IGCP Project 653 had an outstanding workshop and field excursion in Marrakech and Zagora region of Morocco from February 12-16, 2018.
The workshop was an excellent introduction to Ordovician geology and paleontology with a particular focus on Moroccan deposits. Dr. Khadija El Hariri and her associates at Cadi Ayyad University, Faculty of Sciences and Technics did an excellent job organizing the workshop, which was attended by 25 international participants plus 20+ local students. We all enjoyed examining and discussing Fezouata and other specimens, engaging in fruitful discussions during the coffee breaks, and the final musical ceremony. It was an honor to be joined by Mohommad “Ou Said” Ben Moula, the discoverer of the Fezouata Biota, as he received the Mary Anning Award from the Palaeontological Association.
A group of 28 international scientists followed the workshop with a field excursion to the Fezouata Formation that was expertly organized by Bertrand Lefebvre. We crossed the High Atlas Moutains via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass then descended to the Ternata Plain. En route to Zagora, we stopped for an overview of the stratigraphy and structural geology of the Jbel Kissing and the Draa Valley.
A highlight of the trip was examining the Fezouata Formation at You Izargane, where participants were able to examine the late Tremadocian (A. murrayi zone) portion of the Fezouata replete with trilobites, incredibly well preserved graptolites, and the lagerstatte bearing layers. In the afternoon, we visited Jbel Bou Zeroual (with directional assistance from a local camel shepherd on a motorbike), the Floian section of the Fezouata Formation. Here we collected many trilobites, echinoderms, and other typical Ordovician shelly fauna.
On the return drive to Marrekech, the group stopped to examine the spectacular Late Neoproterozoic stromatolites at Amane n’Tourhart.
Overall, the workshop and field excursion provided a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the transition from a Cambrian to Paleozoic world and expand our understanding of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event. The ability to connect and collaborate with a diverse group of scientists from more than 10 nations, truly enhanced the scientific understanding and progress of the event.