BA/MA student Melissa McKee, who is pursuing a MA in earth and environmental sciences, delivered a talk during the Graduate Student Speakers Series on Nov. 29. McKee’s talk was titled “Looking to the past to predict the future: Restoring the fossil collections at Wesleyan’s Joe Webb Peoples Museum and testing the accuracy of using fossil leaves to estimate past temperatures.” McKee spent the summer working on restoring and cataloging a fossil collection for Wesleyan’s Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History. “This work paired perfectly with my research, which tests the assumptions of models that use the size and shape of fossilized leaves to reconstruct the mean annual temperature of ancient environments,” she said.
Plants in cold climates, McKee explained, are likely to have leaves that are more dissected and have larger teeth than plants growing in warmer climates. McKee grows her own trees at Wesleyan in temperature-controlled atmospheres. McKee’s advisor is Dana Royer, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, professor of integrative sciences.
During her talk, McKee passed around a fossil of a dinosaur footprint — also known as grallator. It is from the Connecticut River valley and it is roughly 200 million years old.The Graduate Student Speakers Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community and lunch is provided.