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Fossil find promises planetary revelations It could be the most important fossil field discovery in a century— and a U of S paleontologist was part of it. In the summer of 2012, an international expedition team uncovered a remarkable new fossil field in the Canadian Rockies. News of the “Marble Canyon fossil bed” made headlines around the world in February 2014 when details were published in the journal Nature Communications. Gabriela Mangano, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, was part of the team that made the find. “Oh, that was a marvelous moment,” she said. Results from the site, located in B.C.’s Kootenay National Park, were spectacular. In just 15 days, the researchers unearthed more than 3,000 fossils and 50 distinct animal species, several of which are new to science. “In all the world, in terms of diversity and abundance, the site is unique,” Mangano said. The fossils represent marine life dating back to the Cambrian Period of roughly 500 million years ago. They show a level of soft tissue preservation never seen before, promising new revelations into a period of profound change in life on Earth. Just as exciting, said Mangano, is the discovery of soft tissue fossils almost side-by-side with trace fossils: fossils such as burrows and footprints that show the behaviour of an organism rather than its physical form. This was previously unheard of, noted Mangano—the team’s trace fossil specialist—and will require the writing of new chapters in textbooks. “It’s like opening a door,” she said. The Marble Canyon site is located less than 50 km from the Burgess Shale, a famous fossil field discovered in 1909 that revolutionized scientists’ understanding of early animal life. Marble Canyon is the first discovery thought to match or exceed the potential of that location. Mangano is currently studying trace fossils retrieved from Marble Canyon. She plans to return to the site for several weeks this summer. —Christopher Putnam (BA’07)

Gabriela Mangano holds fossilized worm burrows she retrieved from the Marble Canyon fossil bed. (Chris Putnam)

through cross-cultural communication within the core studies,” said Sainte-Marie. “The idea of developing core subject materials for kids while immersing university students in experiential learning, having them meet and get to know real Aboriginal educators, is all about communication.” Sainte-Marie’s career has spanned more than 50 years. Since 1962, she has created more than 15 music albums, spent five years on Sesame Street, scored movies, raised a son, earned a PhD in fine arts and won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. Her 2008 album, Running for the Drum, garnered major Canadian music awards, including a Juno Award, an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award and an induction into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. courtesy Paquin Artists Agency

fall 2013


Profile for Arts & Science UofS

Arts&Science Spring 2014  

Arts&Science Spring 2014