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Open Access Thesis

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Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The Upper Cretaceous Tropic Shale of southern Utah captures critical oceanographic changes that occurred during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE 2) and the transgression of the Greenhorn Sea. We investigated the response of planktic and benthic foraminifera in a shallow (<100 >m) marine environment stressed by the onset of OAE 2 during the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary (CTB; 93.9 Ma) to determine the oceanographic mechanisms controlling the observed turnovers in the foraminiferal record. This study is based on high-resolution quantitative foraminifera counts and isotope paleoecology (d18O and d13C) from a 40-m outcrop. The OAE 2 interval is identified by a distinctive d13Corg signature and by correlation of bentonites and limestones across the seaway.

Results of assemblage analyses indicate discrete intervals of environmental perturbations across the CTB interval. At the onset of OAE 2, surface waters were dominated by planktic Guembelitra cenomana with minor species of Heterohelix. Benthic abundances increase and were initially dominated by oxygen tolerant infaunal Neobulimina albertensis. Epifaunal Gavelinella dakotaensis briefly proliferated during the core of the OAE 2 and coinciding with the planktic “Heterohelix shift” and increasing accumulation of organic matter. The peak of OAE 2 at ~17 m is marked by a rapid shift to infaunal Neobulimina dominance. We suspect incursion of oxygen-poor Tethyan intermediate waters with peak transgression during the early Turonian, coupled with high productivity in surface waters resulted in the rapid depletion of benthic oxygen. The foraminiferal record reveals strong cyclicity in planktic/benthic ratio resembling parasequences that correlate to the GSSP in central Colorado.


First Advisor

R. Mark Leckie