Weston Observatory

Fossil Origins of Plant Development • Evolution of Complex Multicellularity • Precambrian Terrestrial Life • Euglenid Fossil Record

latest update: June 6, 2024


upcoming meetings and events:

June 10-16: Music residency at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Loughborough, Virginia. The band pictured below will be in residence for a week to pilot a future music residency program at the Oak Spring Garden. The Oak Spring Garden Foundation, headed by paleobotanist, Sir Peter Crane, is a non-profit foundation promoting regional culture and "...facilitating scholarship and public dialogue on the history and future of plants."

April 18: Opening Gala after 4 yr renovation of the Yale  Peabody Museum of Natural History with the former director, Michael Donoghue & friends

March 7, 2024: PBS YouTube Channel EONS has published an educational video  about Bicellum Braiseri called, "Darwin's Dilemma: Animals might be much older than we thought." This video has been viewed over 500,000 times.

February 26: Plant Evolution: A Tapetum is now effectively present in all plant lineages by WA Taylor & PK Strother has been published as a Dispatch article in Current Biology. This commentary discusses the impact on evolution of the plant spore wall based on the research from John Bowman's Lab, Levins J., Dierschke T. & Bowman J.L. A subclass II bHLH transcription factor in Marchantia polymorpha gives insight into the ancestral land plant trait of spore formation. Curr. Biol. 2024; 34: 895-901. 

December 21, 2023:  Recognition of an extended record of euglenoid cysts: Implications for the end-Triassic mass extinction, by Bas van de Schootbrugge et al. is now available on-line. This paper is published in The Review of Palæobotany and Palynology, volume 322 (March 2024).  . This paper has received science news coverage, including AAAS EurekaAlert! and its Altmetric score is the highest ever for the journal, The Review of Palæobotany and Palynology.

Research Programs

Research at the Palæobotany Laboratory at Weston Observatory investigates several related Evolutionary Themes - all of which concern fossil protists extracted from the geological record. The origin of Land Plants in the SIlurian, was preceded by a record of cryptospores that extends from Cambrian Series 2, and we are responsible for creating the taxonomy of many of the cryptospores of Cambrian and Ordovician age. Together with coworkers at Utrecht University and elsewhere, we are in the early stages of documenting a fossil record of the Euglenophyceae - the photosynthetic euglenoids. Lakes through Time is our program that includes Precambrian and Palæozoic non-marine deposits - primarily the Mid-Continent Rift Nonesuch Shale and the Torridonian Sequence in Scotland. The discovery of fossil holozoans in phosphate nodules of the Diabaig shales at Loch Torridon in Scotland has opened up a new research line into the origins of cell differentiation and development in the unicellular ancestors of the animals.

Origin of Land Plants 

Euglenid Fossil Record

Lakes through Time

Early Complex Multicellularity

Fieldwork Areas

The Grand Canyon

Torridonian Sequence 

Mid-Continent Rift System

Central Appalachian Mts

the Laboratory at Weston

Zeiss Universal microscope

The microscope base is directly fixed to a pneumatically suspended vibration isolation table. The IR (heat) filter in the light source pathway has been removed, permitting infrared imaging and photography. The SLR camera back shutter is opened with a long exposure time, and then exposure time is set by an external electronic coplanar shutter resting on the field stop dial. This setup allows for low ISO imaging that is free of substantial vibration. Current camera back is a Nikon D3200 with a 23.2 x 15.4 mm CMOS sensor with  pixel size of 14.74 µm^2 and pixel density of 6.79 MP/cm^2,

"Nobody loves the poor nematode" (Levi 1976)

"In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites." (Cobb 1914)


Paul K. Strother


Palæobotany Laboratory

Weston Observatory of Boston College

381 Concord Rd

Weston, Massachusetts MA02493