The objective of the microfossil course was to train students and novices interested in microfossils, as well as researchers in micropaleontology to carry out research work onboard IODP vessels. The microfossil course had its beginnings in the J-DESC sponsored Microfossil Summer School held in 2004, and since the J-DESC Core School was set up, the Microfossil Course and the Microfossil Summer School have been held in parallel, with Tohoku and Akita universities as venue. Special about this course was that students were exposed to team teaching by experts called in for the purpose, and were given an opportunity to practice on real specimens according to the motto “Seeing is believing”.  This was a rare chance to attend content-based lectures given by leading researchers in the field. It was moreover an opportunity to take a look at top grade specimens from Tohoku University’s microfossil collection.

Example of the contents and schedule

The course covered three days of lectures and practical training in the lab. The number of participants was limited to around 12 to 15 persons per taxon to ensure that each researcher has full use of the facilities. On the morning of the first day, participants were given a basic lecture on taxonomic groups and on how research in micropaleontology ties in with the work of the IODP. Starting in the afternoon and continuing on the second day, students were given a chance to observe real specimens to enrich their understanding of taxonomic groups. During the morning of the third day, there was special lab training and a Q&A session. We hope that when students and researchers are back in their respective organizations, they will be able to explain to others what they have learned, for example, what an XX microfossil actually is. In cooperation with about a dozen micropaleontolgists from all over Japan, the school offered the opportunity to study foraminifera, calcareous nannofossils, radiolaria, diatoms and ostracoda. Discussions are currently in progress as to the possibility of letting different universities take turns in hosting the school.