Florida Field Work – May 2022

SCIPP Lab members measuring section and collecting Plio-Pleistocene fossil shells

Four members of the SCIPP lab ventured to sunny, hot, humid (sooo humid so hot) Florida to gather shells from the Plio-Pleistocene for geochemical analysis. We spent 5 days in the Florida Shell and Fill quarry near Punta Gorda gathering as many fossils as we could. Graduate students Lucas Gomes, Allison Curley, and Jade Zhang accompanied Professor Sierra Petersen and collaborator Peter Riemersma (Grand Valley State University) for the week. Our local contact Roger Portell from the Florida Museum of Natural History joined the group for the first two days to help us get our bearings. A big shout out to the owners and operators of FL Shell – Joe, Jess, Marilyn, James, Ernesto!! Thank you for giving us access to this awesome site.

During the Plio-Pleistocene interval (around 0.1-3.5 Ma), the southern portion of Florida was underwater much of the time (excluding glacial intervals where seawater was trapped in ice sheets and sea level was lower). Studied formations (Ochape, Caloosahatchee, Bermont, and Fort Thompson) represent marine to shallow marine to beach environments. These formations are SO full of shells, it wasn’t a question of whether we would FIND any fossils, more like could we SAMPLE the right ones and keep track of where we found them. We got very picky about which were the “best” ones by the end of the week.

Grad Student Lucas Gomes describing the upper portion of the section.
Grad student Jade Zhang points to an in-place coral we hope to date.

This site has an amazing diversity of shells. Literally hundreds of species. Some large, some small. We found everything from hand-span-sized scallops (Carolinapecten) to mm-sized micromollusks. Although larger shells appeared caked in mud and sand, when you wash them off, they’re actually filled with even smaller shells!

Fast growing scallop, Carolinapecten.
Micromollusks washed out of a larger gastropod shell, inside a yogurt container for scale.
Grad students Jade Zhang, Allison Curley, and Lucas Gomes organizing samples in the garage of our AirBNB in the evening. Great teamwork, great organization!

Whether it was the first real field work, or the first field work in a while, the grad student team did an amazing job with logistics, field sampling, and evening sample organization. Great job everyone! Very excited to see what science comes out of these (many many) samples. 🙂

MGU Conference 2022

MGU (Michigan Geophysical Union) is a 1-day conference completely run by UM students, bringing together students studying earth sciences in the Earth and Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering departments across campus. This has historically just been a poster session, but this year a few live talks were held as well.

The SCIPP Lab had a very strong representation at MGU 2022! ALL members of the SCIPP Lab presented (4 grad, 4 undergrad posters) and Sierra volunteered as a judge. Two of our group members (Alex and Allison) were also on the organizing committee! Everyone did an awesome job creating their posters and presenting their results. Two of our undergrads were awarded “best undergrad presentation” awards! Congratulations Cecilie and Samantha!

