Mihai's Paleobotany Chronicles


The Dilcher-Popa Field Laboratory is a private, joint project of Mihai E. Popa (University of Bucharest) & David L. Dilcher (Indiana University, member of the National Academy of Sciences), which involves research, education and recreation in Bigar, in the fields of Geology and Biology. The main idea of this project regards a small field facility in the Almaj Mountains, where research, educational and recreational activities can be undertaken.

The laboratory is in the Czech village of Bigar, Berzasca Commune, Caras-Severin County, in the middle of the Almaj Mountains, and in the middle of the Iron Gates Natural Park, the largest natural park in Romania. The facilty is always open for graduate and undergraduate students, for researchers, for tourists interested in Geology and Biology, both Romanian and foreigners, and last but not least, for friends.

In 2005, Professor David L. Dilcher and myself decided to co-participate in this project, so this house was bought in order to accomplish these aims. The property, bought in 2006, includes the house itself, a large shed, and a 1883 square meters of land, slowly descending towards and including a segment of the Mosnic creek.

The Dilcher-Popa Field Laboratory
Address: 34, Dolacko Str., Bigar, Berzasca Commune, Caras-Severin County, Romania.

The Bigar village is a Czech village in the middle of the Almaj Mountains, upstream of the Sirinia Valley, a strictly preserved scientific site for botanical diversity. The Sirinia Valley shows flamboyant geology, as the creek cuts the synclines and aticlines of the Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones of the Sirinia Basin. The village is 17km upstream of the confluence between the Sirinia and Danube Valleys. More on Czech villages of the Almaj Mountains can be found online, as well as an excellent photographic gallery of Bigar by Ivo Dokoupil.

The Bigar village,Berzasca Commune, Caras-Severin County, view towards NW. Click for a higher resolution image (291Kb).

The Almaj Mountains represent an exceptional area from geological and paleontological (both paleobotanical and paleozoological) points of view. Covering mainly the Sirinia Basin, the Almaj Mountains imply a difficult geographical area, isolated and rough, as one of the last true wild areas in Europe. It is also the place of the longest anti-Communist guerilla in Eastern Europe, rooted only in the late sixties by Securitate troops, due to isolation and to exuberant nature. The isolation is a direct effect of the geology of these mountains, permitting the preservation of rare natural heritage values, in terms of both biodiversity and geodiversity.

The geological diversity of Almaj Mountains, as well as that of the Iron Gates Natural Park in general, implies various terranes, with sedimentary, magmatic and metamorphic rocks at their highest diversity. This area is the perfect ground for field trips in Geology and Biology, so the necessity of a field facility here became evident. This is why the decision to buy a house in Bigar was taken, in order to accomodate a field library, a desktop computer, a dissecting microscope, a reference collection of rocks, minerals and fossils, among other basic research and educational tools.

Occurrence of Bigar in Romania.

The Almaj Mountains host a wide range of occurrences for Mesozoic and Paleozoic plants, many of them represented my small galleries for coal, abandoned today. The Baia Noua mine, SE of Bigar, is one of the last mines of Europe for Carboniferous coals. Mesozoic invertebrate sites are also ubiquous, while a wide series of outcrops make possible excellent research in sedimentology, structural geology, magmatic and metamorphic petrology, and tectonics.

Photographs of field courses in Bigar: summer of 2008, summer of 2009, summer of 2010, the written log of summer 2010, summer of 2011, summer of 2013 and the written log of summer 2013, summer of 2014, summer of 2015, summer of 2016, summer of 2017.