The Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (CoE-Palaeo)
The Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (CoE-Palaeo) is a global hub for the study of the origins of species, using cutting-edge research techniques to understand South Africa’s unique fossil and archaeological record.
The Centre adopts an inter-disciplinary approach to research, incorporating the disciplines of palaeontology, palaeoanthropology, palaeobotany, molecular biology, genetics, geosciences, archaeology, geography, biology, ecology and climatology to interpret our unique South African Fossil Heritage.
African Centre for Coastal Palaeosciences (ACCP)
A major aim of the ACCP will be to formalise and strengthen the existing collaborations between Nelson Mandela University and the other institutions, both nationally and internationally, that have cognate research interests.
The Mission of ACCP is to conduct and coordinate Quaternary palaeoscientific research in an interdisciplinary context on the south and southeast coast of South Africa. The Centre also aims to build human capacity through postgraduate training.
International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)
Promoting Research On Quaternary Science
PAST – PAST GLOBAL CHANGES
PAGES (Past Global Changes) supports research which aims to understand the Earth’s past environment in order to obtain better predictions of future climate and environment, and inform strategies for sustainability. We encourage international and interdisciplinary collaborations and seek to promote the involvement of scientists from developing countries in the global paleo-community discourse.
Palynology is the study of pollen grains or other “palynomorphs” (= resistant microscopic structures derived from various organisms), e.g., phytoliths (= silica bodies from plant leaf cuticles). Palynomorphs regularly stay preserved in sediments as microfossils. These microfossils have been of great importance in palaeobotanical reconstruction of Quaternary and older environments worldwide, by indicating the past vegetation and climatic conditions during different times like the Late Pleistocene, Holocene etc.
The rock hyrax is an herbivore that is commonly found throughout southern Africa, and has the particular habit of defecating in the same location over many generations. These locations, often sheltered in caves, become covered in faecal pellets and are sealed in accumulations of dried urine, known as hyraceum. Contained in these deposits are are a wide variety of palaeoenvironmental proxies including pollen and stable isotopes. Once sealed in hyraceum, these records are protected from mechanical disruption as well as the wetting and drying typical of semi-arid environments, and have been preserved perfectly for upwards of 50,000 years.
Recently, the European Research Council has awarded €1,484,000 of funding for a five-year project (HYRAX) to explore the potential of these unique deposits.