Postcards from the Field

Each year, many Foundations of Complex Life team members head out to the field to sample the archives of Earth’s history contained in the rock record—and to understand processes operating today—often in spectacular and remote locations. This year, we’ve invited our team members to send some snapshots of their field sites, which include Mongolia, Newfoundland, Death Valley, and the Yukon.

Ross Anderson, a graduate student in Derek Briggs group, sends these two photos:


This photo is from the Zavkhan terrane, southwestern Mongolia. We were in Mongolia to investigate the taphonomy of eukaryotic microfossils between Cryogenian ice ages. In particular we were sampling stratigraphic sections of carbonates, shales, and cherts to document a combined record of clay mineral assemblages and fossil occurrences. Clay minerals are though to affect organic fossil preservation.


This one is from the Bonavista Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada. I was here along with David Evans (Yale University) and Bin Wen (Nanjing University) to investigate Ediacaran motion of the Avalon microcontinent using paleomagnetism prior to and during the rise of the Ediacaran fauna. The photo is courtesy of David Evans.

Francis Macdonald sends this photo from Mongolia:


A trench that Ross Anderson dug in organic-rich shales in the post-Sturtian deglacial transgression.

Emmy Smith, a graduate student in Francis Macdonald’s group, sends photos from recent field work in Death Valley and California:


Mapping near Gold Point, NV


Hit by a snow storm in the White Mountains in Coyote Canyon, CA.


Blake and Frances looking at late Ediacaran to early Cambrian stromatolite reefs near Mt. Dunfee, NV.


Athena hiking at Hines Ridge in the White Mountains, CA.


Camp near Gold Point, NV.

Phoebe Cohen sends these snapshots of a field season in the Neoproterozoic of the Yukon, together with Justin Strauss (a graduate student in Francis Macdonald’s group) and others, as well as from the end-Devonian of Western NY:


Home sweet home.


Base of the section!


Justin, Lyle, and Laura goofing off after a long day of sampling.


Justin Strauss gazing over Mount Slipper.


Laura sampling Mount Slipper.


Kelly sampling the end-Devonian mass extinction.


Mary and Kelly sampling the end-Devonian mass extinction.


Phoebe explaining something about the end-Devonian mass extinction.

Sara Pruss sends this photo of “Team Ooid” from the Bahamas:


Here is “Team Ooid” getting ready to catch an airplane home after many successful days examining the distribution of ooids on Cat Island in the Bahamas (from left to right: Sharon Newman, Tanja Bosak, Sara Pruss, Giulio Mariotti, and Roger Summons). As a combined unit, we are examining the geomorphological conditions that must be met to form ooids, the (possible) microbial diversity of ooids, and their distribution along Cat Island to understand something about the precursor conditions that lead to ooid formation.

Kristin Bergmann (Harvard), JC Creveling (Caltech) and Jonathon Cooper (Carleton College) send pictures from their fieldwork examining the Neoproterozoic record of Svalbard. They saw a polar bear while working one day and soaked in the stunning landscape.