Sun Tun ’22 (St. Paul)

My summer science research project was two different geology investigations. The first was comparing the preservation of Vertebrate Microfossil Bonebeds (VMBs) from the Judith River Formation and the Hell Creek Formation, two really important fossil sites in Montana. The other part of the project was describing and comparing the prehistoric fauna of a specific VMB known as WBN15-18, which contained the remains of a young duck-billed dinosaur. 

We started conducting research in the geology lab at Macalester with microscopes, charts, and computers. These tools helped us to identify, sort, and collect various types of data on microfossils and fossils. Then, for the last three weeks of our project, we flew to Montana to do some insane fieldwork. We were able to traverse the whole state, camp in the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, collect tons of data on VMBs, dig up even more hadrosaur remains, measure whole sections of rock units, and meet some famous paleontologists. 

VMBs matter because they reflect the entire prehistoric ecosystems and the diversity of life within that ecosystem. It’s humbling to know that many other forms of life existed long before humans, and for us to witness fossils is to realize that life has come an extremely long way to create our pretty faces. I loved that we also got to meet many people who showed us just what you can do with a geology degree, and that it’ll actually take you into the wilderness and expose you to the beauty of our planet. 

As a rising sophomore, my first year at Mac was really awesome—my geology professors have shown me that I am more than capable of doing some solid geology. The science at Macalester is rigorous and difficult, but if you can walk up those steps into Olin-Rice you will find professors who are there to help and aid you along your journey, and if you get to know them, you just might become friends with some great people.

Students look on as Professor Kristi Curry Rogers mixes plaster.

Sun Tun participated in a Keck Geology Consortium project that explored the dinosaur fossil record of Montana.  Sun and his Keck student colleagues presented their collaborative research at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Phoenix in September. Funding was provided by the Keck Geology Consortium member schools and a variety of other sources including NSF (NSF-REU 1659322).

October 21 2019

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