Tracking Fish Extinction Across the end-Cretaceous Boundary

Abigail working at a table




Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science

Project Summary

Through PURM, I worked on the project “Tracking Fish Extinction Across the end-Cretaceous Boundary” with Professor Lauren Sallan in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. The goal of the project was to make a database of all known fossil ray finned fishes and sharks from the Early Cretaceous to the Eocene. Then, I created a shark faunal list from my database and used this to run tests to determine the similarity between the faunal composition of different geologic stages. Through these analyses we determined that sharks may not have experienced an extinction event during the end-Cretaceous boundary.


From my research experience, I learned that results can take time. A lot of the work I did over the summer provided background information to the end results. I learned to be patient and realized that the gruntwork of the process is just as important as the final product. Additionally through PURM, I began to appreciate the diverse forms that research can take. Usually, when most people think about research, they imagine scientists in lab coats collecting samples and using advanced equiptment. However, the research that I did could be done simply on a computer and it involved a lot of reading articles. Even just in my lab, different students were doing research in different ways, from coding phylogenetic trees to 3D printing shells to making fish-like robots with moving spines. Participating in this research project made me realize how there is no one way to conduct research. This opportunity also encouraged me to try new things. Even though I don’t want to work in the field I performed research in, I was still able to enjoy my experience and learn about how the research process works.