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 in 2004, 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.
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. I 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.