Lycoming College biology professor receives $1,000 paleontology grant

Lycoming College assistant professor of biology, David Broussard, Ph.D., received a $1,000 grant from the Delaware Valley Paleontological Society to support his efforts at Red Hill, a 360 million-year-old fossil site in Clinton County, as well as his work at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. With the grant, Broussard hopes to gain a better understanding of the paleoecology of Red Hill by quantifying variation in species diversity as well as size of the fossil vertebrates.

Broussard began working at the site in 2009, when he first took his vertebrate biology students on a field trip. It was formed during the late Devonian period from a large, lowland river with extensive floodplains at a time when what we now call Pennsylvania was situated just below the equator and had a much warmer climate. Some of the earliest known “tetrapods,” aka creatures with four limbs, have been found there, as well as many unique species.

“Several species of plants and animals have been identified and described from Red Hill and have been found only at Red Hill,” Broussard said. “The Devonian period is known as the ‘Age of Fishes’ and there are fossils of several different types of extinct fishes found there, including armored – external bony armor – fishes known as placoderms, spiny sharks, teeth of freshwater sharks, several species of lobe-finned fishes, and small, ray-finned fishes.”

Cory Trego, a senior biology major and recipient of the college’s Joanne and Arthur Haberberger Fellowship, works with Broussard at Red Hill, where he helps to analyze and document fossils, collecting data for his honor’s project. Trego has been familiar with the site since his parents took him there when he was only 6 years old. He began planning the project with Broussard last fall.