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.
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!
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. 🙂