Documenting Fossil Marine Invertebrate Communities of the Eastern Pacific - Faunal Responses to Environmental Change over the last 66 million years

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Digitization TCN: Documenting Fossil Marine Invertebrate Communities of the Eastern Pacific - Faunal Responses to Environmental Change over the last 66 million years ​(EPICC)

Fossil Marine Invertebrate TCN
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Project Summary

Fossils provide our only direct evidence of past biodiversity and how individual organisms to ecosystems have responded to past and long-term environmental change. This project fills a major gap in the documentation of past environmental change, making available digitized data from the especially rich fossil record of the eastern Pacific marine invertebrate communities of the Cenozoic, the 66 million years that have passed since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Digitization and integration of these data will foster increased accessibility, efficient analysis to understand past change, the identification of factors involved in that change, and enable predictions for how current biodiversity may be impacted by future change. Development of virtual fieldwork experiences will assist stakeholders and educators in understanding how field data and fossil collections are used to infer past ecosystem and environmental conditions.

The data currently exist as a vast collection of fossil specimens and printed materials distributed among multiple natural history collections: this project involves 7 primary institutions, one small collection and one federal institution and will integrate this digitized specimen data with the other two ongoing fossil networks through the web portal iDigPaleo, expanding the resource for fossil invertebrate information by spanning over 500 million years. This wealth of data will provide resources not only to researchers, but will be made available to K-16 educators, government, industry, and the general public. Through the national resource (iDigBio) these data will be integrated with information on modern organisms providing the means to understand important questions on niches, environmental change, transitions in sea levels, etc. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate students will be trained in the modern uses of natural history collections. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (

Current Research

Proposed research using collections data of eastern Pacific marine invertebrate fossil collections of the Cenozoic:

  • Assessment of how individual species, communities, and ecosystems respond to environmental change on evolutionary and long-term ecological timescales.
  • Modeling predictions of response to future environmental change.
  • Verification and standardization of taxonomic assemblages for analysis of distribution.
  • Food web analysis.
  • Study of tectonically-induced change on biodiversity.

Project Websites & Social Media




Citizen Science & Outreach Projects

The TCN will produce four virtual field experiences (VFEs) to enable K-16 students, teachers and the public to better understand how the digitized collections are used together with field data to infer past ecosystem and environmental conditions. The VFEs will be widely distributed via the member institutions’ education and outreach portals, including the University of California Museum of Paleontology’s (UCMP) Understanding Global Change (UGC) web resource currently under development (modeled on the high-impact Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science web resources).

Project Leadership

Project Sponsor: University of California-Berkeley (NSF Award 1503678)

Lead Principal Investigator: Charles Marshall
Co-Principal Investigators: Seth Finnegan, Patricia Holroyd, Lisa White
EPICC TCN Project Manager: Erica Clites

California Academy of Sciences (NSF Award 1503628)
Principal Investigator: Peter Roopnarine
Coordinator: Christine Garcia

John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center
Principal Investigators: Nicole Bonuso, James Parham

Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (NSF Award 1503065)
Principal Investigator: Jann Vendetti
Senior Personnel: Austin Hendy
Coordinator: Kathryn Estes-Smargiassi

Paleontological Research Institute (NSF Award 1503611)
Principal Investigator: Gregory Dietl
Senior Personnel: Don Duggan-Haas, Robert Ross, Leslie Skibinski

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
Kathy Hollis, Holly Little

University of Alaska Museum of the North (NSF Award 1503613)
Principal Investigator: Patrick Druckenmiller

University of Oregon (NSF Award 1503545)
Principal Investigator: Edward Davis

University of Washington Burke Museum (NSF Award 1502500)
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Nesbitt
Senior Personnel: Ron Eng
Coordinator: Sara Legler

Project Collaborators

Map of Collaborating Institutions

Protocols & Workflows

Standard views of marine invertebrates for photography
Standard methods of labeling marine invertebrates
Using GEOLocate for collaborative georeferencing


Professional Presentations

Marshall et al. GSA 2017, The EPICC TCN
White et al. GSA 2017, Launching Kettleman Hills Virtual Field Experience
Clites iDigBio Summit VI, 2016
Estes-Smargiassi et al. GSA 2016, Increasing diversity and sustainable workflows
Hendy GSA 2016, Temporal changes in body size
White et al. GSA 2016, Kettleman Hills Virtual Field Experience
Marshall iDigBio Summit V, 2015

Other project documentation