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ISF: What They Said

Reviews of the ISF courses have appeared in the "Newsletter of Micropalaeontology". Have a look and see what some of the participants have written about our previous courses.


The International School on Foraminifera - 9th Edition, 2016

Ángela Garcia—Gallardo (Ph.D. student, University of Graz)
Lucía Rivero Cuesta (Ph.D. student, University of Zaragoza)
Marina Costa Rillo (Ph.D. student, University of Southampton)
Thomas Leutert (Ph.D. student, University of Bergen)

From 6th to 25th of June 2016 academic researchers, graduate students and industry workers from all around the world gathered in Urbino, Italy, for three weeks of “Foram--‐Fun”! As participants of this well-respected course, we learned many aspects of foraminiferal diversity and biostratigraphy, and their importance for paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic reconstructions. [.................] Finally, we would like to thank EGU for the grants awarded to support our registration fees. We are also extremely grateful to the organizers and lecturers for their efforts and attention during the ISF 2016.

Read the full review ISF 2016 EGU Grants Report .

Students Report of the 8th Course of International School on Foraminifera.
by Anna Binczewska Paleoceanography Unit, Faculty of Geosciences, University of Szczecin, Szczecin, Poland (anna.binczewska@gmail.com)

In June 2015,in Urbino- Italy had place 8th edition of International School on Foraminifera. The course brought together people who are interested in discover, reinforce and expand understanding of amazing eukaryotic organisms- foraminifera with reference to their interdisciplinary applications. Thanks to ECORD scholarship programme I could be one of them and thereby take advantage of obtained knowledge and skills in my PhD project (Reconstruction of climate and environmental changes in the Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak during the last 6000 years, based on microfossil proxies- foraminifera) as well as in a future scientific path.
Protected by a medieval wall of charming and picturesque Urbino 48 participants from 28 countries spent three intensive weeks of lectures and practical classes in aim to fathom out secrets of the foraminifera world. The course material was very well sorted and divided into four main sub-courses: Introduction; Larger, Smaller, Benthic and Planktonic Foraminifera. This gave some people the opportunity to attend only one or two units, depending on their research interest. However I strongly recommend participation in the entire course through the further description.
The ISF course was led by Mike Kaminski and Fabrizio Frontalini supported by scientific but also industrial specialists invited from ‘beyond the wall’ to give a talks cover Taxonomy, Genetics, Ecology, Biodiversity of Foraminifera and link it with geological events and place in time scale. We had a great opportunities to meet and learn from amazing and passionate lecturers. I greatly appreciated the chance to ask questions referring to my own research. Very often it turned into long and helpful evenings debates, even after the class was finished. The atmosphere never ceased to be friendly and relaxing.
The people and place played an important role in creating such a wonderful and productive time we had. During many informal activates such as: Icebreaker Party with typical food from Marche region; a field trip to Gubbio and nearby localities were we looked at the Paleocene/Eocene and K/Pg boundary; at the ‘Foraminiferal Party’ we presented and shared our own scientific work at the garden of the Fortezza Albornoz which provided a magical view of Urbino; with the many social dinners and aperitifs we had, enjoying the delicious Italian cuisine, we got to know each other better, creating a professional network but also gaining some long lasting friendships.
In conclusion, the International School on Foraminifera was a unique experience, providing a high level of education. It was not only valuable for my personal studies as a PhD student but also gave me a wonderful experience that I will remember for a long time. The obtained knowledge and materials are significant for my further scientist work. Hence I strongly recommend this course to all foraminifera enthusiasts to complement and strengthen their understanding of Foraminifera in a wonderful environment offered by ISF in Urbino.

On the Fabulous World of Forams – The International School on Foraminifera 2015
by Stefanie Kaboth Utrecht University, Department of Earth Sciences, The Netherlands.