1st Yr PhD student Alex Quizon presents modern gastropod clumped isotope calibration data to fellow graduate student. Of all the mollusks that have been calibrated and studied for clumped isotopes, marine gastropods have been largely left out. Preliminary work shows some species may have vital effects, but others do not. Identifying good target species can open up more fossil applications. Nice work Alex!
Junior UG Samantha Davies presents her work reconstructing paleo-ocean temperatures at a new KPg boundary section in Mississippi to Professor Jenan Kharbush. She must have impressed Professor Kharbush, because she was chosen as one of the “best undergrad posters”!! We are thrilled that Samantha will be continuing this research at more Gulf Coastal Plain sites as part of her senior thesis research in the SCIPP lab next year.
Freshman UG Manmeet Singh presents his work reconstructing paleo-ocean temperatures in the Maastrichtian Gulf Coastal Plain to Iso-Paleo-Lab grad student Nick Ellis (Passey Group). Amazing job Manmeet!
4th year PhD student Jade Zhang presents her work to lab neighbor Cameron Trip (Cole group). Jade is trying to figure out the best sampling and data processing strategy to extract temperature seasonality using D47. She is testing modern bivalves from the Atlantic/Caribbean where true seasonality is known. Then she hopes to apply these methods to fossils from Bermuda from the Last Interglacial to determine past seasonality.
Freshman Cecilie Phillips presents her work to an Earth graduate student. Cecilie is working with PhD student Alex Quizon to reconstruct past ocean temperatures and seasonalities up and down the US East Coast during the Last Interglacial. Cecilie analyzed fossil clams of the genus Mercenaria at subannual resolution and found growth shut offs at colder temperatures in the high latitude sites. We are excited that Cecilie will be staying on to work in the SCIPP Lab next year to continue this project!
Junior Sabrina Lanker explains her poster to SCIPP Lab grad student Lucas Gomes. Sabrina has been working with PhD student Jade Zhang to look at seasonality in fossil bivalves from Bermuda dating to the Last Interglacial. Nice work Sabrina!
1st YR PhD student Lucas Gomes presents his work on climate in the early Pleistocene of Florida. Lucas is using high resolution (subannual) clumped isotope sampling to reconstruct mean annual conditions, and seasonality of temperature and d18Owater from a Plio-Pleistocene section in central Florida. This preliminary data will be leading to new field work in early May to collect more samples from this site. Can’t wait to continue and grow this project!
3rd Yr PhD student Allison Curley explains her work on isotopic vital effects in bivalves to Professor Jena Johnson. Allison is studying mechanisms that produce different isotopic signatures in bivalve shells and how they can tell us about physiology, potentially in extinct taxa! Can’t wait to see this work published (soon!). Nice job Allison.
SCIPP Lab represents! Left to right: Professor Sierra Petersen, Manmeet Singh (fr), Samantha Davies (soph/jr), Allison Curley (3rd yr PhD), Cecilie Philips (fr), Lucas Gomes (1st yr PhD), Sabrina Lanker (jr), Jade Zhang (4th yr PhD). Not pictured: Alex Quizon (1st yr PhD). So proud of the awesome SCIPP Lab representation!! You guys did great!
And a silly one too 🙂

Photo credit for all photos (except the selfie) goes to MGU Photographer and Earth PhD student, Mike Machesky.

SCIPP Lab Fall Potluck

SCIPP Lab, circa October 2021. Left to right: Julia Kelson, Allison Curley, Jade Zhang, Jon Hoffman, Alex Quizon, Manmeet Singh, Samantha Davies, Sabrina Lanker, Cecilie Phillips, Lucas Gomes, and PI Sierra Petersen.

The SCIPP Lab gathered to welcome new members (4 undergrad UROP students and 2 new PhD students), say a bit of a goodbye to old members (Julia will be around less often in the coming months), and enjoy each other’s company and food and Sierra’s new back deck. This came together last minute as we realized the long late summer weather was going to abruptly become fall at any moment, but was by all accounts a huge success. We learned that ring toss is harder than it looks, and that SCIPP lab members are big fans of chips and dips of all sorts. We sampled multiple desserts baked by group members, all of which were delicious – even the mysterious pastry/nutella experimental creations of Alex. We also determined that we are surprisingly good at soccer as a group and are ready to challenge another research lab in the Earth department to a game when the time is right. We all agree – Sabrina will be the goalie.

Looking forward to a fun year with these folks!

SCIPP Lab welcomes 4 new group members

The SCIPP Lab/Petersen Group is very excited to welcome four new members for the coming year. Julia Kelson will arrive as a postdoc under the NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship to study paleoclimate and paleohydrology using clumped and triple oxygen isotopes, in conjunction with the IsoPaleo Lab. Two incoming Masters students, Allison Curley and Heidi O’Hora, will be working on Cretaceous paleoclimate projects. Finally, undergraduate Steve Wedel will join our ranks to work on reconstructing climate during the Last Interglacial in Turks and Caicos.