Contact: Levente Smith

August 31, 2006

Professors Awarded Grant from
the National Science Foundation

Visit Prof. Jacobs' website.

SMU geology professors Bonnie Jacobs and Neil Tabor have received a $300,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for their paleobotany research in Ethiopia, looking at that area's plant life, geological history and climate 28-27 million years ago.

Ancient biotic response to geographic and climatic events has implications for predicting the effects of current global change on modern ecosystems, said Jacobs, director of the Environmental Science Program in SMU’s Dedman College. The tropical regions are of special concern because that is where Earth’s greatest percentage of biodiversity resides. Fossils hold the key to past community ecology, and can be used to document past climates.

This project will greatly improve documentation of paleoecology, paleoclimate, and floral communities in eastern Africa between 28 and 27 million years ago. To do this, the project will focus on a wealth of plant fossils in northwestern Ethiopia and will include students and specialists in paleobotany, paleosols (fossil soils), isotopes, dating, and the rock record.

In addition, Ethiopian students will participate in a field school learning from paleontologists, geologists, and graduate students. This will advance plans for a paleotoursim heritage site that will help improve the area's infrastructure and improve the local economy.