• Question: why did you decide to research fossil plants?

    Asked by tporter10 to Karen on 18 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Karen Bacon

      Karen Bacon answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      Hi tporter10!
      I never thought much about fossils other than dinosaurs until I got to university. I read a piece in a text book that did a page of “featured scientists” about a scientist who worked on fossil pollen and used them to recreate ecosystems of the past. I thought that this was really interesting and started trying to find out more about fossil plants. At the same time I was getting more and more interested in both botany and geology because of my classes in university.
      When I got a bit further on in my degree studies, I really couldn’t decide which I liked best – botany or geology. I loved ecology and how plants interact with other plants, animals and the atmosphere. I started reading about climate change in the geological past and that got me really interested in fossil plants. The fossil record is the only real record that we have of how ecosystems have responded to previous periods of major climate change, and although they are slightly different (or even very different!) ecosystems, the fossil record offers an amazing opportunity to investigate how plants respond to rises in temperature or carbon dioxide etc and we can compare this to how animals respond in the past and then help to inform predictions on how current climate change might effect plants and animals – something that will effect people all over the world. So that’s also why I decided to study fossil plants – that and they are just really cool. I love working with fossils, I get to see amazing fossils that maybe only a handful of other people have seen and that’s brilliant. Photographs of two of my favourite fossils that I have worked on are up on my profile page – they are both at least 200 million years old.