PhD (BiSc), 2006
Grant Zazula focused on reconstructing ancient, ice-age ecosystems in Yukon Territory. To do this, he studied permafrost-preserved plant remains entombed within nests of arctic ground squirrels dating between about 20,000 and 100,000 years ago. These fossil plants painted a vivid picture of the environments inhabited by now-extinct ice age mammals such as woolly mammoths and scimitar cats. For his efforts, he was awarded the Dean’s Graduate Convocation medal in Science.
Only a couple weeks after defending his PhD, he was hired by the Yukon Territorial Government to head their Palaeontology Program in Whitehorse. Now he oversees a dynamic program of research, resource management and public education largely focused on the rich-record of ice age mammal fossils recovered in the well-known Klondike gold mining district near Dawson City, Yukon. Every summer as miners dig up and churn through frozen gravels in central Yukon, they uncover thousands of bones and other fossil of ice age animals. These goldmines are a real “gold mine” for information and research on the climate, geology, animals and plants that lived during the ice age when North America was connected to Asia via the exposed Bering Land Bridge. Their goal is to collect fossils and make fossil sites accessible to for research by scientists from all over the world. Because of the incredible preservation of ancient plant and animal remains in the permafrost, the Yukon is a real focus of ancient genetic research, with DNA sequences being recovered and analyzed from fossils that are nearly a million years old. Their work helps tell the story of climate and environmental change in arctic Canada over the recent geological past.
-Written by the Faculty of Science
Published in March 2016