Understanding the Cause(s) of the Last Mass Extinction at the Cretaceou-Paleogene Boundary

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Organized by Paul Renne (Earth and Planetary Science), Mark Richards (Earth and Planetary Science), Charles Marshall (Integrative Biology), Seth Finnegan (Integrative Biology), and William Clemens (Integrative Biology), this project aims to chart a course to resolving the decades-old conundrum of why the dinosaurs and myriad other fauna and flora met extinction sixty-six million years ago. This extinction is marked by a dramatic difference in fossil life found in strata above and below a sharp boundary marked by an arrow in the photo from the Hell Creek region of northeastern Montana. In this area, two of the most iconic dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, disappear from the strata above this boundary.

Diverse viewpoints as to the cause(s) of the extinction exist among active researchers even on the Berkeley campus. A weekly seminar is devoted to both reviewing existing evidence as well as discussing fresh new research results from the participants. The participants will formulate areas of consensus as well as areas of disagreement, and propose specific research foci needed to clarify unresolved components of a general theory of the extinction cause(s) and mechanism(s). The weekly meetings are largely but not exclusively composed of faculty, staff and students in the departments of Earth and Planetary Science, and Integrative Biology. Late in the Spring 2017 semester, a two-day conference open to the public will center on lectures by six internationally renowned experts from the U.S. and abroad, and four of the local participants, with round table discussions on each day following the lectures.