Set against the background of the picturesque town of Urbino (Italy), the International School on Foraminifera (ISF) opened its gates for the 8th time from June 4th to 22nd 2015. Enthusiastic students, early career researchers like myself, and industrial staff from 48 countries were given the opportunity to attend multidisciplinary, intriguing lectures and practicals on taxonomy, ecology, biodiversity, and geological history of benthic and planktic foraminifera.
The layout of the Summer School is comprised of four modules aiming to give background to people that have not dealt with forams before (Introduction) while at the same time providing focused and specialized lectures on the different groups of foraminifera (larger benthic foraminifera, smaller benthic foraminifera and planktic foraminifera). These modules are scheduled separately to allow participants to attend the modules that are most relevant to their work.
The daily program was divided into compact, highly educational morning lectures and complementary microscope lab sessions in the afternoon to reinforce the obtained knowledge by either conducting assigned tasks or self-study of the extensive collections provided. The content of the lectures and practicals touches, among other, on classification, biology, spatial and historical distribution of the different foraminifera groups; all in the context of their (paleo) environmental, (paleo) oceanographical and biostratigraphical applications. The insights I have obtained on classification, environmental control on diversity and spatial distribution of foraminifera together with the variety of paleoceanographic and paleoenvironmetal applications, beyond the scope of geochemical analyses, was highly beneficiary for my own work. The participants were also offered the possibility to bring their own samples to discuss them with leading experts, which in my mind is an exceptional opportunity to resolve open questions and get direct feedback.
Besides the lecture/practical daily schedule the school`s program also offers plenty of opportunity for all the attendees to talk about their research or experiences in industry in an informal environment e.g. coffee breaks, dinners or the ECORD sponsored presentation evening, which provided the possibility for every participant to present their individual work, from industry and academia alike. These presentations truly highlighted the diverse background of all attendees but also emphasized the variety of foraminifera related research conducted around the globe. The mid-course fieldtrip gave all participants the chance to visit some of the world’s most renowned stratigraphical sections of the Umbria-Marche region while applying the knowledge gathered during the lectures/practicals to the field.
Based on my experience I can highly recommend the ISF, without reserve, to anyone interested and/or working in the frontier of foraminiferal research, from academia and industry alike. The course is well structured with the right mix of lectures and practicals to really grasp your attention.

On June 3rd 2014, 47 eager foram enthusiasts, from industry and academia alike, descended upon the town of Urbino in Italy for the 7th International School of Foraminifera. This year participants came from 25 different countries, including Austria, Colombia, Vietnam and South Korea, working on various material from both deep time and the present. The course was co-ordinated by Professor Mike Kaminski (King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals/UCL) and Dr Fabrizio Frontalini (University of Urbino), and sponsored by TMS and CGG Robertson Ltd.

The full article was published in the Newsletter of Micropalaeontology, Number 90, July 2014.

Katherine Holland (Australian National University, Australia), Danielle Dionne (Carleton University, Canada) and Ilka Johanna Illers (Bangor University, UK).

What a treat to learn about foraminifera in the gorgeous medieval city of Urbino during the beautiful Italian summer! Foram enthusiasts from around the world were able to take part in this experience during the 6th International School on Foraminifera (ISF)! The 6th ISF ran for two weeks in June and by the end of the course all participants had gained a good appreciation and understanding of the larger benthics, smaller benthics, and planktonic foraminifera. 

Fabrizio Frontalini, of the Urbino University, and Mike Kaminski, of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, have organised a fabulous course which covers the taxonomy, ecology, biodiversity, and geological history of three groups of forams: the larger benthics, smaller benthics, and planktonics. The school was split into three distinct courses covering each of these three groups in turn however the majority of participants stayed to experience the whole range of forams (who could resist!).

Our days typically began with lectures and finished with practical microscope sessions which provided a great opportunity to see and experience the foraminifers discussed in the lectures as well as provided a better opportunity to talk with lecturers and peers about the material. Topics covered in lecture and in the practical sessions spanned a huge range of areas including biostratigraphy, ecology, (palaeo)environmental reconstructions, and modern applications of foram assemblages.

A new addition to the ISF this year was the well-received “foram party”; an evening where participants were invited to share a little about their current or past research projects. It promoted some very good discussions and allowed everyone to get a sense of all the different applications of foraminiferal research.

The course was suitable for people with a strong background in foraminifers as well as those new to the field, with the option of bringing your own material along to get advice, or learn and gain experience by working with the amazing collections provided by the course.  A number of classic papers, textbooks, and all the course materials were provided electronically and are extremely valuable resources for beginners in the foraminiferal world and experts alike.

This year’s very exciting field trip allowed us to experience first-hand the geology of the Marche-Umbria region - featuring the K/Pg boundary, the Cenomanian-Turonian anoxic event, and many other exciting moments in geologic history! At the end of the field trip, we all shared a social dinner followed by dancing and karaoke in which Mike Kaminski performed a stirring rendition of the crowd pleaser: That’s Amore!

