Carlos Jaramillo
Fieldwork along the Madre de Dios River, Peru Author: D. Rimachi
2024

Carlos Jaramillo

Geologist and Palynologist

digging deeper: adventures in tropical paleontology

meet carlos

Carlos Jaramillo is a Colombian geologist and palynologist that works as staff scientist for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.  His research investigates the causes, patterns, and processes of tropical biodiversity at diverse temporal and spatial scales, as well as the evolution of tropical landscapes over geological time.  He intends to address questions from a paleontological perspective (mainly using fossil pollen, spores, and dinoflagellates), a point of view that is vital for understanding and predicting the behavior of biota in tropical ecosystems.  He is also interested in energy exploration, Cretaceous-Cenozoic biostratigraphy of low latitudes, developing methods for high-resolution biostratigraphy and the paleobiogeography of Tethys.

digging deeper: adventures in tropical paleontology
Nominated by: Angela Posada-Swafford, FN'22
Class of 2024 Location Colombia
Centenario bridge, Panama Canal, Panama
Centenario bridge, Panama Canal, Panama Author: G. Aleman

Tropical landscapes are far from stable, undergoing constant transformations over geological time. Forests shift to deserts, mountains rise and erode away, and climatic factors play a crucial role in these changes. My research delves into severe landscape transformations in the tropics spanning the last 140 million years, exploring their impact on the extinction and origination of tropical biotas.

From the intense global warming of the early Cenozoic era to the Pliocene’s global cooling, and from the formation of the Andes to the emergence of savannas, I investigate periods with varying CO2 levels. The chosen time frame of 140 million years aligns with the origin of angiosperms, marking a pivotal point in the complete ecosystem transformation of the tropics. By extensively studying geological and fossil records, mapping structures, analyzing fossils, sampling current vegetation, and examining microscopic features, I integrate empirical data with genetic data and climate models. This interdisciplinary approach aims to deepen our understanding of how tropical landscapes have evolved and provides insights into predicting future changes.

“In Colombia, despite being a biodiversity hotspot, there is limited accessible information about its deep-time paleontological past. To address this gap, my team and I created an illustrated book that simplifies paleontological concepts, geological time, evolution, and climate change.”

- Carlos Jaramillo
Fieldwork along the Madre de Dios River, Peru
Fieldwork along the Madre de Dios River, Peru Author: D. Rimachi

In addition to research, I prioritize training the next generation of tropical scientists. Based in Panama, with its open-door policy for international students, my institution (STRI) becomes a hub for diverse talents. Many students embark on this journey during their undergraduate studies, with some progressing to MS and PhD programs, fostering a critical mass of young, active scientists in tropical paleontology.

My commitment extends to collaborating with local communities, exemplified by projects like Hace Tiempo and La Victoria. In Colombia, despite being a biodiversity hotspot, there is limited accessible information about its deep-time paleontological past. To address this gap, my team and I created an illustrated book that simplifies paleontological concepts, geological time, evolution, and climate change. Over 4,000 copies were distributed to public schools and libraries across Colombia, accompanied by workshops to assist teachers in integrating the material into their classrooms.

never stop exploring

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