PhD Studentship: 40Ar/39Ar dating the evolution of latest Cretaceous dwarf dinosaurs from Transylvania (western Romania) and implications for the K-Pg extinction
Issued: Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:00:00 BST
Fully funded PhD studentship – E3 Doctoral Training Partnership
Studentship team: Dr Darren F. Mark (SUERC), Dr Stephen Brusatte (University of Edinburgh), Dr Zoltán Csiki (University of Bucharest), Matyas Vremir (Transylvanian Museum Society) & Dr Mark Norrell (American Museum of Natural History)
Project background: One of the largest extinctions in Earth history occurred at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary (c. 66 million years ago), when an asteroid impact (Renne et al., 2013), Deccan Trap volcanism (Renne et al., 2015) and associated environmental changed wiped out the non-bird dinosaurs and many other organisms. Most information on the causes, tempo and selectivity of the extinction in the continental realm comes from one part of the world; western North America, which boasts an excellent cross-boundary fossil record. However, in recent years, Europe has emerged as another potentially significant source of data regarding the extinction, but fully harvesting it hinges on the precise dating of the fossil record. Romania, with its remarkable fauna of dwarf dinosaurs, endemic primitive mammals, archaic crocodyliforms and giant pterosaurs holds promise as its dinosaur-bearing continental deposits are interbedded with volcanic rocks that are suitable for high-precision radio-isotopic dating.
Project aims: to  map in detail the field relationships between the volcanic and sedimentary units, and to  date the volcanic rocks from the Transylvanian area (the Hațeg, Rusca Montană and Transylvanian basins in western Romania) using the 40Ar/39Ar method.
Key research questions:By accurately and precisely dating these volcanic rocks, and indirectly the sedimentary sequences within which they are intercalated, an understanding of local faunal evolution around the K-Pg boundary will emerge. The following questions can then be answered:  What is the precise temporal range of the Transylvanian dinosaur faunas (i.e., when did they start to emerge and for how long did they exist in the confines of their tropical island home)?  Were there significant evolutionary changes during the existence of the Transylvanian faunas, or did these experience long-term stasis?  What is the temporal proximity of the Transylvanian faunas to the K-Pg extinction event (i.e., were they wiped out very near the boundary or are the youngest dinosaur fossils older than the K-Pg extinction)?  Does the history of the Transylvanian latest Cretaceous vertebrates mirror patterns reported in other parts of the world, or did they have their own particular story that adds to the emerging scenario of a rapid dinosaur extinction at the K-Pg boundary?
About you: We are seeking dynamic candidates with strong Earth Science/Palaeontology backgrounds, able to function across disciplines, and an enthusiasm to learn the skills and intricacies of radioisotopic dating. The project is funded through the E3 Doctoral Training Partnership where a full project description is available.
The Studentship will be based at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre with time spent at the University of Edinburgh.
Applications can be made through the E3 Doctoral Training Partnership website or contact Dr Darren Mark for further information.
Closing date for entry to the 2016 programme is 10th June 2016.