Project Overview

Conservation Paleobiology in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Faculty Sponsor

Paul Harnik (


Earth and Environmental Geosciences


Human activities have enhanced nutrient delivery to coastal ecosystems in the northern Gulf of Mexico which has increased primary productivity and resulted in the development of an oxygen-limited “dead zone.” By comparing populations living in the region today with the remains of historical populations preserved in seafloor sediments, we can determine the impacts of human-caused environmental change on marine life. Participating students will collect samples of seafloor sediments on research vessels offshore Louisiana and Alabama, and then analyze those samples in the Paleobiology Lab back at Colgate. Approximately three weeks will be spent conducting fieldwork and seven weeks in the lab gathering and analyzing data. In the lab, we will use light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to gather data on the biological characteristics of past and present marine invertebrate populations (e.g., egg size, body size, species composition). Students will learn to use the R programming language to explore their data and conduct quantitative analyses. Individual student research projects will help to establish historical baselines for the diversity, abundance, and characteristics of marine mollusks prior to the onset of industrial agriculture and commercial fishing. The start date for this project is set; we will fly to the Gulf Coast for fieldwork on Monday, May 22. The end date is flexible, with the expectation that students work a total of 8 to 10 weeks.

Student Qualifications

All students interested in STEM are encouraged to apply, including first and second year students who have yet to declare their major(s). The Department of Earth and Environmental Geosciences encourages all students interested in summer research opportunities to meet with potential faculty supervisors before submitting their applications.

Number of Student Researchers

5 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 11/03/2022 and close on 02/03/2023

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (