Magnetic Bacteria Fiesta on the Proto-Potomac

I met with my advisor last week, and she asked me to do some background research for her on a couple of papers she’s working on. So I spent the last week-ish doing a lot of searching across the internets for papers, and then reading of papers. Considering how I feel about reading most papers, this was no small task. My schedule pretty much ran like this:

Wake up
Read papers until brain melts
Lunch break
Read more papers until hysterical giggling starts
Afternoon walk
Read papers because we live in a godless universe of pain
Mike gets home, incoherent gibbering commences

But I got this round done, and my advisor is pleased with my results so WOOOOOO GO ME. And here’s a tip for my fellow newb grad students – get yourself a copy of the John Williams Superman theme song. Play it while you’re writing, and then it feels like not only are you doing science, you’re SAVING THE GODDAMN WORLD OH YEAH.

So anyway, I wanted to share with you all my favorite paper I read over this last week:
An Appalachian Amazon? Magnetofossil evidence for the development of a tropical river-like system in the mid-Atlantic United States during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (Kopp et al 2009)

I don’t think you’ll be able to read the entire paper without an AGU membership (or without using a university library computer), but if you can give it a read. It’s a fun, fun, fun, and cool paper. The summary goes like this:

1) At the PETM in the Salisbury Embayment (which runs from northern Virginia to southern New Jersey on the Atlantic sheld) there’s a clay layer called the Marlboro, which is “…the thickest single-domain magnetite-dominated sedimentary unit yet reported in the literature.”

2) The magnetite is all from magnetofossils produced by bacteria and other organisms that need crystals of magnetite for their own nefarious purposes.

3) The conditions necessary for that kind of bacterial block party are pretty specific, since it’s got to be conducive to the little critters being able to live and make their magnetite.

4) Hey, in modern day, the best example of these conditions are tropical river shelves, like the Amazon shelf. So what if the Potomac during the PETM was like that?

Of course, there’s a lot of really fascinating detail from the paper that I’m leaving out. But even just the concepts are awesome and interesting.

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