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Here you'll find summaries of previous meetings, white papers, participant lists, and links to posters and abstracts.


 The 2012 Workshop: Critical Transitions  9-11 March 2012 at the  Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County 

We have secured preliminary funding from both NSF and NSFC to bring 50 (40 outside of the Los Angeles area) paleontologists and related geoscientists from US and China, as well as administrators of relevant Chinese funding agencies, for a three-day workshop at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Los Angeles, California. The first day of the workshop will be dedicated to discussions on critical transitions in Chinese paleontology across the Phanerozoic. Days 2 and 3 will include several break-out groups that will further dissect these critical transitions and preliminarily formulate the means by which our consortium of researchers will study and characterization them. 

Objectives of the Workshop
In addition to the broad exchanges on grand challenges in what paleontology and related fields can inform on critical transitions in the history of life, this workshop also aims to be a platform to bring together US and Chinese specialists to find new ways for deep collaborations. Paleontologists from both countries often complement each other in important ways that present unique opportunities for extensive collaboration. We particularly encourage participation by young scientists at graduate and postdoctoral fellow levels. The following questions will be addressed in breakout sessions.

  • The tempo and mode of origination, diversification and extinction events during critical transitions;
  • The ecological impact of diversification and extinction events during critical transitions;
  • The environmental background of origination, diversification and extinction events during critical transitions.

Particular attention will be paid to brainstorming for ways to solve problems in several major critical transitions:

  • Temp, mode, environmental context, and geobiological impact of animal diversification during the Ediacaran and early Paleozoic;
  • Biogeographic and biostratigraphic implications of Paleozoic vertebrate radiations;
  • The evolution of land plants and their effect the origins of vertebrate air-breathing and the invasion of the terrestrial environment;
  • Temp, mode, environmental context, and geobiological impact of the Paleozoic-Mesozoic transition;
  • Origins and initial diversification of mammals and birds in the Mesozoic; Mid Cenozoic climatic cooling, the Grande Coupure, zoogeographic interchange between Europe, Asia, Africa and North America;
  • Late Cenozoic uplift of Tibetan Plateau and tectonically induced monsoon climates, and related cooling and drying in central Asia;
  • Faunal and floral provincialities in Eurasia and Africa; C4 plant expansion and its climatic signals;
  • Late Cenozoic terrestrial zoogeographic exchange between Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.

Following past workshop formats, the host country provides in-country expenses for the workshop foreign colleagues (which does not include the flight to the United States). Generally, the NSF and NSFC have borne those costs. Some Chinese colleagues may want to travel, either before or after the meeting, to various places, but it is not covered by workshop expenses. There is a limited funding for participation by US scientists, which generally cover travel to Los Angeles plus hotel expenses. We will issue individual invitations as soon as funding is received from the NSF.

Workshop Program Outline
A three-day workshop is planned during 9-11 March, 2012, followed by a half-day excursion to the George Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pit. Detailed agenda to be announced later. 

8 March, arrival at Los Angeles
Day 1 (March 9, Friday)

  • Opening addresses
  • Presentations by participating program officers from NSF (Geoscience and Biology programs) and NSFC.
  • Presentations by participants (15 minutes each)

Day 2 (March 10, Saturday)

  • Parallel breakout sessions:
  • Pre-Cenozoic group on major critical transitions to be addressed in future collaborative proposals.
  • Cenozoic group on major transitions to be addressed in collaborative proposal.

Day 3 (March 11, Sunday)

  • Morning: parallel breakout sessions continued from Day 2;
  • Afternoon: trip to Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pit.

12 March, departure from Los Angeles

Field Excursions
In the afternoon of the last day (March 11), an excursion to the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pit is planned, where workshop participants are encouraged to explore the popular Ice Age exhibit on the famous Rancho la Brea megafauna. As an alternative, workshop participants can also visit two of the Natural History Museum's newest exhibits: the Age of Mammal Halland Dinosaur Hall. 

Xiaoming Wang, Shuhai Xiao, Raymond Bernor, John Long, Xiangdong Wang, Shuzhong Shen, Tao Deng, and Qiang Li 


 National Natural Science Foundation of China
 National Science Foundation, USA
 Chinese Academy of Sciences
 Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology
 Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology 

 The 2009 and 2010 Workshops: Sino-US Collaborative Research on Neogene Mammalian Chronology of Asia (Beijing)

We used the platform of Critical Transitions workshop to convene the first international meeting on Neogene mammalian biostratigraphy and geochronology Asia. This workshop on terrestrial paleobiology and biostratigraphy spanning the last 25 million years was held in June 8-10 at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a follow-up field conference was conducted in the Linxia Basin, Hezheng County, Gansu Province in June 11-15, 2009. The workshop was attended by an international array of more than 70 scholars and graduate students, with representation from 19 countries (Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, India, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States). Click here for workshop group photo.

