$405,000 NSF Grant Funds Florida Tech Professor to Investigate Last Ice Age's Megafauna Extinction

Mar 21, 2013, 08:56 ET from Florida Institute of Technology

MELBOURNE, Fla., March 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A National Science Foundation grant of $405,000 will fund Mark Bush and biological sciences graduate students on summer field research explorations to Brazil, Peru, and Panama over the next three years. Their megafauna extinction research will explore the cause of the largest recent mass extinction of large mammals. The extinction event occurred between 15,000 and 9,000 years ago—a time of rapid warming at the end of the last Ice Age and the arrival of humans in the Americas.

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Rapid climate change and over-exploitation by hunters vie as competing explanations for megafauna extinction—the loss of over 50 genera of large mammals, such as sabre-toothed cats, mastodons, and giant ground sloths. Understanding the vulnerability of large mammal populations to sudden warming has relevance to conserving modern mammal-rich areas such as the American West, Alaska and the Serengeti.

The researchers will collect the layered muds that gradually accumulate in ancient lakes at 13 settings in Peru, Brazil and Panama. They will drill and collect cores of muds that were continuously deposited from 25,000 to 5,000 years ago. By analyzing fossil pollen, charcoal, diatoms (algae) and fungal spores they will document climate change, human arrival, and the decline of large mammals, leading to megafauna extinction. This evidence will help determine the timing and causes.

The team will also work with museums in Brazil and Panama to create displays depicting the relationship of megafauna extinction and ecological principles.

Bush will recruit undergraduates as well as graduate students for international field-work and to participate in the publication of findings. "These experiences are often a truly transformative experience for undergraduates," said Bush.

Visit Mark Bush's Paleolab website, in English and Spanish. The addition of Portuguese pages is planned.

About Florida Institute of Technology
Founded at the dawn of the Space Race in 1958, Florida Tech is the only independent, technological university in the Southeast. The university has been named a Barron's Guide "Best Buy" in College Education, designated a Tier One Best National University in U.S. News & World Report, and is one of just nine schools in Florida lauded by the 2012 Fiske Guide to Colleges and recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek as the best college for return on investment in Florida. A recent survey by PayScale.com ranks Florida Tech as the top university in Florida for salary potential. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. Fields of study include science, engineering, aeronautics, business, humanities, mathematics, psychology, communication and education. Additional information is available online at www.fit.edu.

Contact: Karen Rhine, (321) 674-8964

SOURCE Florida Institute of Technology