The University of Maine at Presque is pleased to announce that UMPI Professor Kevin McCartney has been published in MARINE MICROPALEONTOLOGY, a very widely respected international journal. The article, “Early evolution of the silicoflagellates during the Cretaceous”, is the first of five articles written and submitted for publication by McCartney following his research sabbatical at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in fall 2009.
This article presents the first detailed evolutionary interpretation of silicoflagellates published since 1962. McCartney has done research on silicoflagellates, single-celled algae found in marine environments, for the past 25 years. During his sabbatical in 2009, he discovered eighteen new species and two new genera of silicoflagellates in rock samples collected in remote islands of northern Canada.
Silicoflagellates and other microorganism groups such as diatoms form the base of the marine food chain and take in a vast majority of the CO2 that is processed into oxygen. “Their early evolution coincides with Greenhouse atmospheric conditions in the Cretaceous, which is near the end of the Age of Dinosaurs,” said Dr. McCartney.
McCartney named one of the genera he discovered after the University of Maine at Presque Isle; umpiocha. In addition, he named a species after the university; umpiana. Four other species were named after UMPI students (Sherry Churchill, Robb Engel, Kirk Lurvey and Chris Power) who participated with McCartney in research.
McCartney is very excited about the opportunity to build on the knowledge he has gained. To that end, he and his colleagues have submitted a grant to the National Science Foundation to further study Cretaceous rocks from the Canadian far north. This will not only improve understanding of silicoflagellate evolution, but also the history of the Greenhouse atmosphere that occurred during the Cretaceous.
McCartney continues to share his research experiences and enthusiasm with UMPI students. A student is currently working with McCartney on a research project that studies sediments recovered from the deep ocean off New Zealand.
McCartney’s sabbatical research opened the door for him to teach at the international level as one of three presenters for the “Siliceous Microfossil Short Course” at the University of Szczecin in Poland in October 2010. The twenty students in the graduate course were from England, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Croatia, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Poland, and the United States.
While in Poland, McCartney used technology to communicate with his students at UMPI. “I recorded all of my classes in advance,” said McCartney, “and maintained a blog of email messages to all my students to share not only educational information, but also the international experience and observations.” There was even a teleconference where McCartney’s students in Poland and Maine could meet one another.
As part of the trip, McCartney spent two days doing research with colleagues David Harwood (USA), Jakub Witkowski (Poland) and Maxim Kulikovsky (Russia). Witkowski, Kulikovsky and McCartney are collaborating on an article concerning some Cretaceous material recently recovered from the Ural Mountains of Russia.
“We are very pleased to congratulate Kevin on the publication of this article along with the four articles in process,” said University president Don Zillman. “Research and sharing that desire to discover with students is an important component of university activity. Kevin’s work is a great example for our student body.”