Project Information
Collaborative Research: Antarctic Ecosystems across the Permian-Triassic Boundary: Integrating Paleobotany, Sedimentology, and Paleoecology
Intellectual Merit:
The focus of this proposal is to collect fossil plants and palynomorphs from Permian-Triassic (P-T) rocks of the central Transantarctic Mountains (CTM), together with detailed data on sedimentologic and paleoecologic depositional environments. Fossil plants are important climate proxies that offer a unique window into the past, and the CTM fossils are an important source of data on the ways that plants responded to a strongly seasonal, polar light regime during a time of global change. The proposed project uses paleobotanical expertise, integrated with detailed sedimentology and stratigraphy, to reconstruct Permian-Triassic plant communities and their paleoenvironments. This interdisciplinary approach could uncover details of Antarctica?s complex late Paleozoic and Mesozoic environmental and climatic history which included: 1) deglaciation, 2) development and evolution of a post-glacial landscape and biota, 3) environmental and biotic change associated with the end-Permian mass extinction, 4) environmental recovery in the earliest Triassic, 5) strong, possible runaway Triassic greenhouse, and 6) widespread orogenesis and development of a foreland basin system. The PIs will collect compression floras both quantitatively and qualitatively to obtain biodiversity and abundance data. Since silicified wood is also present, the PIs will analyze tree rings and growth in a warm, high-latitude environment for which there is no modern analogue. Fossil plants from the CTM can provide biological and environmental information to: 1) interpret paleoclimate when Gondwana moved from icehouse to greenhouse conditions; 2) trace floral evolution across the P-T boundary; 3) reconstruct Antarctic plant life; 4) further understanding of plant adaptations to high latitudes. The Intellectual Merit of the research includes: 1) tracing floral evolution after the retreat of glaciers; 2) examining floral composition and diversity across the PTB; and 3) obtaining data on the recovery of these ecosystems in the Early Triassic, as well as changes in floral cover and diversity in the Early-Middle Triassic. Antarctica is the only place on Earth that includes extensive outcrops of terrestrial rocks, combined with widespread and well-preserved plant fossils, which spans this crucial time period.

Broader impacts:
The broader impacts include public outreach; teaching, and mentoring of women and underrepresented students; mentoring graduate student, postdoctoral, and new faculty women; development of an inquiry-based workshop on Antarctic paleoclimate with the Division of Education, KU Natural History Museum; continuing support of workshops for middle school girls in science via the Expanding Your Horizons Program, Emporia State University, and the TRIO program, KU; exploring Antarctic geosciences through video/computer links from McMurdo Station and satellite phone conferences from the field with K-12 science classes in Wisconsin and Kansas, and through participation in the NSF Research Experiences for Teachers program at the University of Wisconsin.
Person Role
Isbell, John Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 0943935
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 0943934
Antarctic Instrumentation and Support Award # 0943934
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
  1. Isbell, J. L., Biakov, A. S., Vedernikov, I. L., Davydov, V. I., Gulbranson, E. L., & Fedorchuk, N. D. (2016). Permian diamictites in northeastern Asia: Their significance concerning the bipolarity of the late Paleozoic ice age. Earth-Science Reviews, 154, 279–300. (doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2016.01.007)
  2. Limarino, C. O., Césari, S. N., Spalletti, L. A., Taboada, A. C., Isbell, J. L., Geuna, S., & Gulbranson, E. L. (2014). A paleoclimatic review of southern South America during the late Paleozoic: A record from icehouse to extreme greenhouse conditions. Gondwana Research, 25(4), 1396–1421. (doi:10.1016/
  3. Ryberg, P. E., Taylor, E. L., & Taylor, T. N. (2012). Antarctic glossopterid diversity on a local scale: The presence of multiple megasporophyll genera, Upper Permian, Mt. Achernar, Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. American Journal of Botany, 99(9), 1531–1540. (doi:10.3732/ajb.1200142)
  4. Miller, M. F., Knepprath, N. E., Cantrill, D. J., Francis, J. E., & Isbell, J. L. (2016). Highly productive polar forests from the Permian of Antarctica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 441, 292–304. (doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.06.016)
  5. Gulbranson, E. L., Isbell, J. L., Montañez, I. P., Limarino, C. O., Marenssi, S. A., Meyer, K., & Hull, C. (2014). Reassessment of mid-Carboniferous glacial extent in southwestern Gondwana (Rio Blanco Basin, Argentina) inferred from paleo-mass transport of diamictites. Gondwana Research, 25(4), 1369–1379. (doi:10.1016/
  6. Harper, C. J., Taylor, T. N., Krings, M., & Taylor, E. L. (2015). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in a voltzialean conifer from the Triassic of Antarctica. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 215, 76–84. (doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2015.01.005)
  7. Bomfleur, B., Klymiuk, A. A., Taylor, E. L., Taylor, T. N., Gulbranson, E. L., & Isbell, J. L. (2013). Diverse bryophyte mesofossils from the Triassic of Antarctica. Lethaia, 47(1), 120–132. (doi:10.1111/let.12044)
  8. Glauser, A. L., Harper, C. J., Taylor, T. N., Taylor, E. L., Marshall, C. P., & Marshall, A. O. (2014). Reexamination of cell contents in Pennsylvanian spores and pollen grains using Raman spectroscopy. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 210, 62–68. (doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2014.07.005)
  9. Henry, L. C., Isbell, J. L., & Limarino, C. O. (2014). The late Paleozoic El Imperial Formation, western Argentina: Glacial to post-glacial transition and stratigraphic correlations with arc-related basins in southwestern Gondwana. Gondwana Research, 25(4), 1380–1395. (doi:10.1016/

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