kangaroo Island to the Ordovician of Morocco
Free; bookings essential
The Cambrian (541–485 million years ago or ‘Ma’) and the Ordovician (485–458 Ma) periods represent a crucial phase in the history of the Earth: they bring the sudden appearance of most major animal groups, together with unprecedented anatomies and functionalities. The initial phase of diversification of metazoans, the ‘Cambrian Explosion’, brought the appearance of very high-level taxonomic groups – Phyla and Classes – and was followed by a second burst of marine biodiversity called the ‘Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event’, or GOBE, which produced an dramatic increase at the Order and Family and Genus levels and a significant rise in the complexity of the ecosystems. This Sprigg Lecture will look at the information provided by Cambrian fossils from such localities as the Burgess Shale in Canada, Chengjiang in China and Emu Bay Shale in Australia, and compare them with the new Ordovician soft-bodied faunas discovered in Morocco - the Fezouata and Tafilat biotas.
Diego C.García-Bellido has a graduate Degree in Biology-Zoology (1995) and a Postgraduate Degree in Palaeontology (1997) from the Complutense University in Madrid. Diego’s first contact with Burgess Shale-type fossils was in the summer of 1994, when he visited the University of Cambridge, studying soft-bodied (non-mineralized) fossils from the Lower Cambrian Kinzers Formation of Pennsylvania with Prof. Conway Morris and early Cambrian organic-walled microfossils from northwestern Canada with Prof. Butterfield. During the summers of 1995, 1997 and 2000 Diego excavated at the Burgess Shale (British Columbia) with the Royal Ontario Museum-Toronto, under the direction of Dr. Collins. In parallel with his research on soft-bodied fossils, and due to the scarcity of such type of fossils in Spain, Diego took a different topic for his PhD Thesis: “The Palaeozoic Porifera from the Iberian Peninsula” (Madrid, 2002). Diego completed a two-year postdoc at the ROM (2003-2004), working with Dr. Collins on some of the Burgess Shale's most emblematic arthropod fossils (Marrella, Leanchoilia, Isoxys). Upon his return to Madrid (2005) Diego headed a research project for the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) to search for Ediacaran, Burgess Shale and Orsten-type fossils in Spain, and study their palaeogeographic implications. Diego’s latest work comes from collaborations with the South Australian Museum in excavating and studying the early Cambrian Emu Bay Shale Lagerstätte in Kangaroo Island (South Australia), having joined The University of Adelaide in January 2013. In late 2013 he was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, with a 4-year research project entitled "Testing our knowledge on the dawn of Animal life: evidence from the fossil record against modern ecological and morphological analogues". It focuses on comparing the Ediacara biota and the Emu Bay Shale and other Cambrian lagerstätten from a palaeocological perspective, and includes experiments on Modern marine invertebrate predation to test against what we observe in the fossil record.
Dr Peter Gill
2 June 2015
Blue whales and the Bonney Upwelling
Free; bookings essential (bookings will open later in 2015)
In 1998 Dr Peter Gill commenced a program of long-term ecological research into blue whales in the Bonney Upwelling off western Victoria and south-east South Australia, a previously unrecognised feeding ground for this iconic species. This work, the subject of his 2004 PhD at Deakin University, described the broad-scale links between weather, upwelling, krill and whales in the south-east Australian region. During 2002-13, Peter worked closely with Dr Margie Morrice on blue whale ecology in the region.
He will tell the story of how this unknown feeding ground was identified, the basic ecology of the upwelling system, and what is known of blue whale distribution, movements and behaviour, feeding ecology, and threats from human activities in the region.
Dr Peter Gill has been involved in whale research since 1983, studying a variety of species including humpbacks off the east and west coasts of Australia, and southern right whales at the Head of Bight, SA. During the mid-1990s he helped his colleague Dr Deborah Thiele to initiate a major program of cetacean ecological research in Australian Antarctic waters. His research expeditions in sailing vessels have taken him around Australia, to the islands of the south-west Pacific and to Antarctica, which he has visited numerous times on private expeditions, marine science voyages and as a tourist guide.
Peter is Director of the Blue Whale Study Inc., an independent research organization based in Portland, Victoria, and an Honorary Research Fellow at Deakin University, Warrnambool.
