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".




Sea Level Caspian Sea and Video Sea Level Rising (1995)


Video about Caspian Sea Level rising (1995) 

Video production by Willemien Op den Orth about the rapid sea level changes in the Caspian Sea. Made in 1995 during the visit of a delegation of scientists from the Netherlands (Wageningen University, Dutch Department of Water Affairs) and the Russian Federation (MGU: Moscow State University) to Dagestan, Kalmykia, Astrakhan Nature Reserve.

With Prof. Salomon Kroonenberg (scientific Advisory Board PRIDE), Prof. P.A. Kaplin, S. Parshnikova, V.V. Erdniev, G.N. Murtchusaliev, A. Veldkamp, H. Winkels, G.A. Krivonosov

Translation into English and voice-over: Jim Boekbinder. Produced and directed by Willemien Op den Orth

Details Caspian Sea Level since 1992

These are the most actual details of the level of the Caspian Sea.

Caspian Sea Level since 1992


Justine Vandendorpe in Yamal Peninsula

Our researcher Justine Vandendorpe went to the Yamal Peninsula (northwest Siberia, Russia) from 5 to 30 June 2017. She joined a research group studying the decline of the long-tailed duck population. These waterfowls feed on benthic animals such as the mud snail genus Ecrobia that Justine studies. It was an opportunity for this young researcher to look for the mud snail in the Arctic as Ecrobia is suspected to have traveled between Eurasia and North America through the Arctic Ocean. Justine had the chance to discuss that with two local television crews.  

These are the links to the interviews:

Interview one with уамал вести

Interview two with уамал вести



Public awareness on biodiversity, attitudes and understanding

Within the framework of projects PRIDE and LIFE for Danube Sturgeons a study has been conducted on the Current public awareness of biodiversity in the coastal areas of the Black Sea. Here are the photographic impressions from Summer Biological Practicum of Richelieu Lyceum (Odessa). In this annual two week field trip, that was held along the Psel River in 2017, 102 lyceum students participated in total representing 7 scientific groups (invertebrate zoology, vertebrate zoology, botany, hydrobiology, soil biology and entomology, physiology, geology). We thank Dr. Mikhail Son from the Institute of Marine biology for his invaluable assistance and contribution.



Outreach in Ukraine and Romania

Aleksandre Gogaladze is currently (May, June 2017) traveling around Ukraine and Romania. His plan is to interview the stakeholder institutions to gather data on their social network structures in order to understand how Pontocaspian biodiversity related environmental issues are shared and communicated among different actors in Ukraine and Romania; Besides, he will work on promoting the PRIDE citizen science through the taxonomic identification sheet. Here are his first impressions from Romania.

I arrived in Bucharest a week ago from Ukraine loaded with new experiences and positive emotions. I had a very productive 2 weeks in Ukraine and thanks to PRIDE’s Ukrainian partners I managed to interview 11 stakeholder institutions. Also thanks to the Ukrainian hospitality I was invited on excursions in 3 different protected areas on the Black Sea coast where I met the directors of protected areas and also representatives of different conservation organizations. Apart from interviewing them we had fruitful discussions about conservation problems in general that Ukraine is currently facing and also about different possibilities of leaflet distribution and citizen science promotion on protected areas.

Picture 1. Regional Landscape Park “Kinburn Spit”

Picture 2. Regional Landscape Park “Kinburn Spit”

Picture 3. Regional Landscape Park “Kinburn Spit”


 I spent most of my 2 weeks in Kherson, however before going to Kherson I stayed in Kiev for several days and met PRIDE’s partner institutions: Prof. Vitaliy Anistratenko from the Institute of Zoology and Ms. Natalia Gozak from WWF Ukraine. We discussed and planned the future steps together and they helped me with contacting the stakeholder institutions.


Picture 4. At the office of the Lower Dnieper National Nature Park. Interviewing the Vice—director Ms. Alena Ponomarova.

