Lea Rausch participated in excavation campaign

Lea Rausch at the Caune de l’Arago (Tautavel, France) -  getting hands-on insights on Middle Pleistocene human evolution in Europe for understanding the impact of climate and landscape dynamics as constraining factors of hominine occurrences in the Denizli Basin (SW Anatolia, Turkey).

PRIDE researcher Lea Rausch participated in the 2018 excavation campaign of the Caune de l’Arago (Tautavel, France). She joined a research group excavating the level Q, a layer providing abundant anthropic accumulations of large mammals (Horse, Reindeer, Bison, Mouflon etc.) accumulated by paleohunters. The oldest human remains from France come from this level, correlated to the beginning of MIS 14 (560.000 years).

The Caune de l’Arago is a 30 m long karst cavity located 20 km north of Perpignan. Annual excavation since 1964 have yielded human remains attributed to Homo erectus tautavelensis and about 120 faunal species (Moigne et al., 2006; Lumley, 2015). The 15 m thick stratified sequence can be subdivided into 4 stratigraphic complexes, of which the “Middle Stratigraphic Complex” represents one of the most important horizons. It can be divided into three Ensembles and contains the levels K-Q at the base of Ensemble I, dated by ESR and U-series.

Lea standing on her excavation platform inside the Arago cave

The faunal association prove to present typical assemblages of the Galerian (Moigne et al., 2006), reflecting climatic changes, with the presence of taxa more related to cold or temperate environmental conditions. By participating the excavation activities Lea was introduced to excavation techniques regarding a systematic recovery of faunal and lithic discoveries as well as extending her knowledge on hominine occurrences in Europe. Within the framework of the PRIDE project, she is working on hominine occurrences in the Denizli Basin (Turkey) in order to assess the impact of climate and landscape dynamics on the western Anatolia region that is considered a biogeographic corridor during the Quaternary. She is working with ostracods, using them as paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic proxies, rendering them a useful tool in the field of paleoanthropodology. 



Alberto Martínez Gándara presented a poster at the ESOF 2018

PRIDE represented at the ESOF 2018 conference in Toulouse through Alberto Martínez Gándara

The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is a European meeting led by EuroScience dedicated to research and innovation. These biennial meetings are designed as a meeting point between leading scientists, researchers, young researchers, business people, entrepreneurs and innovators, policy makers, science and technology communicators and the general public.


Photo 1. Some of the ESOF stands.

Photo 2. Poster area which some of the participants getting ready for the questions.

In accordance with the PRIDE outreach policy, the Marie Curie ESR Alberto Martínez Gándara presented a poster at the ESOF 2018. In this occasion, Alberto presented an introductory poster about the main objectives of the PRIDE program, stressing the importance of the Pontocaspian species using as an example the Lymnicardiinae bivalves, his species object of study. He then had the chance to reach out about the unique biota present in the area, the ways of studying it and the faced challenges. People from diverse areas such as physics, social sciences and the press could learn about this somehow unknown biodiversity and its status, raising awareness and interesting questions to be solved.

Photo 3. Alberto and his poster, representing PRIDE.

Photo 4. Some other posters were definitely worth to check.

Photo 5. The ESOF party took place at the incredible City of Space.

Sabrina van de Velde publishes an article

Sabrina van de Velde published her first article (open access) within the PRIDE team as a co-author.

Thomas A. Neubauer, Sabrina van de Velde, Tamara Yanina, Frank P. Wesselingh,

A late Pleistocene gastropod fauna from the northern Caspian Sea with implications for Pontocaspian gastropod taxonomy


The present paper details a very diverse non-marine gastropod fauna retrieved from Caspian Pleistocene deposits along the Volga River north of Astrakhan (Russia). During time of deposition (early Late Pleistocene, late Khazarian regional substage), the area was situated in shallow water of the greatly expanded Caspian Sea. The fauna contains 24 species, of which 16 are endemic to the Pontocaspian region and 15 to the Caspian Sea. The majority of the species (13) belongs to the Pyrgulinae (Hydrobiidae), a group famous for its huge morphological variability in the Pontocaspian region. The phenotypic diversity has led to an inflation of genus and species names in the literature. New concepts are proposed for many of the genera and species found in the present material, with implications for the systematics and taxonomy of the entire Pontocaspian gastropod fauna. Laevicaspia vinarskii sp. n. is described as a new species. This contribution is considered a first step in revising the Pontocaspian gastropod fauna.

