Year of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Geology and Science Education

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

George D. Stanley, Jr.

Commitee Members

Heather Almquist, Lisa Blank, Sean O'Brien, Garon Smith


University of Montana


During the Triassic period corals and reefs reached maximum diversity with the development of extensive carbonate platforms. The end-Triassic breakup of Pangea resulted in rift volcanism leading to prodigious releases of volcanic gases. Ocean acidification and other global perturbations caused reefs to collapse along with the extinction of most corals and marine biotas. After the end-Triassic mass extinction it took almost 25 million years for corals and reefs to recover to their former diversity and biotic structure. Corals of the Hettangian to Sinemurian contain Triassic holdover species and by the Pliensbachian include many new species. Corals from the earliest stages of the Jurassic are extremely rare in North America. This research illustrates previously undescribed corals from Alaska, Nevada and Sonora, Mexico, representing the earliest known Jurassic appearances in North America. The age of the Hettangian and Sinemurian corals was confirmed using both detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology and ammonite biostratigraphy. The corals represent new species of simple, solitary forms belonging exclusively to the family Stylophyllidae. These corals provide new data on Triassic holdover taxa surviving the extinction in island-arc refugia or an earlier Hispanic corridor migration from the Tethys to the Panthalassa Ocean.

Most paleontological research results are disseminated solely by publication in professional journals and presentations at scientific conferences. Only occasionally does a mass media production communicate the scientific results to the public. One outcome of the mass media control over presentation of scientific topics to the public is a perpetuation of a “male with glasses in a lab coat” stereotype of the scientist. Employment of females with advanced degrees in the physical sciences remains stubbornly low compared to the gender advances achieved in the health and social sciences. Numerous short videos of scientists describing their work were produced in a YouTube series called STEM Stories. In a pilot study, members of the research team described aspects of the paleontology research including mass extinctions, field investigations and specimen curation. In the pilot study, these videos were presented to a mixed group of 42 middle and high school students that were surveyed before and after viewing to see if their perception of themselves in a science career would show any measurable change. Although interesting weak correlations were detected there was no statistically significant change in student’s scientific self. A proposal for a more definitive study is made utilizing targeted videos and an increase in the study group size.

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© Copyright 2016 Montana Susan Hodges