2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Understanding the evolution of high-latitude Permo-Triassic paleoenvironments and their vertebrate communities

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Leslie Blank

Principal Investigator

Dr. Christian Alfred Sidor

University of Washington
Department of Biology
Seattle, Washington


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Shackleton Camp and surrounding areas


The stratigraphic sequence of the Shackleton Glacier region preserves a unique record of high-latitude environments and a rich fossil record of Triassic vertebrates. Field team members will conduct fieldwork in the Shackleton Glacier region to examine the evolution of Permo-Triassic Paleoenvironments and their vertebrate communities. They will also collect data on sedimentology, paleosol morphology, paleosol geochemistry, and the composition of fossil plant organic matter. They will use these data to generate inferences about high-latitude paleoclimate. The research team aims to characterize the Permo-Triassic boundary within Shackleton area strata and correlate to other stratigraphic successions in the region. This will help them better understand the establishment of a latitudinal biodiversity gradient as the Antarctic portion of southern Pangea was invaded by tetrapods in the Early Triassic. The team will target several well-known Triassic tetrapod species for in-depth comparison of their life history attributes with their lower-latitude relatives.

Field Season Overview

Ten participants including a PI-provided mountaineer, will utilize helicopter support to collect rocks and fossils in the vicinity of Shackleton Camp and from satellite camp locations over a six to seven week period. Three satellite camps are anticipated, with team members staying at each camp for approximately one to two weeks.

First and second priority sites include Kitching Ridge and Collinson Ridge/Halfmoon Bluff. Third priority sites include Mt. Augustana, Shenk Peak, Mount Kenyon, and Thrinaxodon Col. Fourth and fifth priority sites include Graphite Peak, Ellis Bluff, and Schroeder Hill. Sixth and seventh priority sites include Misery Peak, Mount Heekin, and Mount Rosenwald. The lowest priority sites include Bush Mountain, McIntyre Promontory, Mount Weir, and Husky Heights.

Total sample retrograde is 3500 lbs. or less, contained in approximately 80 rock boxes. Samples include rock and fossils. The samples are fragile and will be prepared in McMurdo at the end of the field season for return shipment via the USAP cargo vessel.

Deploying Team Members

  • Peter Braddock
  • Peter Makovicky (Co-PI)
  • Julia McIntosh
  • Akiko Shinya
  • Christian Sidor (PI)
  • Nathan Smith (Co-PI)
  • Roger Smith
  • Neil Tabor (Co-PI)
  • Megan Whitney
  • Charles Woolley