Project DIGIT05: catalogues and databases of scientific collections

Paleobotany Collections of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences are among the largest and richest in Europe. They are unique in the world for the Paleozoic (542-299 Ma) as they contain many type specimens from internationally defined historical and actual stratotypes from existing sites in Belgium. They show a great diversity in key taxa situated at the base of important clades,  permitting the study of evolution of vascular plants (including the emergence of seed plants) as well as their specialization patterns. They are keystones at the understanding of major evolutive events such as the development of tree growth habit, leaf evolution or complexification of reproduction modes. Among all, the collections of department of Paleontology, paleobotany collections are those whose degree of inventorying and scanning is the most advanced (almost complete census of taxa represented but not in terms of specimens). However, the inventory still misses the contextual data that have not yet been collected despite the existence of paper inventories and notes. The objective of the present project is thus to update and complete this digitization work by identifying and prepare the Devonian paleobotany collections. Moreover, the context data and taxonomic information will be included in order to publish them online in the collection system Darwin and to allow the development of new transversal thematic research. 

Specific tasks to be carried out by the recruited scientist:

  • the completion of the detailed inventory of the specimens in collaboration with the technician attached to the collections
  • a monitoring of the origin of the material and the collecting context  at a biostratigraphic, chronostratagraphic and sedimetological point of view in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Belgium
  • to check the availability of these localities in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Belgium
  • the monitoring and updating of the taxonomy based on current knowledge
  • the scanning and digitizing of figured and type specimens 
  • Online publishing in Darwin

Specific output

  • An online publishing of the inventory for Belgian and foreign scientists
  • The production of various publications on scientific outstanding pieces from the collections
  • An outreach on the evolution of plants
  • The update of the gallery of evolution of plants at the National Botanical Garden of Belgium at Meise

Related publications

  • Higgs, K. T., Prestianni, C., Streel, M. & Thorez, J. High resolution miospore stratigraphy of the Upper Famennian of eastern Belgium, and correlation with the conodont zonation. Geologica Belgica 16, 84-94 (2013).
  • Prestianni, C., Hilton, J. & Cressler, W. L. Were all Devonian seeds cupulate? A reinvestigation of Pseudosporogonites Hallei, Xenotheca Bertrandii and Aglosperma spp. International Journal of Plant Sciences 174, 832-851 (2013).
  • Cornet, L., Gerrienne, P., Meyer-Berthaud, B. & Prestianni, C. A Middle Devonian Callixylon (Archaeopteridales) from Ronquières, Belgium. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 183, 1-8 (2012).
  • Gerrienne, P. et al. A Simple Type of Wood in Two Early Devonian Plants. Science 333, 837 (2011).
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