August 20, 2007
Katherine Duke '05
Ives Washburn Fellow
Director of Public Affairs
AMHERST, Mass.—Whitey Hagadorn, an assistant professor of geology at Amherst College, has received $20,000 from the National Geographic Society to study the initial colonization of land by animals. The grant will support student research on sedimentary rocks that represent ancient coastal dunefields and tidal flats. These rocks offer fossil evidence of some of the Earth’s earliest land-dwelling animals.
In rock exposures in New York, Wisconsin and Missouri, Hagadorn and his students have found fossilized tracks and casts of animals—including large slug-like mollusks and scorpion-like arthropods—that lived there 500 million years ago, when the areas were sandy tidal flats and beach dunes. With the grant money, students will perform fieldwork and laboratory analysis of the fossils, which Hagadorn hopes will shed light on how these life-forms might have looked and behaved.
A member of the Amherst faculty since 2002, Hagadorn also studies the advent of biomineralization and the ecology of early animal communities. He earned his B.A. degree at the University of Pennsylvania and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Southern California.