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What Tiny Fossils Tell Us About a Giant Extinction

Thursday, May 12, 2022 at 10 AM

NOVA and paleontologist Dr. Emily Bamforth team up to explore questions that have plagued paleontologists for decades -- was the meteor impact to blame for the dinosaur mass extinction, or was there already an extinction going on? And why did this meteor impact cause an extinction when others in Earth’s history didn’t?

Dr. Emily Bamforth's research from studying over 12,000 microvertebrate (very small) fossils from the Late Cretaceous suggests that the ecosystem just before the mass extinction was unstable due to environmental factors like long-term climate change, mass volcanism, and more. When the meteor impact occurred, the ecosystems collapsed entirely, just like a Jenga Tower would if too many blocks had already been pulled out.

To learn more about the day the dinosaurs died, watch NOVA "Dinosaur Apocalypse," a two-hour special premiering at 9/8c on Wednesday, May 11 on KPBS TV.


Speaker Bio: Dr. Emily Bamforth decided to be a paleontologist at the age of four. She completed a BSc degree in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Alberta, which sparked a fascination in the origins of multicellular life on Earth. She earned her MSc degree at Queens University in Kingston, ON, studying fossils of some of the oldest complex multicellular life on the planet. She completed her PhD at McGill University in Montreal, with a thesis based on the dinosaur mass extinction in Saskatchewan. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a paleontologist with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where her research focused on Late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic paleoecology and paleobotany. Now at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, she works with late Cretaceous paleoecosystems at high latitudes, which includes studying a massive dinosaur bonebed near Grande Prairie, Alberta. She is also an adjunct professor in the Geology Department at the University of Saskatchewan.

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