The accommodations at the Collegio Internazionale Urbino were perfect for the course. Located right in the city centre and only moments from the Piazza della Repubblica (the main meeting point in Urbino), most participants decided to take advantage of the many fantastic restaurants around the town (and one particular gelataria!) for lunches and dinners instead of dining at the college. The college did provide a very tasty breakfast, including amazing coffee, as part of the accommodation.

Staying at the Collegio Internazionale was a great way to network with the other ISF participants, keep the foraminiferal conversations going long after lectures and practicals were finished, as well as being a great place to meet up to go explore the town, the night life, and practice the art of foozeball! This was an amazing course! We all learned so much and made some incredible friendships - We highly recommend the course to other foram enthusiasts!

Simon d’Haenens, University of Leuven

This June, for about two weeks, the streets of Urbino were filled with foram-enthusiasts for obvious reasons... With its 5th installment, the renowned International School on Foraminifera attracted many students and professionals from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the USA, eager to learn about these awesome little critters. Students included people at various stages in their academic careers (bachelor to post-doc level) as well as industrial micropalaeontologists. Their interests spanned the entire stratigraphic record, from Cretaceous to Recent. Organized by Fabrizio Frontalini of the University of Urbino and Mike Kaminski of the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Miner- als, and under the auspices of, and with sponsorship of the Grzybowski Foundation, this course provides a state-of-the-art overview on foraminifera and their use in biostratigraphy, ecology, (palaeo)environmental reconstructions, climate studies and modern applications of benthic foraminifers in anthropogenically impacted environments. These topics were presented by Mike and Fabrizio, with the assistance of several guest lecturers: Laia Alegret (University of Zaragoza, Spain), Claudia Cetean (Fugro Robertson Limited) and Maria Rose Petrizzo (University of Milano, Italy).

The picturesque medieval city of Urbino is draped atop a hill, providing stunning panoramic views of the foothill landscape surround- ing it. Undoubtedly equally beautiful is the local architecture and art: as a World Heritage Site, Urbino is known for its exceptional legacy of independent Renaissance culture under the patronage of Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino in the 15th Century. Low cost accommodation for applicants was provided in the modern and luxurious Collegio Internazionale located in the city centre, only a stone’s throw away from the Piazza della Repubblica, which can be considered as the social hub and main “gelato” provider of Urbino. Speaking of food, although the campus had a great cafeteria, many students opted to explore the numerous marvellous restaurants in the city centre, as recommended by some more-experienced members. The on-campus accommodation had many benefits: not only did it allow for intense professional networking and fruitful discussions to be continued after-hours, but it was also an ideal way to meet up to go for dinner, amble around town and its surrounding fields, watch the European Football Championship games or explore the infamous local pubs at night.

The course itself consists of two parts, one dealing with benthic and the other with planktic foraminifera. They can be regarded as two separate entities that function independently, but most participants opted to follow both. Each course was constructed in a similar way, with lectures in the morning and microscope sessions in the afternoon. The lectures started off with basic taxonomic and morphological concepts, only to quickly delve into more complex matters, well illustrated with many case studies taken from the literature and personal experiences of the lecturers. This clever con- struction of the course made sure that it appealed to both amateurs as well as veterans in the field. The interactive and spontaneous nature of the classes was also reflected in the fact that students got the opportunity to present personal work, complementing the topic of the day. The microscope sessions were set up as an independent study time, but always ended up being interactive with lots of discus- sions and cooperation among students and lecturers. Samples from the lecturers’ extensive personal reference collections were available, as were reprints of a plethora of classic papers and books. This allowed for each student to fine-tune their skills or to do their personal work, which ranged from thesis research to industry-based applications.

