Rio Baran ’25



Project Title

Archaeocyathids, Earth’s First Reef-forming Animals: Were They Crucial to the Emergence of Complex Life?

Archaeocyathids, Earth’s first reef-building animals, may hold clues to the sudden and rapid evolution of complex animal life during the Cambrian explosion. I examined Paleozoic-layered sedimentary rocks in the Australian outback to better understand aspects of the early environment such as potential global glaciations and the ecologies from 500 million years ago. My research addressed the questions, to what extent did archaeocyathid reefs modify the surrounding environment and ecologies, and thus, to what extent did archaeos control the emergence of complex life? I camped near the research sites, where I made observations, took measurements and collected samples. Then, returning to Princeton, I dove into sawing and polishing my samples, measuring chemical isotope ratios and looking for spatial patterns in the facies and isotopes. I continue to interpret what these data mean for understanding the ancient past and ponder the luck and beauty of research made possible by rocks — windows into the past. I think about the poetry of walking through time and space as a geologist.

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate and Environmental Science


Maloof Research Group, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University - Flinders Ranges, Australia; Princeton, New Jersey


Adam Maloof, Professor of Geosciences; Ryan Manzuk, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences