Charlie Zheng secures a Student Research Award in Planetary Habitability!

We’re pleased to share that our colleague Charlie Zheng, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas Austin, was just awarded a Student Research Award in Planetary Habitability!

The award is distributed by the UT Center for Planetary Systems Habitability and consists of $24,960. It is a well deserved award which will allow Charlie, along with project collaborators Dr.’s Buatois & Màngano, to continue their fascinating research into the resilience of marine infaunal communities. Charlie describes the project as:

“Trace fossil records are the best indicator of habitability in harsh environments after mass extinctions or during the early evolution of life on earth. In fact, oceanic anoxia is a common theme linked to major environmental perturbations and ancient oceans that hosted early metazoan life ordinarily contained low oxygenations. A comprehensive dataset documenting marine infaunal communities under oxygen-deficient environments from different settings and geologic ages is necessary to better understand the habitability of environments. Moreover ichnology should play an essential role in the search for evidence of early lifeform in other worlds, especially under similar environmental conditions.

The Cretaceous Maverick intrashelf basin is one of the world’s best examples of a shallow marine shelf ecosystem impacted by locally developed anoxia, creating “dead zones” that evolve into shallow basins within the shallow-water shelf. This project aims to integrate ichnologic and sedimentological signatures to characterize distinctive infaunal communities under hostile, oxygen-limited conditions and assess the resilience of marine infaunal communities and the carbonate factory ecosystem evolution across the environmental perturbation. This study will extend the existing ichnologic database in oxygen-deficient settings by providing the first case study on the intrashelf basin lacking modern analogs and serve as an needed update on the subject since the 90’s, when relevant studies were most abundant.” 

Panoramic photograph of an outcrop from the Del Norte area, Devils River State Natural Area, Texas. This outcrop shows the more proximal shallow-water platform facies & architecture of the basin. The awarded research will focus on more distal portions of this same basin. (photo by Charlie Zheng)

A big congratulation’s to Charlie on this accomplishment!! We can’t wait to read about the results of this research!

You can follow Charlie’s research via his Research Gate profile.

Written by Brittany Laing

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