LU News Archive

Undergraduates win first place science conference awards

Gartner and LassenChristine Gartner, a senior geology and Erica Lassen a junior also majoring in geology, recently won first place student conference awards at the 2013 Sigma Xi Student Research Conference in Research Triangle, North Carolina.

The students, both of Beaumont, competed in the undergraduate division of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Sciences, and Geological Sciences.

The pair presented “Results of the 2012 field season excavations on the first Uinta C micro-mammal fossil locality from the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah.”

James Westgate, university professor of earth and space sciences, served as faculty advisor. Westgate, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, served as president of the Texas Academy of Sciences in 1999-2000 and received its outstanding services award in 2008.

The research into micro-mammal fossils provides a unique glimpse into the mammal community that inhabited the Uinta Basin near the end of deposition of the Eocene Uinta Formation. The Eocene epoch lasted from 56 million to 33.9 million years ago.

With posterIn 2012, LU field crews excavated five tons of bulk material from the first micro-mammal site discovered in the Uinta Formation in the Uinta Basin. After concentrating the sample by local screen washing, it was taken to the Lamar University Paleontology Lab. By soaking the concentrate in mineral spirits and then water and screen-washing again, it was further reduced then sorted by size using screens.

Researchers identified approximately 100 mammalian fossils by genus and or species, thus increasing the sample size of identifiable mammal specimens from the site by 45 percent. The sample now exceeds 300 mammal specimens. The Uinta Formation is the type locality for mammalian specimens that define the Uintan North American Land Mammal age.

Their research was funded by grants from the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society and an LU Research Enhancement Grant.

For more information on the scientific research society Sigma Xi, visit