Rolf Schmidt

Collection Manager, Invertebrate Palaeontology

Dr Rolf Schmidt
Dr Rolf Schmidt
Source: Museum Victoria

Dr Rolf Schmidt manages the invertebrate palaeontology collections at Museum Victoria, and carried out research on fossil Bryozoa.


Dr Rolf Schmidt completed his PhD in Geology in 2003 at the University of Adelaide, studying the Eocene Bryozoa of the St Vincent Basin, South Australia. He commenced his job as Collection Manager of Invertebrate Palaeontology at Museum Victoria in 2002.

Rolf also studies marine bryozoans, with the main focus on fossils of Mesozoic and Cenozoic age. He is particularly interested in their evolutionary relationships and what they tell us about past environments and biogeography. He also promotes the importance of taxonomic understanding in ecology, biogeography and management.

Current activities

Management of Invertebrate Palaeontology

Rolf was appointed to the position of Museum Victoria’s Collection Manager for Invertebrate Palaeontology in 2002. Over this period he has supported the research activities of a wide network of local and international colleagues through the provision of specimens and data for loan and exchange, as well as access to the fossil collections (in some cases representing localities no longer accessible).

Eocene Bryozoa of the St Vincent Basin, South Australia

The large number of new species and genera uncovered during Rolf’s PhD work on the Eocene Bryozoa of the St Vincent Basin, South Australia, is still undergoing research and publication.

X-Ray Tomography Investigation of Bryozoan Skeletal Morphology

 Many aspects of morphological research in bryozoans have involved destructive methods, such as thin sectioning of Palaeozoic fossils or removal of basal walls to view internal structures in cheilostomes. Two relatively new technologies allow non-destructive visualisation of internal zooidal structures. Tomography is shown to be very effective for cheilostome zooid cavities as it allows resolution down to 1µm, which can resolve features such as the morphological evidence of evolutionary origins of frontal shields in ascophoran cheilostomes. It also generates a three-dimensional reconstruction of the whole structure, which can resolve complex internal structures like those ofSiphonicytara, or how multilaminar colonies develop the communication between layers. The Synchrotron is best suited to image the internal structures of Palaeozoic bryozoans that are mineralised, as it can better resolve differences in composition.

Effect of the KT extinction on bryozoans in Australia

Post-Palaeozoic fossil bryozoans outside of south-eastern Australia are poorly studied, but include very important occurrences. Of particular interest is the  Carnarvon Basin in NW Western Australia, where the only outcrops of the infamous Cretaceous/Palaeogene sequence occurs. Rolf is investigating how the diversity of bryozoans responded to this major mass extinction event in collaboration with colleagues in WA.

Bryozoa from Drill Core speak about sea levels

A recent drillcore (Groper-1) from the continental shelf off Gippsland, Victoria includes a high resolution record of sediments between 32 and 28 million years ago. This is probably one of the best sections recording the onset of Early Oligocene glaciations (the birth of the Antarctic Ice Sheet). Analysis of the sediment samples show strong and rapid fluctuations of bryozoan-rich chalky facies with non-bryozoan glauconitic facies. This appears to mirror fluctuations in plankton and ocean depth, and thus a correlation between ocean (plankton) productivity and sea floor oxygen levels. It allows detailed investigation of bryozoans responses to possible major glacial events.

Last updated 11 June 2010

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