Paleontology at Geosciences, Princeton University

Welcome to Paleontology at Geosciences, Princeton University

Professor Gerta Keller

Although the present is generally considered the key to the past, we look to the past to understand the nature and causes of climate change, the course of evolution, and the effect of physical catastrophes in the Earth's history, and in so doing both create and improve models that might predict possible future environmental changes.

Research into the Earth's history in the area of paleoclimate/paleoceanography at Princeton focuses on geological, geochemical, and paleontological observations in marine and terrestrial environments. The results of this work aid our understanding of such diverse topics as the nature and origin of change in the vertical thermal structure of the oceans and in oceanic circulation patterns in space and time, the cause(s) and distribution patterns of hiatuses, the biotic effects of climate and circulation changes on marine planktic and benthic habitats, the effects of climate change on terrestrial mammals, the nature of evolution and extinctions, and the enigma of mass extinctions.

Professor Keller and her students are currently studying the faunal turnover in low and high latitudes across the Cretaceous-Tertiary, Cenomanian-Turonian, and Paleocene-Eocene boundaries. These ongoing research efforts focus on evaluating both the short-term biotic effects (extraterrestrial bolide impact and greenhouse warming), and the long-term effects using faunal, stable isotopic, and sediment geochemical analyses. In other projects they are evaluating Cretaceous climate and sea-level changes, the mid-Maastrichtian global cooling and its environmental consequences, and the Cenomanian-Turonian anoxic event. These environmental changes are quantified and compared with a variety of paleobiological data to determine the specific biotic and evolutionary effects that resulted from large-scale environmental changes. In conjunction with Professor Philander, Pleistocene climate variations are investigated in the fossil record and simulated with a coupled ocean-atmosphere model in an attempt to understand the effect of orbital precession on tropical ocean surface temperatures. Most of the projects of Professor Keller require fieldwork in the U.S. and foreign countries, which in the past have included Israel, Tunisia, Egypt, Denmark, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Madagascar.

Analytical facilities include paleontological and sedimentary laboratories for processing and analyzing samples, 40Ar/39Ar radiometric dating facility, electron microscopes and, electron microanalysis facilities.

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