Catherine Beck

Assistant Professor of Geosciences Catherine Beck recently traveled to the University of Minnesota’s National Lacustrine Core Facility and the associated Continental Scientific Drilling Coordination Office to sample from the 216 meters of core collected through the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project in 2013.

Mary Langworthy ’17 and Mary Margaret Allen ‘17 contributed to this project while in the field last summer.

The goal of Beck’s trip was to continue the process of scanning the core for volcanic ash layers. Beck and her collaborator Craig Feibel of Rutgers University use the ashes to date the sediments in order to understand how the paleoenvironmental and climate records they contain shaped our ancestors evolution.

Earlier this month, Beck and Allen visited Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to run analyses on the electron microprobe as part of Allen’s senior thesis research. It was Allen’s second trip to the lab and Beck has made the trip several times to collect geochemical data.

Beck said she and Allen are looking at ash beds for correlation purposes. She noted that Allen’s samples are much younger than the ones in the core.

“Each ash layer essentially has a unique, geochemical fingerprint that we can then compare to an existing database of ash geochemistry,” Beck said. “These samples may represent ashes that have never before been analyzed or may help us correlate [Allen’s] study areas to identical eruption layers found across East Africa!”

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