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Conference report: Midcontinent Paleobotanical Colloquium – Athens, Ohio, 2018

This year’s Annual MPC was held on June 1-3 at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, organized by Liz Hermsen and Gar Rothwell. The meeting was attended by about 25 people with 18 oral presentations. The weekend started with a welcome reception at Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery in downtown Athens Friday evening where we got to sample the local craft beers. This was followed by papers all day Saturday with a banquet on Saturday evening at the Ohio University Inn. The keynote address was given by Kathleen Pigg: “Forty years of fun with paleobotany” where she talked about her career that began at Ohio University and her experiences and changes in research focus over the years. The after-dinner speaker at the banquet was Gar Rothwell who talked about 80 years of paleobotany at Ohio University beginning with Art Blickle (1940-1981), a former student of John Hoskins and his collaborations with Aureal T. Cross. Thomas N. Taylor spent 2 years (1972-1974) at Ohio University before Gar Rothwell came (1974) to spend 40+ years in the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology. He was joined by Gene Mapes in 1979, and Mike Millay was hired at the Ironton Campus in 1991. Liz Hermsen came to the Department in 2010. After Gar’s retirement in 2015 he moved to the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University, but still maintains his Distinguished Professorship at OU. In 2018 the department will be joined by lecturer Stefan Little. Gar provided a timeline and summary of graduate
and undergraduate students that trained in paleobotany at Ohio University for one or more degrees, 17 of whom are Ruth Stockey, Charles Good, Sarah Stubblefield, Kathleen Pigg, Dianne Erwin, James Mickle, Cookie Trivett, Janelle Pryor, Hazel Beeler, Rudy Serbet, Amy Falder, Genaro Hernandez-Castillo, Steve
Karafit, Nathan Jud, Mike Dunn, Mihai Tomescu, Heather Sanders and Brian Atkinson. Eight of these former students attended and are in the following photo.

MPC 2018 attendees in front of Porter Hall, Ohio University

Gar giving uncut Steubenville Coal Balls to Kevin Nixon and Nathan Jud, Cornell University
When Gar left Ohio University, his very large collection of fossil plants was donated to the University of
Kansas and to the Field Museum, Chicago. Still remaining uncut coal balls and Princeton Chert were given
to paleobotanists who could use these in teaching and research.
On Sunday, the group had a field trip to the Hocking Hills State Park. This beautiful park northwest of
Athens has a unique native flora in an unglaciated area of Ohio. Rock strata exposed in the area are part
of the Cuyahoga Formation (Mississippian) through the Allegeny Group (Pennsylvanian). We visited the popular sites of Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Rock House.

Old Man’s Cave – Black Hand Sandstone

Left: Gar Rothwell at Cedar Falls; middle Old Man’s Cave area; right: View from Rock House

The 2019 MPC will be held at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, hosted by Mike Dunn. In 2020 Caroline Stromberg will host MPC at the Burke Museum, University of Washington, Seattle. In 2021 we hope to be at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, in Cleveland, Ohio. What is the “midcontinent”? Anywhere your feet will not get wet at high tide.

Ruth Stockey