SURF

Paolo Sanchez

Microtektites of Gorgonilla Island, Colombia: Insights into the Cretaceous-Palaeogene Mass Extinction

The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, 66 million years ago, is considered a major landmark in Earth’s history with the demise of many prehistoric taxa and development of modern species. Famously known for the extinction of the dinosaurs, this event is linked to a high-energy meteor impact on the coast of Chicxulub, Mexico. However, the actual extent to which the impact influenced global changes remains obscure due to the vaporization of the meteor upon impact and satisfactory preservation of the K-Pg rock record. Thus, studies have analyzed microtektites, tiny bedrock-derived droplets of glass produced by the high-energy impact, to better infer impact dynamics and chemical signatures associated with the extinction. Even so, these studies are limited to North and Central America, with geochemical readings of the samples largely obscured by post-depositional weathering. My project aims to investigate microtektites from a newly discovered, largely unaltered deposit in Gorgonilla Island, Colombia, utilizing electron microprobe and x-ray mapping data to clarify underlying geochemistry and potentially tracing back key compounds that might have played a role in the mass extinction.

Message to Sponsor

Thank you so much for providing me with the resources for my research! This summer has been quite unexpected for me, given the troubles of conducting my project mostly remotely, yet it has reminded me of the importance of trying to balance schedules and time management. Even though my project focuses on a geologic event that happened 66 million years ago, the course of just these past few months put into perspective the importance of how I can spend time efficiently and effectively. Overall this research experience has been unexpected yet exhilarating, and I would love to spend more time in the future learning more through research and exploration.
  • Major: Geology, Geophysics
  • Sponsor: Rose Hill Foundation
  • Mentor: Paul Renne