My name is Allison. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago. I currently am a senior at Knox College studying Biology and Environmental Studies. I was a CBG College First student in the summer years of 2011 and 2012 so it feels nice being back again!! I am excited for this intern experience working with paleo-botantist Fabiany Herrera and Pat Herendeen this summer. Pat and Fabiany went to central Mongolia last year originally for the search for fossilized flowers. They were unable to find any during their collection but they came back with other interesting material such as seeds, cones, wood, roots, and leaves of gymnosperms. The collected material date back to the Early Cretaceous Period (~100- 120 million years ago!). Some of what was found are currently extinct! Based on the plant fossils collected, the landscape of Mongolia appeared to be a swamp or river area dominated with conifers as well as Spruce and Cypress trees. Most swamps today consists of angiosperms but Pat and Fabiany speculated this area to be dominated with gymnosperms!
This summer I will be focusing on the fossilized roots from the samples gathered. I have been sifting out boxes of samples to find as many roots as I can. So far, I have placed the roots in hydrogen peroxide to soften the root for a couple of days and proceed with a staining process that will allow me to view clearly the root structure under a microscope. This is my first experience working with fossilized material! Pat and Fabiany brought me to the University of Chicago a couple of weeks ago to check out the X-Ray Computed Tomography machine. This machine rotates the specimen and takes photos in different angles to generate a 3D image that includes the interior of the specimen. It was really cool! It boggles my mind to think these plant fossils from nearly 100 million years ago such as the roots, seeds, and leaves are still well preserved! So far my experience has been great! It is fun everyday having the opportunity to work with such ancient material and looking under a microscope of each specimen and seeing something different or new!
We will see what we find!
Here are some photos of the roots and also my trip at the University of Chicago!