Picture 5. Regional Landscape Park “Kinburn Spit”. In the house of the director of the Park: Mr. Petrovych Zinovii together with Prof. Ivan Moysiyenko from Kherson State University and his family.

It is already one week I am in Bucharest, Romania. I have interviewed 3 institutions here so far and there are many more planned meetings to come before I go back to Ukraine for my secondment at WWF Ukraine. I met with PRIDE’s Romanian partner institutions: Prof. Marius Stoika from the University of Bucharest and Dr. Luis Popa and Dr. Oana Popa from the Grigore Antipa Museum. They were very helpful with putting me in contact with stakeholders and thanks to them I have many meeting fixed.

Besides, I and my fellow ESR colleagues: Alberto Martínez Gándara and Lea Rausch have very exciting plans on engaging with Black Sea Coastal schools and Universities and raising awareness and promoting citizen science amongst students using our leaflet. In Romania, with the assistance of Ana Bianca Pavel from INCD GeoEcoMar, we already have fixed meeting in Constanta with 5th grade school students from 2 different schools on May 30th. This will be a one day extra-curricular activity where we will explain the school students about the importance and uniqueness of Pontocaspian biota and we will enlighten them on how they can help us using the leaflet to generate the actual scientific data on species occurences.


Picture 6. Excursion in the Lower Dnieper National Nature Park territory. From right to left: me, Director of the Park: Mr. Aleksey Chachibaia and school students from Kherson Gymnasium


Picture 7.

Picture 8.

Another good news is that with the great support of Ms. Natalia Gozak from WWF Ukraine we have already introduced our leafelts into 20 Black Sea Boxes that will be distributed around schools in Ukraine. Also, Ms. Natalia Gozak suggested to dedicate 1 day to PRIDE from the Ichthyological field work that WWF Ukraine is organizing for Kherson University students. The fieldwork will take place in Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, in Vilkovo area, Odessa Region and the day for PRIDE will be on June 27. We have asked for expert assistance from Dr. Mikhail Son from the Institute of Marine Biology in Odessa and fortunately he is willing to accompany us on the fieldwork on June 27 and represent PRIDE together with me, Lea and Alberto. Our intentions are to enlighten the students on the uniqueness of Pontocaspian biota and importance of Pontocaspian mollusks in food webs as a food source for Sturgeon and other Pontocaspian fish species. The theory will be accompanied by a fieldwork at the end of the day and we intend to use our leaflets to show students different species assemblages in different environments (marine, estuarine, freshwater).


Author: Aleksandre Gogaladze

European Geosciences Union conference

Our ESR Sri Nandini attended the European Geosciences Union - EGU 2017 conference in Vienna, Austria from 23–28 April 2017 and presented a poster on her research. Her research entrails Past and Future Impact of North Atlantic Teleconnection Patterns on the Hydroclimate of the Caspian Catchment in CESM1.2.2 Model and observations. EGU is Europe's biggest Scientific Conference held annually with 15,000 participants from 107 countries, a great choice for networking, outreaching and development of early career scientists.




Sri Nandini will give a talk at Past Global Changes Open Science Meeting

Our researcher Sri Nandini will be giving a scientific presentation at the Past Global Changes - Open Science Meeting (5th PAGES OSM). This will be held in Zaragoza from 9-13 May 2017. Her presentation will be in the session From the Mediterranean to the Caspian: palaeoclimate variability, environmental responses and human adaptive strategies. Matthias Prange (supervisor Sri) will be one of the convenors at the open session Hydroclimate variability through the ages: Data, models, mechanisms

The Open Science Meeting (OSM) and the associated Young Scientists Meeting (YSM) are the premier scientific events of Past Global Changes (PAGES), a core project of Future Earth and a scientific partner of the World Climate Research Programme. The theme this year is "Global Challenges for our Common Future: a paleoscience perspective."

Sri's presentation will be recorded and put online afterwards. We are very excited to see the involvement of PRIDE Science at international conferences and wish Sri Nandini all the very best for this!!