The 34th Mid-continent Paleobotanical Conference was held May 13-14, 2017 at the University of Michigan, hosted by EEB Professor Robyn J. Burnham and Professor Selena R. Smith, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Program in the Environment.

Over 45 participants attended a day of talks and posters on the history of plant life on earth, with luminaries like Sir Peter Crane, Fellow of the Linnean Society, London, and Dr. David Dilcher of the National Academy of Sciences, in attendance.  

Paleobotanical science uses the fossil record of plants to address key biological and geological questions. In the midst of anthropogenic climate change, plant history has become even more important as researchers seek to understand how plants respond to global environmental change on long time scales.

Keynote lectures were given by the following throughout the day at the Undergraduate Science Building on Ann Arbor’s campus: Chris Poulsen, chair and professor of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Michigan, presented “Paleo-plant physiological forcing of past climate. He studies how and why climate has changed using state-of-the-art climate models, and the implications for future climate change. Chris Dick, associate chair for museum collections, U-M Herbarium, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, presented “GeoGenomics: reciprocal illumination on the development of the Andean-Amazon flora.” Dick studies the evolution and diversity of trees in tropical forests. Dr. Anton Reznicek, curator of vascular plants at the U-M Herbarium, presented “The hidden past of our modern Michigan flora.” He studies sedges, Michigan flora, and the biogeography of the North American flora. Twenty-five other speakers, who each gave 15 minute talks, rounded out the day’s schedule.

On the second day of the conference, Reznicek and Michael Penskar, a research investigator at the U-M Herbarium, guided a field trip to the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, Waterloo Recreation Area, and Sharon Hollow Nature Preserve where they experienced spring wildflowers in a classic Midwestern temperate deciduous forest, fen wetland and a bog wetland. Some participants extended their trips to carry out research in the U-M Museum of Paleontology’s world renowned paleobotanical collections.

The meeting was partially funded by the Paleontological Society, U-M Museum of Paleontology, Program in the Environment, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.