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Examining growth patterns and variability in fossils of Earths oldest animals


PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Some of the oldest fossil animals ever discovered belong to a group known as the Ediacara Biota (~555 million years old). Although we know that they were soft-bodied (as in, they didn’t have any hard parts like wood, bones or shells), paleontologists are still trying to understand exactly what these fossils represent and to whom they may have been related. One method to better understand these strange ancient forms is to determine how they grew. Examining variations in growth patterns can also help identify key differences between species, important for understanding the diversity of early animal forms.

The intern learn how to collect measurements from photographs of fossils from the Ediacara Biota collected in the outback of South Australia. Intern and mentor will work together to determine relevant growth patterns and draw meaningful interpretations based on those patterns.

STUDENT PREREQUISITES & REQUIREMENTS: The project will require a computer with internet access and Microsoft Excel (or equivalent program). Interns will be guided through download and use of the freely available Image J software and access to photographs via dropbox. A healthy dose of fossil intrigue and experience with data entry in Excel is preferred!

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The intern will take part in the collection of paleontological data and use that to discover new information about animals that have been extinct for millions of years. They will also be introduced to the Ediacara Biota and learn about the importance of this group in the evolution of animal life. Completion of the internship will involve graphically representing the large dataset in a manner suitable for scientific publication.

TIME REQUIREMENTS: Minimum 10-hours per week, July 1 – August 31, 2020.

HOW TO APPLY: Interested students should provide a complete and current resume/cv; a brief cover letter explaining their qualifications, why they are interested, and what they hope to learn from this internship; and the contact information for at least one professional reference. Please assemble all materials into a single document and include your last name in the file name. Send the document as an attachment via email to the contact listed below.


Name: Scott Evans
Phone: 603-340-8714