Students Mengxi Tan ’16, Laura Wiltshire ’16, and Mikaela Ruga ’16 (above, from left to right) were recently selected to present their research on the taxa of fossil teeth and the clay mineralogy of a new fossil vertebrate microsite location found in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Geological Society of America (GSA) conference in Casper, Wyoming, on May 22.
“This is a big accomplishment because this conference features primarily graduate and professional research presentations,” says Dr. David Schmidt, the students’ independent research advisor. “This will be an incredible experience for these ladies because they will be able to network and receive feedback from people (on the graduate and professional levels) who have similar research interests.”
The students used fossil teeth and clay mineralogy from the microsite to reconstruct the ancient environment in which the fossilized creatures lived. The fossil microsite yielded fossil teeth belonging to fish, rays, crocodiles, and dinosaurs.
Fossil teeth were identified by morphological comparisons as well as by comparisons with identified specimens from other studies. Mudstone samples were also collected for X-ray diffraction (XRD) to determine composition and relative abundances of clay minerals. XRD analyses indicate the presence of quartz and illite, which are typical of continental deposition, a terrestrial environment.
Mengxi Tan (above) analyzed X-Ray Diffraction results of the mudstone matrix collected in order to describe the environmental conditions of the period in which the formerly living fossils existed.
Laura Wiltshire (left) and Mikaela Ruga (right) identified the taxa of fossil teeth based on quantitative and qualitative data in order to describe the faunal makeup of the environment.
Westminster College congratulates these students on their selection and wishes them luck on presenting at the upcoming conference.