Ecological and environmental change in Middle Devonian Spain

Alexander Askew


Start Year: 2014, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of Sheffield

Department: Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Supervisors: Prof. Charles H. Wellman;  Dr. Gareth J. Fraser

Twitter: @AlexanderAskew

Academic profile

Education: MBiolSci Biology, 1st Class Hons, University of Sheffield, 2010-2014

Work experience: Archivist and tour guide, Creswell Crags Museum

Skills and relevant qualifications: Palynological preparation and analysis; Chemical handling; Photomicrography and electron micrography

ACCE PhD Research Topic

Ecological and environmental change in Middle Devonian Spain

The Middle Devonian was an important time of change for life on Earth, as the earliest terrestrial forests appeared and a series of extinction events occurred, heavily affecting marine communities. Unfortunately, these extinction events’ effect on terrestrial life is little known. This project aims to address this through a major palynological analysis of the Eifelian and Givetian age Huergas, Naranco and Gustalapiedra formations of Asturias, Castilla y León and Palencia provinces in Northern Spain. These formations record great depositional change, possibly related to the contemporary Kačák extinction event. Among the project’s early findings are an unexpected depositional pattern in these formations. Deposition of the lower half of the formation was very much slower than the upper, which occurred entirely within a short interval of the Lower Givetian, potentially only 400,000 years, as revealed by biostratigraphical analysis of fossil spores, acritarchs and chitinozoans. It seems likely that the Kačák Event is connected to this major disruption as it had occurred very shortly beforehand. Further analysis of the changing fortunes of different plant and algal groups through time and space is allowing further reconstruction of this pattern across the whole area of Northern Spain.