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Paul Myrow Part of $669,341 NSF Geology Grant

Colorado College Professor of Geology Paul Myrow is part of a team that has received a $669,341, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “Collaborative Research: Testing models for early Paleozoic deposition, volcanism, and biotas of Sibumasu: Implications for Tectonics and Paleogeography.”

Myrow, whose share of the grant is $164,000, will conduct research in Myanmar, Thailand, and the Yunnan Province of China with colleagues Nigel Hughes of the University of California, Riverside, and Blair Schoene ’00 of Princeton University, who took classes from Myrow while a student at CC.

The project will combine geologic history, paleontology, and geochronology (the dating of rocks) to analyze specimens from the Asian Sibumasu region in order to understand the pattern of Earth–Life interactions, says Myrow. Sibumasu is an ancient fragment of Asia which comprises parts of Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and southwestern China. In Sibumasu, volcanic ashes and sedimentary rocks with fossils are layered in many thick sections, offering the opportunity to obtain high precision dates from the ashes.

The period between 505 to 485 million years ago was a dynamic time in Earth’s history. It included extensive volcanic activity and the evolution of ancient organisms that then occupied the world’s shallow oceans. The volcanic ash beds in the Sibumasu region can help provide an understanding of the timing of events and insight into the feedback between the physical and biological worlds during this transformative time in Earth history.

This project will incorporate the training of graduate and undergraduate students across three U.S. institutions and will partner with a complementary UNESCO funded IGCP668 project on Sibumasu (proposed by Myrow and colleagues) that supports the participation of scientists from developing countries to attend meetings and workshops in Thailand, Myanmar, China, Japan, and the USA.

Myrow says the team will incorporate a multidisciplinary approach to the project including extensive field sampling, paleogeographic analyses of fossils, geochemical rock characterization, and a variety of geochronologic techniques.

Additionally, the team will work in partnership with the Myanmar Geosciences Society to produce an illustrated children’s book in Burmese featuring the fossils of Mt. Hsingmango and what they say about regional Earth history. The story also will be modified for use with the National Institute of Design’s chitrakatha workshop for India’s nationally ranked graphic art students, and will form the basis of an animated story of India’s migration across the Tethys Ocean and collision with Asia that will have broad educational reach across the subcontinent.