Flora and Fauna of the Pleistocene Oak Creek Formation Peat Deposits

College of Letters and Science / Geosciences


The objective of this project is to identify ancient flora and fauna contained within Late Pleistocene peat from the Oak Creek Formation deposits dating between 45,000 to 35,000 years old exposed at Sheridan Park in Cudahy, Wisconsin. Peat is comprised largely of unaltered plant material deposited in ancient bog ecosystems. Contained within the peat are a multitude of potentially identifiable plant materials to include leaves, twigs, and seeds, as well as insect fragments that will help characterize the paleoecology of this ecosystem which predates the last glacial advance into southeastern Wisconsin. The findings of this project will furnish details about the lesser-known paleoecology of this elusive time span in our local fossil record which is of paramount interest to the many students who visit the site for field trips. The student will employ the scientific method to describe their project, define their methods and, conduct their research. Specimens recovered from disaggregated peat samples collected at Sheridan Park will be identified with the aid of scientific literature review and by networking with myself and other scientists in both the Geoscience and Biology Departments at UWM.

Tasks and Responsibilities

The student will conduct a search for current academic papers on the Oak Creek Formation to enhance the existing geologic and geographic knowledge of the Sheridan Park locality. Additional field work may be required to supplement the volume of samples already obtained from the site from earlier excursions. To acquire a thorough sampling of specimens, The student will process bulk peat samples to recover flora and fauna. Tasks will include preliminary literature review, peat disaggregation, and specimen recovery of both macro and microfossils. Specimens will need to be photographed and properly stored in a manner suitable for subsequent use as educational materials. Additionally, the student will be responsible for writing out the scientific methods by which she will be carrying out these tasks. The student will track their progress and meet with me as their project mentor on a bi-weekly basis, or as necessary for additional guidance related to the project. The student will have access to all necessary equipment and work spaces for sample processing and specimen identification to include the lab, the rock prep room, and the Geoscience computer lab.

Desired Qualifications