Unconditional offer for a Masters by Research (MScR) in Palaeontology and Geobiology


I am delighted to have accepted an unconditional offer for a Masters by Research (MScR) in Palaeontology and Geobiology at the University of Edinburgh!

My research project is titled- 'Investigating Deccan-induced environmental changes and their impact on marine biota, prior to the K/Pg mass extinction'

(see a full breakdown explanation of my project in the images below):



~66 million years ago, the Earth experienced the impact of a large asteroid or comet at Chicxulub, on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. This coincided with the dinosaur-killing Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) mass extinction event.



Although the Chicxulub impact has been widely implicated as the main cause of the dinosaur extinction, the exact environmental and biotic impacts of large volcanic eruptions in present day India (the Deccan Traps) which occurred around the same time as the impact, still remain poorly understood (Credit Doris Daniel in News SciTech on August 28 2018).



Dr James Barnet and others in 2017 suggested a link exists between this Deccan trap volcanism and an abrupt global warming event which commenced only ~340,000 years before the extinction boundary (*geologically that's pretty close) (Credit Dr James Barnet 2019).



Ocean floor sediments collected at a number of ocean discovery sites (ODP) suggest periods of ocean acidification occurred during this global warming event. My project will use the superior resolution of the particular core above to quantify the long term temperature changes and possible ocean acidification events that occurred on the lead up to the dinosaur extinction (*seen here as the abrupt colour change from pale to dark sediments) (1262C13H core Credit ODP 1262).



This data will be generated from the core by analysing the changing chemistry of the shells of fossil plankton known as 'foraminifera'. Researchers Keller and Abramovich in 2003 also observed significant changes in the size and diversity of these plankton during this global warming interval (*note the size difference between 4, 6 and 8 and their smaller counterparts 5, 7 and 9) (Credit Adapted from Abramovich & Keller 2003).



The results of my research project will contribute to our understanding of how life responses to abrupt environmental changes in the deep past i.e. such as prior to the dinosaur extinction. This is relevant to some of the most compelling scientific challenges of the 21st century as we experience climate and environmental change today (Credit John Maisano University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences).


Keep up to date with The Geochronicle for further updates on my research project throughout this academic year (2020/21).


Kind Regards

Matthew Staitis.