What Tiny Fossils Tell Us About a Giant Extinction

NOVA and paleontologist dr Emily Bamforth Band together to investigate questions that have plagued paleontologists for decades – was the meteorite impact responsible for the mass extinction of dinosaurs, or was an extinction already underway? And why did this meteor impact cause an extinction when others in Earth’s history did not?

dr Emily Bamforth’s research from examining over 12,000 (very small) microvertebrate fossils from the Late Cretaceous suggests that the ecosystem was unstable just prior to the mass extinction due to environmental factors such as long-term climate change, mass volcanism and more. When the meteorite impact occurred, the ecosystems collapsed completely, just like a Jenga tower 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 premiere airing Wednesday, May 11 at 9:8c on KPBS TV. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/series/dinosaur-apocalypse/

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Speaker bio: dr Emily Bamforth decided to become a paleontologist at the age of four. She completed a BSc degree in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Alberta, which sparked a fascination with the origins of multicellular life on Earth. She earned her MSc degree from Queens University in Kingston, ON, where she studied fossils of some of the oldest complex multicellular creatures on the planet. She received her PhD from McGill University in Montreal with a thesis on the mass extinction of dinosaurs in Saskatchewan. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a paleontologist at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where her research focused on late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic paleoecology and paleobotany. She now works at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum with late Cretaceous high-latitude paleoecosystems, including studying a massive dinosaur bone repository near Grande Prairie, Alberta. She is also an Associate Professor in the Geology Department at the University of Saskatchewan.

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