SUNY Geneseo Geological Sciences Professor Jeffrey Over has received an $80,000 National Science Foundation grant for a two-year collaborative research project to examine reasons for the major biological extinctions that occurred during the Late Devonian period in geological history. This time interval marks one of five major extinctions, having occurred some 375 million years ago, and better understanding the events could provide clues to how climate cycles have affected Earth history and offer insights on the impact of modern climate changes.
Geneseo will be working with Boise State University (BSU) on the project. The grant will support two Geneseo undergraduate students to work with Over on the multi-disciplinary international science team, which will use high-precision technology to gather data. Over and the students will conduct field work next summer in both Germany and the Appalachian Basin in New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. In the second year, they will conduct sample preparation and analysis. They also will travel to BSU each year to collaborate with fellow researchers and to professional meetings to present results.
“This is an exciting opportunity for both the faculty and students involved in the research,” said Over, who is the principal investigator for the project at Geneseo. “The equipment we’ll be using is quite sophisticated compared to what was available in the past and will provide highly accurate measurements, especially in dating volcanic ash beds and tying these into the biostratigraphic zonal schemes. Our work will investigate how climate and sea level changes contributed to biologic extinctions that occurred in the Late Devonian and how such knowledge can benefit us today.”
Over emphasizes that involving undergraduates in an international research team is an important initiative in advancing STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The content and scientific process of the project will be captured by a parallel NSF-funded STEM education initiative developing a series of web-based learning objects to teach the science of geochronology and Earth history.