Burgess Shale Projects

The Cambrian radiation represents the sudden worldwide appearance and rapid diversification of animals. The record of this critical event is documented in a series of exceptional fossil deposits with preservation of soft-bodied animals, especially in China and Canada. The Burgess Shale, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Canadian Rocky Mountain Park in British Columbia represents one of the most famous palaeontological localities anywhere. This site is famous for its exquisite preservation of soft-bodied animals dating from the Middle Cambrian (505 million-year-old) period. Preserved with stunning clarity, Burgess Shale fossils provide an unprecedented source of ecological and biological information not available in most fossil deposits.

The Burgess Shale projects are a series of integrated and collaborative research programs that Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, implemented soon after joining the ROM in early 2006. These projects are primarily focused on the study of fossils from the extensive Burgess Shale collection, with the intent to fulfil the ROM's collaborative agreement with Parks Canada (for whom we hold the fossils in trust) to present (interpret) Burgess Shale fossils to the public (as stipulated by the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO). (Visit Parks Canada Burgess Shale page here).

The first paper to be published from this research program appeared in the July 13, 2006 issue of the international science journal Nature (see below). Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, David Rudkin, was also involved in this study. In this paper, the authors reinterpreted the problematic animal Odontogriphus from the Burgess Shale as a member of an ancestral group of shell-less and grazing molluscs, based on hundreds of new specimens showing exquisite soft-tissue preservation. They also proposed that Odontogriphus and Wiwaxia (another enigmatic fossil from the Burgess Shale) were related and shared an ancestor in the Ediacaran Period, possibly allied to Kimberella, known from Russia and Australia. This research story was widely circulated in the press (e.g., Globe and Mail, CBC News) and radio (e.g. Radio Canada International, CBC French Radio programs).

Jean-Bernard has also established collaborative projects with colleagues in China to quantitatively sample Lower Cambrian localities containing soft-bodied preservation in southwest China (Yunnan province) for direct comparisons with Burgess Shale material.

See Jean-Bernard's homepage here and visit the Virtual Museum of Canada Burgess Shale website to learn more about the Burgess Shale.

Follow Jean-Bernard Caron on ROM BLOG & YouTube:

 

ACADEMIC LINKS:

See also Focus on Research page.

 

 

STUDENTS:

Karma Nanglu (PhD) - (2013-current)

Cédric Aria (PhD) - (2012-current)

Lorna O'Brien (PhD) completed (2008-2013)

Martin Smith (PhD) completed (2008-2012)

Allison Daley (PhD) completed (2006-2010)

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

Google scholar profile, with list of citations, click here.

*Doctoral research supervised or co-supervised

Portrait of Jean-Bernard Caron-2012

Jean-Bernard Caron

Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology

Area: Natural History, Fossils & Evolution

Interests: Burgess Shale, Cambrian Explosion, Evolution, Origin of animals, Palaeocology

Exhibitions & Galleries: Gallery of Early Life

Phone: 416.586.5593

Bio

B.Sc., Earth and Life Sciences, University Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, 1997
M.Sc., Earth Sciences, University Claude-Bernard, Lyon, 1999
Ph.D., Zoology, University of Toronto, 2005

Jean-Bernard Caron is Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM.

Previous position held at the ROM: Associate Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology (2006-2010)

A profound curiosity about fossils during his childhood led Jean-Bernard Caron to collect and curate his own personal fossil collection in his native France. By the age of 10, he knew he wanted to become a professional palaeontologist. As a teenager, he often joined various professional field crews across Europe for summer field expeditions collecting fossils, and the experience gained as a volunteer field assistant led to an invitation from Desmond Collins, then Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM, to join his field crew at the famous Burgess Shale fossil deposit in British Columbia in 1998. This was his first visit to Canada, and he returned to the Burgess Shale as a ROM volunteer for the following two summer field seasons.

His Master's thesis dealt with Banffia constricta, one of the most bizarre animals known from the Burgess Shale. This study was followed by a PhD on the taphonomy and paleoecology of the Burgess Shale community. By the end of his PhD project, Jean-Bernard had examined about half the Burgess Shale specimens (more than 70,000 fossils) stored at the ROM, which houses over 150,000 specimens, representing the world’s largest collection of its kind. After being awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council post-doctoral fellowship (Government of Canada), he joined the ROM as Associate Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology in early 2006, thus finally fulfilling his long-standing childhood dream.

At present, his main responsibilities are to curate and interpret fossils from the very large ROM Burgess Shale collection as well as to continue fieldwork activities. The ROM collection represents a real Pandora’s Box for science, with many new organisms still to be described. He also studies fossils from other Burgess Shale-type deposits, particularly in China.

At the end of 2011, Jean-Bernard launched the "Virtual Museum of Canada website on the Burgess Shale", a joint effort between the ROM and Parks Canada. This bilingual website has received over 200.000 visitors since Jan 1st, 2012.

Follow Jean-Bernard Caron on ROM BLOG:

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS:

Jean-Bernard was the recipient of the 2010 Pikaia award from the Canadian Geological Association in recognition of his contribution to the profile of Canadian paleontology through his research. The nomination citation (PDF) praised him as "an exceptionally innovative and productive young paleontologist who shows promise for continuing excellence in Canadian paleontological research."

Jean-Bernard received two awards for "Virtual Museum of Canada website on the Burgess Shale": the Paleontological Association Golden Trilobite Award (2011) and the Ontario Museum Association Award for Excellence in Publications (2012).

 

RESEARCH GRANTS:

Jean-Bernard's research at the ROM is partially funded by an NSERC Discovery grant (2012-2017) under the program, "Palaeobiology and community analysis of the Burgess Shale biota," see Research Page for more information.

 

ACADEMIC LINKS:

See also Focus on Research page.

 

STUDENTS:

Karma Nanglu (PhD) - (2013-current)

Cédric Aria (PhD) - (2012-current)

Lorna O'Brien (PhD) completed (2008-2013)

Martin Smith (PhD) completed (2008-2012)

Allison Daley (PhD) completed (2006-2010)

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

Google scholar profile, with list of citations, click here.

*Doctoral research supervised or co-supervised

 

Documentaries related to the Burgess Shale

 

Media related to recent fielwork

 

Other relevant stories about the Burgess Shale

Centennial of the Burgess Shale discovery:

Other Links

 

Recent Publications

YearPublications