On the News @ The Orange County Register
Crocodiles in Orange County? CSUF student researcher shakes up fossil history
“Michelle Barboza set out to study rocks and ended up with a paper on ancient crocodiles.
This was odd since she was studying rocks in south Orange County. It’s not an area anyone thinks of in the same thought bubble as crocodiles, let alone rhinoceroses, camels and elephants.
But as an undergraduate in CSUF’s geology department, Barboza discovered that crocodilians lived here much more recently than previous researchers had established — by almost 10 million years. They are the youngest specimens known in California.
The discovery made Barboza the lead author of a research paper – her first paper ever – just months after graduating. She has since moved to Florida, a more traditional source of crocodilians, where she is continuing her research in vertebrate paleontology as a graduate student at the University of Florida.
“Crocodilians in California – not a lot of people are aware of that. It garners a lot of attention,” Barboza said. Few people realize that animals we associate with South America actually originated in North America, she said recently from Florida.
Barboza had previously participated in a paleontology internship studying fossils in Panama, did field work in Joshua Tree National Park and traveled to Argentina to study volcanoes.
She has also been active in introducing high school students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math, serving as a STEM ambassador to travel to more than 75 high schools in Orange County to encourage students to talk about STEM opportunities in college and beyond.
When she began the research project, the goal was to figure out the age of a prominent rock layer known as the Oso Member of the Capistrano Formation, which lies under many of the roads, homes, schools and businesses near Lake Forest, especially Foothill Ranch and Mission Viejo. The idea was to use fossil teeth of extinct horses to gauge the age of the sandstone deposit, formed by erosion of the Santa Ana Mountains when much of Southern California was covered by shallow water. That would allow scientists to compare it with other fossil sites in the region.” (…) READ MORE
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