Mark Wilson May 20th, 2010
GREENVILLE, ALABAMA–We were told many times before this trip that we will find the people in the Deep South to be friendly. This has been very much the case from the employees at the Atlanta airport to the young man in Greenville who insisted on carrying our few small bags of groceries out to the car. We also knew it would be hot, muggy, and that at the store we could buy (if we ever wanted to) loads of pig’s ears and feet! It is a delight to experience such cultural gradients in our own country.
Megan Innis, a senior geology major at The College of Wooster, is here with me to pursue her Independent Study project on changes in bioerosion patterns across the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras (the “K/T” boundary marking the end-Cretaceous extinctions). This event 65 million years ago was the result of an asteroid impact which triggered a global ecological catastrophe, most famously taking out the dinosaurs. Megan and I want to see what happened to the community of organisms which bore and drill shells and other hard substrates. Some of the best exposures of rocks associated with this extinction are found here in southern Alabama and neighboring Mississippi.
My friend and colleague Paul Taylor of the Natural History Museum in London is here with his PhD student Caroline Sogot (University of Cambridge) to investigate similar patterns in the other hard substrate faunas across the boundary, especially bryozoans. We have joined forces so that we can most efficiently measure sections and collect specimens, many of which we will be sharing in later laboratory analyses.
Tomorrow is our initial orientation in the field. We have been joined by Peter Harries of the University of South Florida and two of his graduate students, and in the morning we will meet Jon Bryan of Northwest Florida State College. Peter and Jon are Cretaceous experts who know the local outcrops and are enthusiastic about the chance to talk paleontology for days on end!