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Researching the Triassic mass-extinction event

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Category: research Video duration: Researching the Triassic mass-extinction event
Associate Professor Ben Gill and graduate students Kayla McCabe and Amy Hagen are part of an international team of scientists researching the Triassic mass-extinction event that took place millions of years ago. They recently traveled to a study site in Alaska where they gathered rocks for geochemical analysis. "By looking at the geological record of these events, we can maybe see and make predictions about where our planet may be heading in the future," said Gill.
We went to wrinkles St. Elias National Park in the Southeast portion of Alaska to look at rocks that represent the end-Triassic mass extinction. There we met up with a team of international researchers, do all do different aspects of geology. Usually the rocks are exposed in like a cliff in layers. So we can walk either beside the cliff or a foot cliff and Hammer off chunks of rocks as we go at regular intervals. And theoretically this should be a way to track changes over time. This project is looking at the Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction. It's one of the big five mass extinctions in Earth's history is probably the most notably known because it's extinction that basically paved the way they allowed dinosaurs to proliferate and take over the land. During this time. We have successions of these rocks at basically span the entire event that we're interested in. And so we would take chunks of rock. We aim to have something about the size of our fifth, basically. So you have enough material. So when you bring it back to the lab, you can cut it, exposed a clean face, and get enough powder that we can do a whole bunch of geochemical analyses on them. The main hypothesis is that these large volcanic eruptions that happened over a relatively short geological time span, probably over 100,000 years. They put a lot of greenhouse gases like methane and CO2 into the atmosphere. And there was a cascade of sort of environmental feedbacks are changes that are happening associated with that global warming, that happened with those greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. It's really important because it's one of those events that isn't super well understood. The locality that grotto Creek in Alaska or field site represents is one of the few study sites that isn't in Europe, that isn't in the ancient Tethys Ocean and is instead in the ancient Panthalassic Ocean. You can think of that as the paleo Pacific Ocean. There's a modalities like what's happening on Earth today. So we definitely have global warming. The planet is warming up. So we can look at these ancient events. The passes are the key to the present. The Earth has run that experiment in the past. We've had rapid injection of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And then we have a record of all the things that basically happened in the wake of that. So by looking at the geological record in these events, we can maybe see and make predictions about where our planet maybe heading in the future.