Meeting: Working Group

Synthesizing and databasing fossil calibrations: divergence dating and beyond

Date3-Mar-2011 ~ 6-Mar-2011
ProjectSynthesizing and databasing fossil calibrations: divergence dating and beyond
SummaryThis project aims to develop new protocols and resources to improve divergence-dating studies using fossil calibrations. Combining temporal data from the fossil record with branch length data from molecular phylogenetic trees represents a rapidly expanding approach to understanding biodiversity. Unfortunately, many fossils used to calibrate divergence dating analyses are not phylogenetically constrained and/or have incorrect ages assigned to them. Molecular systematists have largely led divergence dating studies, and the development of rigorous methods for using paleontological data has lagged behind the development of statistical methods for analyzing genetic sequences. Our working group seeks to rectify this problem by developing protocols, platforms, and incentives that will facilitate broader community involvement. A diverse international team of early career scientists, postdocs and students with broad expertise has been assembled to meet these goals. A first step will be to generate a protocol for reporting fossil calibration data. By outlining “best practices” for justifying and reporting calibrations, we can assure that fossil data are treated with the same rigor as molecular data. This work will serve as the foundation for an online database of vetted fossil calibrations. Incentivising community contribution is key to keeping the database active and up to date. We will achieve sustainability and raise visibility by pairing our database with a rapid publication outlet for fossil calibration data through partnership with an open access online journal, thereby providing publication credit for this community service.