Wham Bam, Thank You Foram!

Let me tell you about the nightmare of a thesis I chose. Okay, the subject itself is pretty awesome…but narrowing it down  is what is driving me up the wall. If I leave it as-is, it’s considered Master’s level work. As much as I would like to say I did that amount of work as an undergrad, it’s just not going to happen.

This idea came about on accident, actually, which is what is making me keep at it. I was taking Sedimentology and SEM(Scanning Electron Microscope) simultaneously. Both require a project. I was originally going to keep them separate, but then one of my good friends was in the lab doing a project for a grad-course called Paleoecology. We chat a lot, so I sat down and he taught me how to look for these creatures called foraminiferans, because that’s what he was doing and I felt bad for disturbing him. Forams (for short) are these little tiny amoeba-like sea creatures that have tests (shells). They are typically about the size of a small grain of sand, for your visualization reference.
The cool part is that the sand we were looking for, by definition, was NOT supposed to even have forams. So when my friend and I discovered some, we were a little excited to say the least. BAM I had my SEM project AND my sed project!! For my sed/SEM project, I ended up doing a paleoenvironmental facies analysis – facies being what kind of environment they were living in at the time of deposition. I was able to get the basics down, and went above and beyond for my project work.
Okay, that’s step 1.
Step 2 was the try to figure out why they were there. This is where I keep getting tripped up. There are so many guesses as to what was going on, and your guess it just as good as mine. No really. I have no idea either.
Here are some possibilities – Well, they were found with a bunch of other fossils, as the samples were taking from a shelly lens. One possibility is that the shells were protecting the foram tests from taking a beating. Another possibility is just that the tests were so small they weren’t subject to the same amount of force as the other shells (which were beat to hell, by the way) – but that doesn’t explain what they were doing in the sand to begin with.
Based on the paleoecology report that the grad class did, it was a heavily storm-influenced area. Could have just gotten washed in? But washed into where exactly? The sand is typical of a beach, but all of the other fossils are things that would  not get “washed up” like barnacles(without sticking to something else) and worm tubes, so it would have had to been underwater.  Thinking about the barnacles though, I guess they would have been stuck to some driftwood that got washed up, but doesn’t explain the giant pile of sand and other shells.
I’m also pretty sure that there is a “gradient” of sand-size particles starting from the largest of the area starting at the beach and getting smaller and smaller the farther off shore you go, but I can’t seem to find that specific of information stated in a book anywhere. Also a problem.
This  is a 3D model of the shelly lens in question. Oh yes. I made that. Take note future employers! I know how to use AGIsoft!
But anyways, trying to figure out why they are there (like the actual God-given reason they are there) is for sure a masters-level type of research project that I just don’t have time for, UNLESS I dedicate a semester to it, which I don’t really want to do. Will if I have to, but now that I know what it’s like to have weekends off again, I feel like I can do it next semester. We’ll see.
Anywhoser,  I may be able to just apply a theory and go with it and then concentrate on identifying and naming the forams I found. WHICH it is very possible that I found a new foram species, and I might be able to get away with going through the process of proposing it as one and getting it added to the database as my main thesis aspect.
It’s a hard decision to make when my thesis adviser has a double PhD in Paleontology and English. That means I have zero wiggle room to bullshit, which I’m glad for, I just don’t know if I can supply the amount of information he expects from me.
I mean hell, my prospectus alone is going to have to be 10 pages long.
FYI, the featured image for this blog is one of the forams in question (well, the inside half of it). We refer to this one as “the Hamburger” because we can’t find jack-shit on this bugger. But check out the recrystalization going on in that one! Awyiss.
Cheers
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