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Franz Theodor Fürsich

Franz Theodor Fürsich
Franz Theodor Fürsich

The 2008 Jean Baptiste Lamarck Medal is awarded to Franz Theodor Fürsich for his internationally acclaimed research in the application of quantitative palaeontology for the understanding and reconstruction of ancient ecosystems.

Franz Theodor Fürsich (born 23/07/1947) is an internationally renowned palaeontologist who is working in the fields of palaeoecology, ichnology, taphonomy, facies analysis, bivalve taxonomy and stratigraphy since more than 35 years. Since 1988 he holds the chair in Palaeontology and is head of the Palaeontological Institute at Würzburg University, Germany. The specificity of his research is the application of quantitative palaeontology for the understanding and reconstruction of ancient ecosystems. Methods applied herein are quantitative field and laboratory work, systematic analysis of macro- and mesobenthos and rigorous statistic testing of the respective results. Supplementary methods are stable isotope analyses to decipher environmental and diagenetic factors. A major advancement for palaeontology is the recognition of the importance of biostratinomic processes for the correct interpretation of palaeo-communities.

Franz Theodor Fürsich’s systematic expertise relates to the taxonomy and palaeobiology of trace fossils and Jurassic bivalves, and, in his early times, (Palaeozoic) brachiopods. He always applies an integrated approach to obtain the optimum results in ecosystem analysis. Outstanding examples are his case studies on Jurassic-Cretaceous shelf environments (worldwide), Upper Jurassic lithographic limestones, and, more recently, Early Cretaceous lake systems from China. The impact of his studies is well documented in a high h-index and a significant contribution to the implementation of the Palaeobiology Database. Additional outcomes of Fürsich’s research relate to the study of hardgrounds and regional work on the analyses of Jurassic-Cretaceous faunas and stratigraphy in India, Iran, South America and China.

Franz Theodor Fürsich published so far 181 papers in journals ranging from SCIENCE to the institutional journal BERINGERIA – Würzburger Geowissenschaftliche Mitteilungen. He mainly published in peer-reviewed journals but he also stresses the pertinent need for Palaeontology to publish monographic style of work such as systematic accounts which are difficult to place in high-impact journals but frequently form the basis for later high-impact research.

Franz Theodor Fürsichresearch is characterized by a very high degree of scientific scepticism, patience, the search for objectivity and rigorous testing of the results prior to any publication. He thereby expresses his criticism for any “sensational” or “media-conform” style of publishing scientific results.

Franz Theodor Fürsich is a true cosmopolitan working all over the globe (currently China, Iran, India, several European countries). As a visiting lecturer or professor he was in Paris, Tokyo, Jaipur, Montevideo, Boulder, Copenhagen and Oxford. His internationality is well documented in numerous PhD students from countries such as Argentina, China, Japan, Slovakia, Syria, Iran (to name a few from the last decade). His international reputation also shows up by means of numerous Humboldt fellows who joined him from the US, India, China and Poland as well as a number of DAAD scholarship holders who joined him as visting scientists at “his” Institute of Palaeontology in Würzburg.

Franz Theodor Fürsich held/holds important functions in the following institutions: the European Palaeontological Association (EPA, vice-secretary, president), Paläontologische Gesellschaft (chief editor), Palaeontological Association (Overseas Representative), and Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Academia Sinica (Academic Committee Member, Member of International Evaluation Committee). In addition, Fürsich served the palaeontological community as a member of the editorial board of the journals Palaeo3, Palaios, Lethaia, Ichnos, Journal of the Geological Society, Bulletin de la Societé géologique de France, Geobios, Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Zitteliana, Beringeria, Zeitschrift für Geologische Wissenschaften and Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg. Currently, he is a member of Geologische Vereinigung, Paläontologische Gesellschaft, Schweizerische Geologische Gesellschaft, Palaeontological Association, Paleontological Research Institute, Geologists’ Association, SEPM, International Association of Sedimentologists, International Palaeontological Union, European Palaeontological Association, Palaeontographical Society, and the Palaeontological Society of Japan.

Last but not least, Franz Theodor Fürsich is a truly honourable and tolerant personality who is also engaged in the social help for people in developing countries.