Presentations on the Neogene mammalian faunas from diverse Eurasian localities represent the first gathering of specialists from a broad representation of countries and taxonomic expertise. The audience was treated to an interesting and stimulating collation of reports. At the end of each day's presentations, the participants segued into a workshop discussion of the topics that had been presented, but with a major focus on the role to be played by the Chinese faunal succession in forming a cornerstone for Asian mammalian chronology. The background of China's long and fundamental role in developing a chronologic system was clearly recognized in this regard, and the array of approaches to developing chronological systems portrayed at this conference provided the Chinese organizers with considerable examples to draw upon in furthering their goals.

A major outcome of the workshop is a special conference issue in the journal Vertebrata PalAsiatica and a book to be published by Columbia University Press, both co-edited by Xiaoming Wang, Lawrence Flynn, and Mikael Fortelius. Seven contributions are to be included in the special issue of Vertebrata PalAsiatica, which was published in July 2011. Thirty-two chapters representing all major fossil-producing countries or regions in Asia are undergoing final editing of the CUP book and it is expected to be published in early 2012. When published, this book will be the first to summarize Asian terrestrial biostratigraphy and geochronology in all key countries and regions. With the newly updated databases in the CUP volume, broader questions regarding inter-regional relationships of faunas, communities, and environments are natural by-products of this effort, such as will be discussed in-depth in this proposed workshop.

With the help of a supplement grant (EAR-0924142), we organized a second workshop for the Neogene Cenozoic group in Beijing in March 2010. This second workshop was attended by editors of the CUP volume plus Michael Woodburne and Jin Meng, as well as Neogene mammal specialists from the IVPP, plus an NSF observer. This workshop was focused on the Chinese Neogene chronologic framework and intense debates were centered on the best principles and practices in North America, Asia, and Europe.

 The 2007 Workshop: Sino-US Collaborative Research on Critical Transitions in History of Life

Another workshop in the series on the Critical Transitions in the History of Life was held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science October 10-14th 2007. The workshop was well attended with a mix of scientists from both the United States and China. The three critical transitions chosen for this meeting were: 1) The Ordovician radiation; 2) the K/T boundary; and 3) Himalayan Uplift. 

The meeting was organized around a plenary session where each of the transitions was introduced. Selected Powerpoint® presentations can be found here. An introduction to the Ordovician radiation was presented by Arnie Miller of the University of Cincinnati. This was followed by discussions moderated by Linda Kah and Renbin Zhan. 

For the K/T boundary, we heard presentations by Brian Huber, Kirk Johnson, and Sun Ge Followed by group discussion. 

Xiaoming Wang led the discussion of the Himalyan uplift followed by discussions. 

On Friday participants were treated to a visit at the K/T boundary sites in the Denver Basin led by Kirk Johnson, followed by excursions to Dinosaur Ridge and Table Mountain and Red Rocks. See the group photo

 The 2006 Workshop: Sino-US Collaborative Research on CRITICAL TRANSITIONS IN HISTORY OF LIFE (II) June 22-24, 2006 Beijing and Liaoning, China 

The 2006 China-US Workshop on “Critical Transitions In History Of Life (II)” was held in Beijing at the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) on June 22, 2006. This was a sequel to the 2005 US-China Workshop in Washington to review and discuss the bilateral scientific collaboration between Chinese and US geologists and paleontologists.

 NSF Beijing Science & Technology Symposium: A Celebration of US-Sino Collaboration | The Opening Ceremony of the NSF-Beijing Office, May 24, 2006

On May 24th a U.S.-China Conference was held to celebrate decades of S&T cooperation and the opening of NSF Beijing Office. The conference was held in the 2nd Conference Hall of the Kunlun Hotel, on May 24th (Wednesday) from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The meeting featured dignitaries from the US NSF and the NSF China as well as presentations from both US and Chinese scientists who described their cooperative research. Here are links to the contributions from our project.

 US-China Workshop In Geology and Paleontology | Critical Transitions in the History of Life, Washington, DC, November 5 & 6, 2005

This scientific workshop brought together the US and Chinese scientists most active in geochronology, sedimentology, isotope and organic geochemistry, and paleontology in both China and the US in order to develop integrated research plans based on shared knowledge and information.

     National Science      Foundation

National Natural Science Foundation of China

    Geobiodiversity     Database