Keynote speakers PRIDE-RCMNS conference

Keynote speakers PRIDE-RCMNS conference

We are very excited that Orsolya SztanóOriol Oms, Henri J. DumontM.G. Karpinsky, David Lordkipanidzeand David Tarkhnishvili  will be keynote speakers at the PRIDE-RCMNS conference, 27-29 August 2018 in Tbilisi. 

  • Dr. Orsolya Sztanó is associate professor at the Department of Physical and Applied Geology, of the Eotvos Lorand University of Budapest. 
  • Prof. Henri J. Dumont is professor of Ecology at the Universities of Guagzhou, China and Ghent, Belgium.
  • Prof. M.G. Karpinsky is working for the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Moscow
  • Prof. Oriol Oms  is professor of Geology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
  • Prof. David Lordkipanidze is professor and director of the Georgian National Musuem in Tbilisi.
  • Prof. David Tarkhnishvili is professor of Ecology at the Ilia State University of Tbilisi.

Studies in Caspian palynology, PhD defense Keith Richards

On 16 May 2018 Keith Richards passed his PhD exam. Supervisor: Prof. H. Hooghiemstra, co-supervisor: Prof. S.B. Kroonenberg.

You can find a direct link to his thesis here:

Studies in Caspian palynology, Six million years of vegetation, climate and sea level change

This thesis highlights some of the geological, geographical and climatic events in the depositional history of the Caspian Sea, from the latest Miocene to the present day. Just over 6 million years ago, the Caspian Sea was connected to the brackish-marine Paratethyan Sea during the ‘Pontian’ regional stage, before becoming an isolated lake basin during the Pliocene. These fluvio-lacustrine sediments are studied for their palynological content. A change from steppe to forest vegetation suggests climatic warming related to the ‘Mid Pliocene Warm Period’. A return to marine conditions during the ‘Akchagyl’ regional stage at the end of the Pliocene is shown by dinoflagellate cysts and foraminifera. Marine waters may have come from the Arctic Ocean. Brackish dinocysts in the early Pleistocene ‘Apsheron’ regional stage show similarity with the Black Sea region and Eastern Europe. Late Pleistocene sediments are studied from the Emba-Ural Delta region of Kazakhstan. Desert dunes are linked with the Atelian lowstand of the Caspian Sea during MIS (Marine Isotope Stage) 4. Lagoonal deposits contain pollen from thermophilous-hygrophilous trees of East Asian affinity during MIS 3. Palynological analyses from the Volga Delta recognise four phases of Holocene delta development. Incision of the delta occurred during the Derbent lowstand at the time of the ‘Medieval Warm Period’, followed by an expansion of aquatic vegetation equated with the ‘Little Ice Age’ highstand. The Caspian Sea that we see today is the result of a continuing process of basin isolation and periodic reconnection with the world’s oceans.

Keith with his two paranymphs Chris van Baak en Tom Hoyle with Azerbaijani hat.


Keith and the members of the committee.

9th Training Event at Bristol University

From 16-19 April 2018 the 9th Training Event is organized by PRIDE researchers Diksha Bista, Manuel Sala Perez and prof. Rachel Flecker at the University of Bristol. The program comprises preparations for the final conference in Tbilisi (Georgia) in August 2018. The researchers are discussing the organization and are working on integrated talk sessions. Furthermore there is a writing retreat, with writing that contributes directly to their papers and thesis, and providing them with strategies for managing the writing and editing. There will also be preparations for the future: finding a job to apply for, CV’s, cover letters, interviews, negotiating salary. This will be led by career advisor with expertise in non-academic jobs. And there will be former MSCA-students, e.g. Medgate ESRs, who will explain their experiences on the job market.

University of Bristol

PRIDE researchers are working on integrated talks


PRIDE researchers are picking their strengths and skills cards, and doing lots of self reflection during a career planning course


Lea Rausch gave a talk at the European School on Ostracoda

3rd European School on Ostracoda, Jena (Germany), 19th – 23rd March 2018: An introduction to Ostracoda

by Lea Rausch

The European School on Ostracoda is designed to provide an overview of the taxonomy, (palaeo)ecology, biodiversity, geological history and applied biostratigraphy of ostracods. It is intended for young scientists and industrial staff interested in micropalaeontology, palaeoceanography, palaeoclimatology, biology and environmental applications. The 3rd round of the course focussed on methods and concepts of ostracodology including systematics, biostratigraphic applications, ecology and life history spanning their fossil record from the Paleozoic to the Holocene and covering the recent fauna as well. Case studies from marine and continental systems as well as practical training for identification, preparation, documentation and analysis have been an important part of the course.

