Ordovician life just needed a breath of fresh air

November 22, 2017
Photo of Matthew Saltzman and Cole Edwards

Earth Sciences professor Matthew Saltzman is co-author on a paper in Nature Geoscience this month, with former PhD student Cole Edwards (PhD 2014, now Assistant Professor at Appalachian State Univ) as lead author, which links a dramatic tripling of biodiversity of animal life during the Ordovician period to a rise of atmospheric oxygen to near modern levels. The study integrated geologic proxy data from carbon isotopes in ancient sediments with quantitative modeling of Earth’s oxygen levels that was based on isotope mass balance and the oxygen dependence of biological isotope fractionation. You can view the full study in Nature Geoscience here (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-017-0006-3, also with a News & Views by OSU alum Alycia Stigall) and a related media story here (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171120111329.htm).

Photo of Ordovician strata exposed at Shingle Pass, Nevada, alongside a plot of atmospheric oxygen levels and biodiversity from the new publication of Edwards, Saltzman, Royer and Fike in Nature Geoscience.