The much-anticipated fieldtrip, which took place on the second day of the planktic course, was conceived to illustrate the fascinating geology of the Marche-Umbria region. In the morning, the stops included the Jurassic carbonate platforms and the Ammonitico Rosso near the Gola del Furlo, and the Contessa road section including the Bonarelli event (Oceanic Anoxic Event 2; OAE2) and the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). After having lunch in the gorgeous city of Gubbio, the fieldtrip resumed, with the next stop on our itinerary being the Bottaccione gorge. Here, the famous K/Pg boundary described by Alvarez and colleagues prompted a spontaneous photo shoot moment. The last stop of the fieldtrip was the lovely Gorgo a Cerbara section, a proposed GSSP for the Barremian/Aptian boundary including the Selli anoxic event (OAE1a). After this exhausting yet incredibly satisfying day in temperatures soaring to 40°C (so I have been told), it was time to sit back, relax and once again experience the wonders of Italian cooking at the social dinner. Set in a refurbished farm that has been converted to a brewery, we enjoyed our meals whilst “enduring” Mike’s and Rodolfo Coccioni’s epic karaoke rendition of “Volare” and ‘That’s Amore”. What a splendid way to end a wonderful day! I’m convinced that, at the end of the ten-day course, people new to the field of foraminifera left with a firm grasp on the concepts used in foraminifera-based research, while veterans had the opportunity to refresh, expand or polish their knowledge. But perhaps more importantly, the school has acted as a catalyst in forging new professional bonds and, manifest- ed by the many emotional goodbyes on the final day, lifelong friendships as well, which can only be beneficial for the foram community in the future. ISF...highly recommended!

Benedetto Schiraldi, Rutgers University, USA
Andreea Telespan, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania


The Fourth International School on Foraminif¬era took place in July at the University of Urbino, in Italy. The course has international popularity, which is evident through the en¬rollment of students and professionals from all over Europe, the USA, China, the Middle East, South America, as well as Africa. The success of the course is largely a result of the organization and diligence of Fabrizio Frontalini of the Uni¬versity of Urbino, and Mike Kaminski of King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, work¬ing under the auspices of, and with sponsorship from the Grzybowski Foundation. The success of the course can also be attributed to several other organizers, guest lecturers, and notewor¬thy members of the micropaleontological com¬munity.

The University of Urbino was built atop a hill in the Marche region of Italy. Its location provides unmatched panoramic views of the region with easy access to the city center of Urbino where one can find fantastic food, marvelous displays of architecture, and art; especially evident in the Duke’s palace within the city center. Low cost accommodation for students was made available at the University’s College de Colle with most rooms providing displays of the un¬matched aesthetics of the Italian foothill land¬scape. A cafeteria-style dinner is available at the University for students, or in just a ten minute walk students can experience the wonders of Italian cooking within the city center. The local¬ized on-campus accommodation fosters lifelong friendships, professional networking, and the exchange of ideas that will benefit the eclectic group of fields in which foraminifera are used. The International School is divided into two parts, one for to the benthic community and one for the planktonic community. Both courses can be taken, or just one depending on the in¬terest of the student. The clever design of the course caters to both amateurs as well as vet¬erans in the field. Participants include graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, university lecturers, and working professionals. Its design makes it useful to people with interests in mi¬cropaleontology, climate science, geochemistry, geology, environmental sciences, and many more fields, whether their interests are in mod¬ern assemblages or the deep past.

Each day of the benthic course was subdivided into two parts, the first portion reserved for lecture and the second reserved for practical applications. Lectures were aimed to illustrate taxonomic, morphological, and stratigraphic uses for foraminifera, the ecology of the fo-raminifera, and practical modern applications of benthics in anthropogenically impacted en-vironments. Microscope sessions consisted of independent study with guidance from experts Drs Mike Kaminski and Fabrizio Frontalini. This section allowed each student to fine tune the necessary skills to do their own personal work. Additional lectures were given by Dr Claudia Cetean (Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków) and Prof. Laia Alegret (University of Zaragosa).

The planktonic course had a very similar struc¬ture. Planktonic lectures included taxonomy, morphology, biochronological uses, applica¬tions for recent paleoclimate and water mass reconstruction, as well as lessons in reproduc¬tive, seasonal, and diurnal cycle ecology. Pres-tigious guest lecturers in this section included, Profs Malcolm Hart (Plymouth University) and Isabella Premoli Silva (University of Milan). The use of microscope projections as well as the added expertise of Profs Hart and Premoli Silva made the practical sections of each lecture inter¬active and informative.

The tuition of each course included a day of field excursions and a social dinner. The benthic course field trip included the Contessa Highway and Bottaccione outcrops, with personal time in the beautiful city of Gubbio. The planktonic field trip included field excursions to the Massig¬nano GSSP for the Eocene-Oligocene bound¬ary, the K-T boundary at Monte Conero, as well as a several hour allotment to cool off in the Adriatic Sea. Both excursions were finished off with a fantastic Italian meal several kilom¬eters from Urbino, some karaoke serenading by Drs Kaminski and Coccioni, DISUAN, Urbino University, and finally a taste of authentic Ital¬ian pastries and limoncello. At the end of the course, despite great reluc¬tance, students left having strengthened their expertise of foraminifera, grown their profes¬sional network, and of course with lifelong friends.

