Paper No. 39
Presentation Time: 6:30 PM
EXAMINING MICROBIAL DIVERSITY IN THE EOCENE FANCY FARM LIGNITE THROUGH A TIERED MENTORING PROGRAM FOR UNDERGRADUATES AND GRADUATE STUDENTS
It is known that fossil fungi are preserved in many Cenozoic coals, but we often don't know whether these represent saprophytic, mutualistic, or parasitic forms. A five-month tiered mentoring program for female undergraduate and graduate students explored the fungal diversity in the Eocene Fancy Farm lignite using palynology and organic petrography. Fifteen samples representing a single vertical transect through the coal were examined. Organic petrography completed by the graduate student demonstrates that fungi do not exceed 4.5% by volume in these samples. There is an inverse relationship between fungi and clay content; when clay content is high, fungal counts are low. There is a positive relationship of fungal forms with both detrohuminite and telohuminite, indicating that both saprophytic and parasitic fungal forms are present. Palynology, completed by the undergraduate, indicates that the samples are dominated by angiosperm pollen, so much so that the fungi, so apparent in organic petrography are rare in the palynological preparations. Taxa found include both epiphyllous fungi and also wood-rot fungi. The paleoecologic context of fungal forms recovered from the samples is presented, as in an overview of the relative success of the tiered mentoring project.