Professor Chris Turney
4 August 2015
Bringing together science and adventure: Exciting the public to tackle a changing world
Free; bookings essential (bookings will open later in 2015)
Government funding is the cornerstone of modern science. Over the last sixty years, enormous advances have been made in all manner of scientific endeavour thanks to public investment. Try to imagine a world without digital recording, gene sequencing, satellite technology or weather forecasting; they’re all developments we take for granted today but are only made possible by the timely and often regular funding provided by the public purse. But with declining investment in science across most of the Western world, a major challenge for society is where best to place what little resources we have. Which research questions should have the greatest priority? Strategic versus blue-skies research? One-off versus multi-year research programs? A wrong decision and opportunities will be missed, discoveries delayed and research teams broken up. Nowhere are these issues more pressing than in a warming world, where ‘big-science’, multi-year programs of research can lock up precious logistics and costs but are not always fleet of foot, able to respond to new questions/challenges as they appear. Undertaking science in remote regions for a single season has been likened to ‘small-science’ and its value publicly questioned. Here, Professor Turney argues that there’s room for both, and shows how private funding can support targeted programs of research and communicate it to the wider world. Small-science research can capture the public’s imagination and reap real scientific outputs. The beauty of this approach is that it can applied anywhere in the world. The crucial thing is to excite the public about the science, something we should be do regardless of who has paid to do the work.
Chris Turney is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales. Working in both the Antarctic and Arctic, Chris is extending historic records of change in the polar regions back to 130,000 years ago to help better understand the future. Described by the UK Saturday Times as the ‘new David Livingstone’, he is passionate about communicating science from the field and laboratory.
Chris is the author of numerous books, scientific papers and magazine articles. His most recent book is called ‘1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica’ published by Text Publishing. 1912 has received rave reviews and tells the largely unknown scientific endeavours of the five scientific expeditions in Antarctica one hundred years ago. Chris shows how the endeavours of 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and how lessons from a century ago might reawaken the public’s passion for scientific discovery and exploration. Inspired by these events, he led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 (www.spiritofmawson.com).
Chris has received several awards, including the 2014 Australian Academy of Sciences Frederick Stone Award, the 2007 inaugral Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal and in 2009 the Geological Society of London’s Bigsby Medal for services to geology. To do something positive about climate change, he helped set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape (www.carbonscape.com) which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.
Chris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Geological Society of London, and the Royal Geographical Society.
Greg Rouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
3 November 2015
Queens (and kings) of decay: Osedax boneworms and whalefalls
Free; bookings essential (bookings will open in 2015)
Osedax is a recently discovered group of annelid worms where the females (mainly), with a little help from endosymbiotic bacteria called Oceanospirillales, feed on the bones of whales and other mammals in the deep sea. Osedax males are normally dwarfs that are thousands of time smaller than females. Females may therefore have large 'harems' of hundreds of males in their tubes. The known diversity of Osedax species is rapidly increasing, as is the evidence for Osedax on fossils bones. Professor Rouse will discuss what we know about the biology, life history and phylogeny of this extraordinary group of worms.
Greg Rouse is a Professor in the Marine Biology Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. He is also the Curator of the Benthic Invertebrate Collection at Scripps. Rouse earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Queensland in Australia and then obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Sydney. Following postdoctoral research at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, Rouse returned to Australia where he was a research fellow at the University of Sydney before joining the South Australian Museum as a Research Scientist from 2001 to 2006. He joined the faculty at Scripps in 2006. Rouse uses morphological and molecular data to assess phylogenetic relationships among animals. His morphological studies range across various both adult and larval anatomy using transmission and scanning electron microscopy as well as confocal laser scanning microscopy. This is often combined with molecular (DNA sequence) data to infer phylogenetic relationships and hence evolutionary patterns. He has been on numerous oceanographic expeditions involving deep sea habitats and has visited whale falls, hydrothermal vents and methane seeps numerous times. His research includes collaboration with researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute, investigating the extraordinary bone-devouring worms, Osedax. Rouse's research interests also include the study of new hydrothermal vent animals from the eastern and western Pacific as well as methane seeps in the eastern Pacific. He has discovered and named more than 80 species of animals.