Short Name:
NSF-ANT10-39365

The Permian-Triassic Transition in Antarctica: Evaluating the Rates and Variability of Carbon Isotope Fluctuations in Terrestrial Organic Matter

This project studies the Permian-Triassic extinction event as recorded in sedimentary rocks from the Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica. Two hundred and fifty million years ago most life on Earth was wiped out in a geologic instant. The cause is a subject of great debate. Researchers have identified a unique stratigraphic section near Shackleton glacier laid down during the extinction event. Organic matter from these deposits will be analyzed by density gradient centrifugation (DGC), which will offer detailed information on the carbon isotope composition. The age of these layers will be precisely dated by U/Pb-zircon-dating of intercalated volcanics. Combined, these results will offer detailed constraints on the timing and duration of carbon isotope excursions during the extinction, and offer insight into the coupling of marine and terrestrial carbon cycles. The broader impacts of this project include graduate and undergraduate student research, K12 outreach and teacher involvement, and societal relevance of the results, since the P/T extinction may have been caused by phenomena such as methane release, which could accompany global warming.

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