Baylor, NSF, SEPM to Host Geology Research Conference at Petrified Forest National Park

Sept. 13, 2010

Inaugural conference to bring top experts in fossil soils and soil surface system analogs

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Baylor University along with the National Science Foundation and the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) are sponsoring a combined field and research conference Sept. 21-26 at the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Ariz. that will address several key questions relating to fossilized soils called paleosols and soil surface systems.

Paleosols and soil surface systems are increasingly recognized by researchers as a way to interpret landscapes, past atmospheric chemistry, and precipitation and temperature records of past climates. It is widely believed these ancient soils provide the best available analog for predicting climate changes associated with global warming that the world is presently experiencing.

The conference, which will bring together more than 60 experts from around the world, will explore the preservation potential of different types of paleosols in the geologic record and the fidelity of time and event preservation. The researchers also will look at, among other topics, whether standard USDA soil characterization techniques can be used for establishing colloidal properties of paleosols and where do paleosols "fit" in sequence-stratigraphy. Much of what comes out of the conference will be sent to the NSF as possible research projects to fund in the future.

"Through this research conference, we can begin to assess where we are currently in terms of the science of paleopedology, as well as where new opportunities exist, and what new directions we need to take to continue to advance," said Dr. Steve Driese, professor and chair of the department of geology at Baylor in the College of Arts and Sciences, who helped organize the conference. "We gratefully acknowledge the donors of the Petroleum Research Fund, administered by the American Chemical Society, for support of Baylor Geology research efforts at Petrified Forest National Park, and we thank the U.S. National Park Service for providing access to outcrops and permission to collect research samples."

Driese also said after the conference concludes, the plan to publish an SEPM Special Publication (SP) volume in their SP series, which is peer-reviewed and widely disseminated.

Media contact: Frank Raczkiewicz, Assistant Vice President of Media Communications, 254-710-1964.

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