For the first time this year ostracoda of Paratethyan origin were thematically highlighted and introduced by Marie-Curie Early Stage Researcher Lea Rausch. The endemic ostracod assemblages from the Paratethys play a significant role in reconstructing the paleoenvironmental evolution and connectivity in between semi-isolated basins of the Pontocaspian region. An upper Miocene ostracod assemblage from the Denizli Basin (SW Anatolia, Turkey), was used to give paleogeographic implications and helped to elucidate the role of the satellite region as source/sinks area of Pontocaspian biota.

The next course, which takes place at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Germany) in Spring 2019, is primarily intended for young researchers at the PhD or MSc. stages of their careers and industrial staff who intend to work with ostracoda. The course is financially supported by the “Society of Friends/Förderverein IRGO e.V.”. For further information visit

Group picture of the "European School on Ostracoda 2018" at the Geological Institute of the University Jena

Sampling of living ostracoda in the field in the “Pennickental” during the first “European School on Ostracoda” in 2016.

The international group of young ostracodologists reviewing some of the discussed species in 2016 (top) and 2018 (bottom).





Sri presented a poster at AGU fall meeting

Sri Nandini presented a poster at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), 11 to 15 December 2017 in New Orleans. The aim of the poster talk was to show the audience how global climate affects the regional climate of the Caspian basin like precipitation and evaporation over the time scale of 1850-2100 with the help of a climate model. Sri is working at the Center of Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) of the University of Bremen. She helped to represent Marum at its booth and this was advertised at their website.

Sri Nandini joined the UN Climate Change Conference and was interviewed

Sri Nandini joined the UN Climate Change Conference (COP), 6-17 Nov 2017, in Bonn, Germany. The conference was chaired by the Presidency of Fiji, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

He said: "I intend to act as COP President on behalf of all 7.5 billion people on the planet. But I bring a particular perspective to these negotiations on behalf of some of those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change - Pacific Islanders and the residents of other SIDS countries and low-lying areas of the world. Our concerns are the concerns of the entire world, given the scale of this crisis.".

Aside from that Sri Nandini was interviewd in BUS, the journal of the University of Bremen. At page 7 you will find the interview with Sri, in German.

International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species

Anouk D'Hont gave a talk at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species (ICAIS2017) on 23 October 2017.

This is a link to the program and abstracts.

The introduction and spread of invasive species in freshwater and marine environments is a worldwide problem that is increasing in frequency.

There are various pathways by which non-indigenous invertebrate, fish, and plant species are introduced, become established and cause significant damage to coastal and freshwater ecosystems, and to the economies that depend upon them. Next to habitat loss, invasive species are considered the greatest threat to native biodiversity.
Our PRIDE-researcher Anouk D'Hont gave a talk:
Do Ecological Interactions Explain Dominance Shift between Ponto-Caspian Bivalves Dreissena polymorpha and Dreissena rostriformis bugensis in their Introduced Range? 
Anouk D’Hont1,2, Adriaan Gittenberger1, Rob Leuven3 
1 GiMaRIS 
2 Pontocaspian Biodiversity Rise and Demise (PRIDE), Horizon 2020 
3 Department of Environmental Science, Radboud University, Nijmegen 
The invasive bivalve species Dreissena polymorpha and Dreissena rostriformis bugensis are native to the Ponto-Caspian area (i.e., rivers basins northern of the Black sea, Caspian sea and Azov sea). In the 19th century D. polymorpha started extending its geographical range. Nowadays this species can be found throughout Europe, Eurasia and North America on hard substrates in fresh to oligohaline rivers, lakes and canals. However, since circa 20 years ago the closely related D. r. bugensis too started showing invasive behaviour, causing a dominance shift from D. polymorpha to D. r. bugensis. Although, this is a widely observed phenomenon, mechanistic understanding of displacement of D. polymorpha by D. r. bugensis is still limited. Therefore, we focused on two sites in the Rhine-Meuse river delta where both species co-occurred since 2006. We assessed the ecological interactions within these mixed populations on fouling plates 3, 6 and 12 months after settlement.This may shed more light on the mechanistic understanding of the displacement of D. polymorpha by D. r. bugensis at other sites.

European Marine Science Educators Association

Aleksandre Gogaladze gave a talk at the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference on 10 October 2017. EMSEA is an informal non-profit organisation which provides a platform for ocean education and promoting ocean literacy within Europe. The goals of EMSEA are

  • to stimulate is dialogue between European and international marine educators and scientists
  • to provide training and teaching materials to support marine educators
  • to raise educators awareness of ocean issues and the need for a sustainable futrure for our coasts, seas and oceans

EMSEA participants 2017

The title of his talk: "Baseline public biodiversity awareness in the coastal areas of Danube Delta in Ukraine and Romania".