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The scientific spectrum of the palaeontology research area has been distinctly enlarged during the last years due to increased external funding even though university staff has been reduced. Besides basic taxonomy the study areas include palaeoecology/palaeobiology, actuopalaeontology, (palaeo)biogeography, (palaeo)oceanography, stratigraphy and geobiology.

Palaeoecology, actuopalaeontology and palaeobiogeography

One focus within this scientific key area concerns palaeoecological topics. Stratigraphically these are rooted in the Early Palaeozoic, the Triassic and the Cenozoic. Regionally, the focus of Paleozoic and Triassic studies is in Austria within a collaboration with the Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAC), but this research field is internationally well integrated (Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, India, China) also due to IGCP involvement. Cenozoic topics cover the Central Paratethys but have another centre of interest in the transitional zone between the Mediterranean and the Indo-West Pacific (Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India, Oman, Tanzania). The scientific topics in the Palaeozoic and Cenozoic are strongly related to palaeobiogeographic problems, which are closely interlinked with palaeogeography and palaeooceanography. Due to a close cooperation with the Institute of Limnology of the AAS in Mondsee and the State Museum Joanneum in Graz a working group in the field of Palaeolimnology has been recently established. This group focuses on the evolutionary development and palaeoecology of ostracods in Late Miocene Lake Pannon and will be further strengthened in the next future. Concerning actuopalaeontology two areas of interest are well developed: one on Quaternary reefs the other on sediments and foraminifers in the deep basins of the SE-Atlantic. In the Quaternary sediments of the deep sea basins of the SE-Atlantic general questions on biogeography in the deep ocean are of central interest (based on taxonomy and ecology of foraminifers). These topics place this project within the international research focus CEDAMAR (Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine life) and the DIVA-project. Studies of Quaternary reefs are conducted in the Florida Reef Tract  and the Japanese Ryukyu Islands (ICDP).

Geobiology

Several scientific projects of the palaeontology group deal with the importance of reefs and related environments for the evolution of ecosystems in the Phanerozoic. Within this topic several time windows are under study: Devonian, Triassic, Miocene, Recent. These studies focus on environmental changes and their impact on reef systems. A second research field within the geobiology focus deals with reconstruction of environmental parameters based on proxy-data of Cenozoic skeletons (stable O- and C-isotopes and elemental distribution mainly in bivalve and cephalopod shells), to study the interrelationship between biotic and abiotic processes. An applied aspect within the geobiology field concerns the use of carbonate rocks as building stones.

Stratigraphy

Stratigraphy is an essential focus for the palaeoecology/geobiology research field, since it provides basic knowledge for all further studies. Coherent with the other study areas research is centered on the Early Palaeozoic and Cenozoic. Early Palaeozoic projects are dominated by a biostratigraphic approach but involve also geochemical methods. In the Cenozoic the study field has been expanded including also geophysical, sequence stratigraphical and cyclostratigraphical methods. The latter have been particularly forced and include very high time resolution studies on decadal to centennial intervals. A new biostratigraphic approach has been initiated by studying dinoflagellates at the K/Pg-boundary and in the Oligocene/Miocene of the Central Paratethys. Besides these activities the working group chairs and leads the Austrian Stratigraphic Commission.

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