Paleo students present research at Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists Conference

Advanced Studies in Paleontology students Emily Berg ’24, Madison Gutierrez ’24, Theresa Hu ’24, and Mirabel Raphael ’24 recently traveled to Prescott, AZ, to present their original research at the Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists Conference.

The students’ presentations represented over a year and a half of research. The conference is a major regional event where vertebrate paleontologists and paleontology enthusiasts meet to discuss their latest discoveries.

“Our students represented Webb and the Alf Museum wonderfully,” shared Dr. Andrew A. Farke, Director of the Alf Museum and Advanced Studies in Paleontology instructor. “People were excited not just about the fact that high schoolers are adding to the world’s body of scientific knowledge, but the fact that the work is of such high caliber!”

Emily presented a poster on her original research of chondrichthyan fossils uncovered on our summer Peccary Trips to the Frontier Formation of Wyoming. These sharks lived ~94 million years ago; virtually nothing is known about them. Emily’s research is some of the first to investigate these ancient creatures.

Madison’s study of tooth wear in fossil canids from the McKittrick Asphalt Seeps in Kern County draws on her research at the UC Berkeley collections. It helps illuminate environmental changes in California during and after the Ice Age. Madison co-authored her poster with Augustyn Family Curator Dr. Mairin Balisi and Dr. Pat Holroyd of the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Theresa and Mirabel also presented research conducted using fossil specimens from Peccary Trips. They studied evidence of the first amphibians known from the “Mesaverde” Formation in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. These fossils are particularly perplexing because amphibians cannot tolerate saltwater, yet they were found amongst many marine sharks.

Sebastian Hazlett ’24 could not attend the conference, but his poster presenting his research into the fish of the Frontier Formation in Wyoming was on exhibit.

Thank you to the David B. Jones Foundation for supplying a grant to fund student participation in the conference. Federal specimens collected under permit from the US Bureau of Land Management.

February 20, 2024

13:13 PM PST