Barrie Dale is a native of Sheffield, England. Following secondary school, he joined the staff of the University of Sheffield as a Research Technician in the Department of Geology. This appointment brought him into close contact with the late Prof Charles Downie, the late Prof Leslie R.Moore, Dr. Roger Neves and various postgraduate students studying for their doctoral degrees in palynology. His duties included developing preparation techniques and type collections, teaching preparation methods to graduate students, and preparing palynological samples for examination by staff in the department together with assisting many of the postgraduate students including Graham Williams and David Wall. Years later, Charles Downie was to say that his greatest source of pride was in having taught palynology to Barrie Dale and David Wall. Barrie had never received a full time university education, but he was persuaded to register for a part-time doctorate at the Open University, UK while serving on the faculty at Oslo. His doctorate, awarded in 1984, was for a thesis entitled “Living, Recent and Quaternary dinoflagellate cysts from Norwegian coastal sediments and the deep sea”.


2004 American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists Medal of Scientific Excellence for seminal contributions to dinoflagellate cyst biology and ecology, and applications of this research to the fossil record. Etymology of Pentapharsodinium dalei, Dalella chathamense.

Professional Career

In 1964, after two years working for the UN Community Development Program in Greece, Barrie left the UK to work as a Research Assistant (1964–1971), and later Research Associate (1971–1974), at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA with David Wall. Barrie left Woods Hole in 1974 to become a Visiting Scientist in the Department of Marine Botany, University of Oslo where his career progressed from an appointment in the Geology Department as Lecturer in 1979, to Senior Lecturer in 1988, and Full Professor in 2003.

Key contributions

Barrie’s period at Woods Hole led to the series of Wall and Dale publications that are so well known. These publications demonstrated the existence of “living fossils” in the plankton, documented the cyst-motile stage relationships of numerous marine and freshwater dinoflagellate species, and opened the possibility of applying modern cyst ecology to the fossil record. They also presaged the importance of cyst studies in harmful algal bloom research. Wall and Dale went on to use dinoflagellate cysts to elucidate environmental change in the late Cenozoic of the Black Sea and North Sea, and a subsequent monumental work with colleagues described the modern distribution of cysts around the North and South Atlantic oceans, thereby providing the first detailed ecological classification of these organisms. Once settled in his new environment at the University of Oslo, Barrie extended the work begun at Woods Hole.

Always keenly aware of the overlap between biology and geology, he has striven to realise the potential that a sound knowledge of the biology and ecology of dinoflagellates and their cysts has on the interpretation of the fossil record. One of the first demonstrations of this is provided with the publication of his comparison of the dinoflagellate cyst assemblages from bottom sediments recovered in Trondheimsfjord with records of dinoflagellates living in the water column as documented over time by numerous historical records; this study had important implications for understanding the selectivity of the fossil record. In addition, he has continued incubation experiments, showing for the first time that some dinoflagellates such as Pentapharsodinium dalei (as Peridinium faeroense) produce acritarch-like cysts with no indication of dinoflagellate tabulation. This observation had, and has, enormous implications for the ancient fossil record of acritarchs and their affinities. Barrie also continued his work on the role of dinoflagellate cysts and their distribution on harmful algal blooms. He was the first to document the cyst morphology of the important toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense (as Gonyaulax excavata), in 1977, and as a visiting scientist with Clarice Yentsch at Bigelow Lab in 1978 started the first Alexandrium cyst survey of the Gulf of Maine coast.

He has served as advisor to many of the International HAB Conferences, starting with the 2nd toxic dinoflagellate conference in Florida 1978. In 1983 and 1996 Barrie published important summaries of the biology and ecology of dinoflagellates and their cysts and their utility in the interpretation of Quaternary palaeoecology; these two publications have become standard references for our understanding of dinoflagellate cyst ecology, and were joined in 2002 by two further accounts published in the text-book “Quaternary Environmental Micropalaeontology”. Lately, Barrie has concentrated his research on a number of areas including the historical development of toxic dinoflagellates in the Kattegat–Skagerrak area of Scandinavia and their evidence of climate fluctuations, together with the distribution of potentially toxic cysts along the Portuguese coast. In particular it is the use of various dinoflagellate cysts as proxies for such environmental problems as marine industrial pollution and eutrophication that have been the focus for much of this work. Barrie’s approach to these problems remains rooted in his deep knowledge of dinoflagellate cyst ecology. This approach together with the high standards that Barrie sets for himself and students results in contributions of a consistently meticulous and significant nature. Collaboration with his wife Amy has also led Barrie to evaluate some of the statistical techniques in use by workers striving to understand the Quaternary record and to establish a climatostratigraphy using dinoflagellate cysts. Some of these statistical techniques, using Barrie’s extensive database of cyst distributions, are now being utilised in the interpretation of both the more recent past of the Quaternary and older intervals of the Cenozoic. His energy and enthusiasm have no bounds, and his willingness to share ideas and engage in lively debate is well known by those who have attended conferences and workshops with him.


Ana Amorim, Amy Dale, Marianne Ellegaard ,Gustaaf Hallegraeff, Karen Zonneveld.

10 Key publications

Dale, B. 2009. Eutrophication signals in the sedimentary record of dinoflagellate cysts in coastal waters. Journal of Sea Research 61: 103-113.

Dale, B., 2001. The sedimentary record of dinoflagellate cysts: looking back into the future of phytoplankton blooms. Sci. Mar. 65 (Suppl. 2), 257–272.

Dale, B., 2001. Marine dinoflagellate cysts as indicators of eutrophication and pollution:a discussion. Sci.Total Environ. 264, 235–240.

Dale, B., Thorsen, T.A., Fjellså, A., 1999. Dinoflagellate cysts as indicators of cultural eutrophication in the Oslofjord, Norway. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 48, 371–382.

Dale, B.,1983.Dinoflagellate resting cysts: “benthic plankton”. In:Fryxel, G.A. (Ed.), Survival Strategies of the Algae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., pp. 69–137.

Dale, B. 1978. Acritarchous cysts of Peridinium faeroense Paulsen: implications for dinoflagellate systematics. Palynology 2, 187-193.

Dale, B., 1976. Cyst formation, sedimentation, and preservation: factors affecting dinoflagellate assemblages in recent sediments from Trondheimsfjord, Norway. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 22, 39–60.

Wall, D.; Dale, B. 1971. A reconsideration of living and fossil Pyrophacus Stein, 1883 (Dinophyceae). J. Phycol., . 7, 221–35.

Wall, D.; Dale, B. 1968. Modern dinoflagellate cysts and evolution of the Peridiniales. Micropaleontol., 14, 265–304.

Wall, D.; Dale, B. 1966..”Living fossils” in Western Atlantic plankton. Nature 211, 1025-1026.

(Based on a presentation by Martin J. Head and Rex Harland , See Palynology 28,5-13 (2004)