Digging for Dinosaurs

CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Photos

My time in Madagascar showed me that important scientific discoveries happen all the time.

Madeline Marshall ’12
Hayward, Wisconsin
Geology
AFTER MAC: University of Chicago, Paleobiology PhD program 

 

My research in Madagascar yielded an exciting new richness in trace fossils in the northwestern area of the ecologically unique island. I worked in the main quarry as a member of the Mahajanga Basin Project crew, digging for an extraordinary array of fossils – dinosaurs, crocodiles, mammals, birds, turtles, lizards, snakes, and fish – and prospecting for them in rocky outcrops nearby. Despite the increasingly abundant fish record and presence of lungfish fossils in the formations below our focus area, skeletal remains of lungfish had never before been found in this formation of sedimentary rock.

Our field work this summer led to the discovery of hundreds of the clustered burrows generated by lungfish. The channels provided a muddy home during the dry season, and Professor Ray Rogers and I mapped and measured over a hundred burrows. The presence of these burrows in our field area, and their absence only 10 kilometers away, has real paleoenvironmental implications.

I will be working on this project over the next two years, analyzing the data and sediment samples that I collected and creating a dynamic surface map of the burrow-rich area. I plan to submit the resulting paper to a peer-reviewed paleontology journal.

My time in Madagascar showed me that important scientific discoveries happen all the time. The Malagasy people in the nearby villages welcomed us, and I treasured living and working in an environment as beautiful and delicate as Madagascar’s. This expedition to Madagascar showed me how scientific study can be a part of how we live our lives every day, with lemurs in the trees above and dinosaur teeth underfoot.

PUBLISHED: 01/28/2013