Short Name:
NSF-ANT05-51163

Collaborative Research: Reconstructing the High Latitude Permian-Triassic: Life, Landscapes, and Climate Recorded in the Allan Hills, South Victoria Land, Antarctica

This project studies fossils from two to three hundred million year old rocks in the Allan Hills area of Antarctica. Similar deposits from lower latitudes have been used to develop a model of Permo-Triassic climate, wherein melting of continental glaciers in the early Permian leads to the establishment of forests in a cold, wet climate. Conditions became warmer and dryer by the early Triassic, inhibiting plant growth until a moistening climate in the late Triassic allowed plant to flourish once again. This project will test and refine this model and investigate the general effects of climate change on landscapes and ecosystems using the unique exposures and well-preserved fossil and sediment records in the Allan Hills area. The area will be searched for fossil forests, vertebrate tracks and burrows, arthropod trackways, and subaqueously produced biogenic structures, which have been found in other areas of Antarctica. Finds will be integrated with previous paleobiologic studies to reconstruct and interpret ecosystems and their changes. Structures and rock types documenting the end phases of continental glaciation and other major episodic sedimentations will also be described and interpreted. This project contributes to understanding the: (1) evolution of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and how they were affected by the end-Permian extinction, (2) abundance and diversity of terrestrial and aquatic arthropods at high latitudes, (3) paleogeographic distribution and evolution of vertebrates and invertebrates as recorded by trace and body fossils; and (3) response of landscapes to changes in climate. In terms of broader impacts, this project will provide an outstanding introduction to field research for graduate and undergraduate students, and generate related opportunities for several undergraduates. It will also stimulate exchange of ideas among research and primarily undergraduate institutions. Novel outreach activities are also planned to convey Earth history to the general public, including a short film on the research process and products, and paintings by a professional scientific illustrator of Permo-Traissic landscapes and ecosystems.

Map of Earth