Dustin Carpenter, a University of Wisconsin-Richland student from Plain, spent a day in the Capitol in Madison on Wednesday, March 12, sharing his geology research with the support of his teacher, UW-Richland associate professor of geology Dr. Norlene Emerson.
One of 23 students from the UW Colleges and nearly 100 from across UW campuses, Carpenter presented at Posters in the Rotunda, an annual exposition of undergraduate research that gives legislators and the public a chance to meet student-researchers and learn about the research process.
Carpenter’s presentation was entitled Microfossil Community of the Upper Devonian Lime Creek Formation--Rockford, Iowa location. “My research focused on fossils I collected from a sediment sample that was found in Rockford, Iowa. During this process I learned what types of fossils were most abundant from this particular sample and what type of environment this area was during the time period they were deposited—the Devonian,” Carpenter said.
“I was inspired to do this project because I had taken a couple classes with Dr. Norlene Emerson and I really enjoyed the fossil collecting portion in those classes. I also wanted to learn the basic tools of how to separate fossils from a sediment sample and how to group them accordingly,” he said.
While Carpenter presently plans a career in business, he’s opted to focus on geology. “I am graduating this semester with an associate degree with an emphasis in geosciences. “The most valuable thing about doing this research was the opportunity to expand my knowledge of fossil collecting. I learned something that I never thought I would care to learn about,” he said.
Emerson explained, “The Lime Creek Formation is incredibly fossiliferous and contains abundant marine fossils that typically range in size from 2-6 cm (~1-2 inches). These fossils have been widely collected by both professional and amateur collectors for years. Less is known about the micro-organisms (1-3 mm in size) that also lived within this shallow late Devonian sea. These fossils lived, and were deposited, in the seafloor sediment just prior to an extinction event that wiped out a vast majority of the shelly organisms living at that time.”
She said, “Dustin’s work gives us a more complete picture of the community makeup during this critical time in earth’s history. With the use of a microscope and small tweezers, Dustin spent countless hours over the past two semesters picking out the tiny fossils from the sediment and then identifying and tallying the various types. Doing so required great patience, a steady hand, and an enthusiasm for learning.
“Working with Dustin was a rewarding experience for me. It has been a joy sharing my interest in fossils and what they can teach us about earth’s past with a talented student such as Dustin,” Emerson added.
Posters in the Rotunda, held for the 11th year in 2014, is sponsored by UW System. Additional information on Posters in the Rotunda 2014 is available at: http://www.wisconsin.edu/posters/archive/2014/2014_PostersInTheRotunda_booklet.pdf