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Published February 10, 2020
Garrett Shepherd is taking his research on the road.
The University of Wyoming senior has been selected to participate in the Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) annual Posters on the Hill event April 20-21 in Washington, D.C. His research project was one of 60 selected from 350 applicants nationwide.
Shepherd, of Claremore, Okla., is majoring in geology with an emphasis on paleontology. He will present his work, titled “Geochemical Analysis of Fossil Oysters as Proxy for Late Eocene Basin Relationship.” His project focused on using the geochemical signals from fossil bivalves as a proxy for the paleoenvironmental conditions of the Tajik Basin, Tajikistan, during the late Eocene Epoch, around 40 million years ago.
“More specifically, my project used stable oxygen isotopes to determine the relationship between two basins in central Asia during the late Eocene,” he says. “I created thin-sectioned portions of oyster shells for sampling by MicroMill milling machine. Using it, I was able to collect material from within each growth increment of the shell. The material was then analyzed using a gas bench mass spectrometer here at UW’s Stable Isotope Facility for its stable oxygen isotope composition.”
Shepherd used those results to analyze and compare with results that already existed from the neighboring Tarim Basin in China. Using stable isotopes from bath basins, he was able to support the previous notion that the basins had been separated before the close of the Eocene.
Shepherd conducted his research through UW’s McNair Scholars Program, which encourages undergraduates to pursue graduate studies by providing opportunities to define goals; engage in research; and develop the skills and student/faculty mentor relationships critical to success at the doctoral level. Shepherd worked under UW Department of Geology and Geophysics Professor Mark Clementz. Additional funding for Shepherd’s research was provided through a grant from UW’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“I am extremely honored to have been accepted by the Council on Undergraduate Research for the Posters on the Hill event,” he says. “I had my doubts about being selected from such a large number of candidates. However, I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to represent both the University of Wyoming and the McNair Scholars Program in Washington, D.C.”
Hosted each spring, the CUR event brings members of Congress and their staff members to learn about the importance of undergraduate research by talking directly with the student researchers involved in these programs. Rachel Tenney represented UW at the event last year.
For more information on UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, visit www.uwyo.edu/geolgeophys/.