The microfossil record of the Cambrian explosion

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, geology, fossils, paleontology

Principal Investigator: Smith, Martin R (1)
Licence Number: 15919
Organization: Durham University
Licensed Year(s): 2016
Issued: Jul 20, 2016
Project Team: Marissa Betts (Postdoctoral Researcher, Macquarie University), TBC (Sedimentologist), TBC (Geochemist)

Objective(s): To measure continuous sedimentary sections spanning Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition; to use geochemical approaches to precisely constrain the age and depositional conditions of the strata; and, to obtain Small Carbonaceous Fossils and Small Shelly Fossils from temporally-constrained strata in order to determine the rate of evolution through the Cambrian explosion.

Project Description: The objectives of this research project are to measure continuous sedimentary sections spanning Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition; to use geochemical approaches to precisely constrain the age and depositional conditions of the strata; and, to obtain Small Carbonaceous Fossils and Small Shelly Fossils from temporally-constrained strata in order to determine the rate of evolution through the Cambrian explosion, using geochemical data to control for preservational effects.

Rock sequences that have been naturally exposed through erosion will be studied in the field by inspecting their sedimentary fabric. Small samples (tens of grams each) will be taken every few centimetres along sections of interest; these will be obtained manually (i.e. with hammer and chisel) and will not leave a visible mark on the landscape. Laboratory work and fossil extraction will be undertaken in the UK. Once processed and studied, microfossils will be permanently accessioned in an appropriate Canadian institution.

The research will better constrain the age and context of the geology of the Mackenzie Mountains, establishing their significance for the global picture of the origin of complex animal life. Besides the possible economic benefits that follow from a detailed understanding of the regional geology, the significance of the fossils will shed light on how complex life became established on Earth, with clear educational value (whether through school curricula or museum exhibits).

Research papers will be provided in an open access setting wherever possible.
Outreach publications will be produced to summarise research findings in accessible terms.
NWT journalists will be engaged when presenting research results to the international media.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 1, 2016 to August 26, 2016.