January 31, 2019

A Generous Grant Provides Funding for Students to Research Early Mammal in Wyoming

Michael D'Emic, Ph.D. with a student

Adelphi students don’t just learn in the classroom. They work in labs and professional settings and, at least in the classes of Michael D’Emic, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, are known to get out and get their hands dirty.

In recent years, Dr. D’Emic’s students have found long-buried bones, teeth and plants during summer trips to the Western states. The discoveries have bolstered Dr. D’Emic’s work in reconstructing where prehistoric creatures lived and roamed as well as their biology and the climate and environment they inhabited. The Adelphi assistant professor has, for example, discovered how fast baby dinosaurs grew up and how long they lived.

Now, thanks to a new grant of nearly $50,000 from the Keck Geology Consortium partially supported by the National Science Foundation, six undergraduates, including some from Adelphi, will go on a dig in Wyoming with all expenses—food, travel and lodging—covered, in addition to receiving a stipend and funding to present their research at the 2020 Geological Society of America Cordilleran conference.

“This is an opportunity for students who may not think that research or paleontology is for them,” Dr. D’Emic said. “They’ll get to do a research project from start to finish and present their results at an academic conference.”

The study will contribute to the greater understanding of Coryphodon—one of the earliest known so-called “browsing mammals” to feed on shoots and berries rather than grazing—and how they evolved in response to climatic and environmental changes. Past research has suggested that the animals ranged from 750 to 1,500 pounds.

Under the grant, students will spend four weeks at a dig in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, during which time they’ll also be completing lab work preparing, photographing, molding, casting and sampling the fossils and graphing their findings to create a comparative analysis of body mass over time.

The six spots for the summer dig are yet to be filled. Interested Adelphi students should apply by February 15.


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