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University of Wyoming Scientist Leads Novel Paleobotany Data Project

By Sumana Nandipati, San Diego Supercomputer Center Intern

Paleoecologist Ellen Currano is leading the development of the long-awaited PBot (Integrative Paleobotany Portal). Specifically, PBot provides scientists and educators with easy access to a vast amount of plant fossil data that reveals new insight into the evolution of Earth.

EarthCube’s new PBOT project includes entry and analysis of fossil plant data from the Cretaceous through Eocene (~145 to 34 million years ago), a time interval that includes globally warm time periods, the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs, and the rise of mammals and modern forests. Shown here is a 50-million-year-old sycamore leaf from northwestern Wyoming.

Credit: E. Currano, University of Wyoming

"Paleobotanical data is severely underrepresented in major publicly accessible databases, even though fossil plants represent the best record of ancient terrestrial environments" said Currano, a professor at the University of Wyoming. "Our group received National Science Foundation funding via the EarthCube program to address these problems by creating PBot and the online workbench will provide a standardized resource for fossil plant description and data entry that will benefit students and professionals, as well as fossil enthusiasts."

By compiling data from millions of plant fossils, Currano and her team are able to analyze trends and patterns that were previously undetectable. This new data is providing insights into the evolution of life on Earth, which could lead to new discoveries in fields such as climate change, biodiversity and agriculture.

In addition to its scientific impact, PBot will also have a significant impact on education. The database is providing students and researchers with an unprecedented amount of data that they can use to further understand their study of paleobotany. The project objective is to foster a new generation of scientists and help them to advance in the field of paleobotany.

“We look forward to the public launch of PBOT later in 2023 and the data-driven discovery and learning it will enable throughout the West Hub region and beyond,” said West Hub Executive Director Ashley Atkins.


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