April this year saw the 3rd International School on Foraminifera held at the University of Urbino, Italy. Nearly fifty students attended each week from all over Europe and the rest of the world, many from places as far away as Egypt, China, Korea, Australia, Israel, the USA, the Middle East, and a good number from South American countries. In just three years the school has become very popular and places had to be limited due to over-subscription. The school was organised and hosted by Dr Mike Kaminski of University College London, and Dr Fabrizio Frontalini of the University of Urbino under the auspices of, and with sponsorship from, the Gzyrbowski Foundation. There were many others involved both in the presentation and the organisation of the course and some notable names in foraminiferal micropalaeontology were included amongst the lecturers.

The University of Urbino is located on a hill with panoramic views in all directions, and the old city with its palace, artworks, architecture and restaurants is only a ten-minute stroll away. Accommodation for delegates was provided at a modest cost in single en-suite rooms at the university. The rooms were clean and comfortably furnished, and breakfast was included in the price. Many of the rooms have panoramic views of the surrounding countryside including some of the highest peaks in the area. There is a cafeteria style restaurant providing lunch and dinner, although the restaurants in Urbino are well worth a visit. Staying on the site encouraged students to socialise together and lasting friendships and professional relationships have been forged that can only be of benefit to the future of micropalaeontology.

The school itself is divided into two stand-alone five-day courses, one on benthics and the other on planktonics. These can be attended individually or taken together to offer a full introduction to the subject. The courses are suitable either for first-time students or for seasoned academics and industry specialists needing to refresh or update their knowledge. Students included people at all stages in their careers from bachelors to post-docs and industrial micropalaeontologists, and from disciplines as diverse as archaeology, environmental science and geochemistry, as well as micropalaeontology. Student’s interests spanned the stratigraphic record and included both fossil and recent foraminifera. The benthic course was structured to include lectures in the morning part of the session and practical work each afternoon. Input on agglutinated and calcareous forms was provided by Mike Kaminski with additional material from Claudia Cetean of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Fabrizio Frontalini of the University of Urbino, Justin Parker of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, and Eiichi Setoyama of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Subject matter included not just the biostratigraphy, palaeoecology, classification and identification of fossil taxa, but also the ecology and distribution of living forms. Extensive reference collections were available to support study of the numerous type slides and samples available. The material included examples from the Boreal and Tethyan realms as well as the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans and the Mediterranean. Extensive use was also made of ODP samples.

The planktonic course also contained a mixture of lecture and practical work and, in addition to input from Mike Kaminski, included sessions with Rodolfo Coccioni and Isabella Premoli Silva on the Cretaceous, and Maria Rose Petrizzo on the Palaeogene. Particularly popular was the use of a microscope fitted with a camera that showed the material under discussion to the whole class and which aided understanding of morphotypes and taxonomy.

Each course included a field trip and a social dinner. The benthic field trip included a visit to the Contessa quarry close to Gubbio where students were able to see and sample the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary and then walk all the way up through the section almost to the Miocene. Above the quarry on the Contessa Highway section the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary was exposed although, by this time, everyone was wet through due to the only day of bad weather. The boundary clay itself has long since been removed by souvenir hunters! Later a visit to the geological museum at Piobbico allowed everyone to dry off and also buy some palaeontological gifts from the little shop. In the afternoon came an opportunity to explore the old town of Gubbio and then, in the evening, the social dinner included a four course meal, wine, karaoke and dancing. Mike Kaminski and Rudolfo Coccioni’s rendition of some traditional songs sprinkled with some Beatles numbers will be remembered for a long time to come.

The excursion for the planktonic course was to Conero national park close to Ancona. This time the weather was kinder and a visit to the Eocene-Oligocene GSSP was enjoyed by everyone. Close by it was possible to sample the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary again. At the end of the course many students took the opportunity to see a little more of Italy before they went home. Of course, for some, the eruption of the volcano on Iceland ensured that their stay as a tourist was longer than they intended but everyone agreed that the course had been interesting, worthwhile and good value. We would like to thank the Micropalaeontological Society (Geoff Lee) and the Grzybowski Foundation (Eiichi Setoyama) respectively for supporting our attendance on this course through a grant-in-aid to each of us.