During the late Devonian, about 360 million years ago, Ireland was a tropical paradise. On land, the plants ruled the continents, accompanied by micro-organisms and early relatives of the spiders, millipedes, and centipedes. This talk will focus on two aspects of the late Devonian in Ireland: 1) the different types of (micro)organisms that lived during that time and how they interacted with the world around them; 2) the spectacular, and world famous, Devonian–Carboniferous plant fossils from Kiltorcan (Co. Kilkenny). Overall, Ireland’s rich plant fossil history plays a key role in answering exciting research questions, but raises many more. Studying these fossil plants and their dynamics in past environments provides a powerful insight into both the current and future ecosystems of Ireland, and the world.
Carla Harper is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science who joined the Trinity College Dublin Botany Department in March 2020. She lectures on the evolution of fossil plants and fungi, palaeontology, mycology, and plant–fungus interactions. Her research areas include palaeomycology, palaeobotany, and modern (living) fungal biodiversity. Fieldwork has taken Carla around the world from the US to Ireland to Antarctica. She is an authority on the study of fossil fungi and interactions between fossil plants and fungi. One of her current, long-term research projects is to study the Palaeozoic fossil floras of Ireland. Life outside of research includes hunting for mushrooms with her husband, caring for two black cats, scientific illustration, and growing Irish carnivorous plants on her balcony bogs in Dublin’s city centre.