Project Overview

Historical ecology of marine communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Faculty Sponsor

Paul Harnik (




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 anthropogenic environmental change on marine life. Participating students will collect samples of seafloor sediments on research vessels offshore Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida and then analyze those samples in the Paleobiology Lab back at Colgate. Provided that off-campus travel is possible, approximately five weeks will be spent conducting fieldwork and five weeks in the lab gathering and analyzing data. 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.

Student Qualifications

All students interested in STEM are encouraged to apply, including first and second year students who yet to declare their major(s). Students should have completed one or more courses in geology or biology. Geol 215 (Paleontology of Marine Animals) is not required, but would be helpful. The Geology Department encourages students interested in summer research to meet with potential faculty supervisors before submitting an application.

Number of Student Researchers

5 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/03/2021 and close on 03/22/2021

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (