Cretaceous Antarctica

Location of Seymour Island

Antarctica during the Cretaceous Period was an environment unlike any that exists on Earth today. While the warmer climate allowed plant and animal life on the continent to thrive, the polar latitude meant that these communities would spend a large part of the year in darkness.

I am interested in how this annual rhythm affected marine ecosystems on the margins of the continent. The dynamics of nutrients and algal blooms may have fueled a cycle of recurring anoxia that put stress on marine communities, and may have made them vulnerable to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

Seymour Island

The sedimentary deposits of the James Ross Basin, exposed on a collection of islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula, are the southernmost record of the latest Cretaceous Period, with Seymour Island hosting specular exposures of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. I participated in two Antarctic expeditions in 2009 – 2010, and helped to sample a number of James Ross Basin localities. Some of the results of this work are now published (PDF).