Ka-Boom! Crash! Shiver! How paleontologists are unraveling the extinction that killed the dinosaurs

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Ka-Boom! Crash! Shiver! How paleontologists are unraveling the extinction that killed the dinosaurs

Science Pub Guest Speakers: Corinne Myers, PhD and Carlie Pietsch, PhD

Just like dinosaurs, countless ocean creatures went extinct under somewhat perplexing conditions when a giant meteorite struck Earth about 66 million years ago. Yet excellent fossil records of their shells remain, helping us understand what happened ecologically, why some organisms survived, and why others didn’t. Drs. Myers and Pietsch lead a team of researchers investigating these mysteries using fossil records from the Gulf Coast. Come hear their tales from the field, why they became paleontologists, and how they came to study fossils from before and after the end-Cretaceous extinction. 

 Dr. Carlie Pietsch uses knowledge of paleontology and the geosciences to advocate for the Earth through teaching, science communication, and innovation. She searches for common patterns of extinction and recovery in response to ancient extreme climate events to explain the processes that have repeatedly redirected the evolutionary trajectory of life on Earth. Today, our ability to monitor and intervene in bio-geo feedback loops carries implications for the progression of a sixth human-induced mass extinction. Carlie holds a BA in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell and a PhD from the University of Southern California. She has been an assistant professor in the Geology Department at San José State since 2017. 

Dr. Corinne Myers is a paleobiologist working as an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Broadly, her work investigates the influence of environmental factors (such as climate or sea-level change) vs. biological factors (such as competition or predation) on patterns of macroevolution in marine invertebrates. Her specialty is mollusks that lived in a shallow ocean covering the middle of North America 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. Cori uses statistical modeling to test hypotheses of survivorship in these critters on evolutionary timescales, particularly across major environmental changes such as the Chicxulub asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and ammonites. Recently, she has investigated the preservation of organic molecules and environmental signals in the shells of fossil mollusks.

This event was recorded on November 9, 2021.