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Graduate student serves as scientific expert for Chicxulub crater research


As her plane landed in Germany, Heather Jones felt a wave of anticipation. For the next three weeks, Jones, a doctoral student in geosciences at Penn State, would be lending her scientific expertise in micropaleontology to assist the first-ever research team to collect samples from the Chicxulub impact crater. The crater is the remains of the cataclysmic event — an asteroid 6 miles wide crashing into Earth — widely believed to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

"It was pretty intense, but it was also exciting to look at samples that nobody had seen before," she said.

Tiny fossils helping to answer big questions about Earth's history

The team, funded by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), traveled in April 2016 to the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to collect their Earth samples. The team extracted pieces of the peak ring of the crater in hopes that a thorough analysis would allow them to understand more about the event that caused the extinction of nearly 75 percent of the world's species. The Chicxulub impact crater is the only crater on Earth that has an intact peak ring, yet it is submerged in water off the coast of Mexico.  More

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