Christine Chen, 2013, Geosciences

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.