Christine Chen ’13
Toward an Understanding of Earth’s Largest Carbon Isotope Anomaly
The Wonoka formation, a deposit of Ediacaran-aged (635 – 542 million years ago) carbonate rocks found in South Australia, holds a record of carbon isotopic signatures of ancient oceans. These isotopic signatures suggest a major disturbance to the Ediacaran global carbon cycle—one that dwarfs humanity’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. This perturbation has been casually linked to the broadly synchronous radiation of macroscopic multicellular organisms during the Ediacaran. As a geology field assistant to Jonathan Husson, a graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, I helped advance the research regarding our understanding and interpretations of Earth history’s largest carbon isotope anomaly. Together, we camped in the Australian outback for two months to gather geologic field observations of the Wonoka and collect rock samples for isotope analysis. Our fieldwork also dove-tailed with my junior paper, for which I created a geologic map of an ancient sea floor paleocanyon within the Wonoka using high-precision GPS equipment. Mapping is critical to the interpretation of carbon isotope signals, for we must first understand the physical settings in which the carbonates were deposited. Not only have I gained a first-hand understanding of the age-old marine landscapes that once covered Australia, but I have also acquired field research skills that will become indispensable to me as a future researcher in the geosciences.
Climate and Energy
Princeton University, Australia
Adam C. Maloof, Assistant Professor of Geosciences; Jonathan M. Husson, Graduate Student, Geosciences