Available master projects Spitsbergen Mesozoic Research Group (SMRG)
SMRG is currently working on describing material from the Early-Middle Triassic of Svalbard, and we have many projects available for master students. We are happy to discuss other opportunities, so do not hesitate to contact Aubrey Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jørn Hurum (email@example.com) if you have questions or wish to apply for the projects.
Projects are noted as being either more biology or geology focused, this is a guideline and not a background requirement. Read more about our Svalbard project(s).
We are an open and welcoming group and we are very happy to adapt projects to individual needs or wants. Some projects require fieldwork, others only lab work. For fieldwork, prior outdoor experience in mountainous terrain or in the Arctic is required due to HSE risks in remote areas.
We are currently offering the following master projects:
- Depositional environment and description of micro- bonebeds from the Early and Middle Triassic of Svalbard. (Geology focused)
Layers of “fish hash” have been discovered overlying bone beds in Spitsbergen. These include a large number of small bones, teeth and scales from predominantly bony fish and chondrichthyans. The aim of this project is to discuss the sedimentology and depositional environment of the “fish hash” layers and to conduct a comparison of the deposition and preservation of the Early and Middle Triassic deposits. This project requires some experience with sedimentology.
- Palynology and isotope stratigraphy from the Early Triassic successions on Svalbard and correlation with previous studies. (Geology focused)
The student will describe the sedimentology of the Early Triassic to further our understanding of the palaeoenvironment. The project includes fieldwork to collect and analyse sediment samples from our field areas in west Spitsbergen and correlate these using isotope analysis to known and published results in the Boreal Sea as well as globally.
- Description of the Synechondiform material from the Early Triassic Grippia level bone bed (Biology focused)
Synechondiform sharks have been described from the Early Triassic of Spitsbergen (Bratvold et al., 2018, Norwegian Journal of Geology 98) and likely represent at least one new taxon. This project involves examining the collections for new material of synchondiformes and determine whether these represent a new taxon or if it can be referred to a known genus/species.
- Preliminary description of the bony fish material from the Early Triassic Grippia level bone bed (Biology focused)
The material from the Grippia bone bed includes a vast amount of Osteichthyes material. This project will provide the preliminary research needed to determine the type and number of taxa present in the Grippia bone bed. Statistical approaches will be utilised to examine the structure of the ecosystem.
- Description and taxonomy of Middle Triassic mixosaurid ichthyosaurs from Svalbard. (Biology focused)
Multiple mixosaurid ichthyosaur specimens have been collected from the Botneheia Fm. of Svalbard. Methods for acid and physical preparation developed at the NHM (UiO) will be utilised by the candidate to allow for an in-depth description of the material. The aim will be to use these specimens to redescribe the Mixosauridae family and identify diagnostic features of the two genera Mixosaurus and Phalarodon. Experience with phylogenetic analyses is recommended, but not required.
- Description of microvertebrate fossils from the bonebeds from the Early and Middle Triassic of Svalbard. (Biology focused)
Layers of “fish hash” have been discovered overlying bone beds in Spitsbergen. These include a large number of small bones, teeth and scales from predominantly bony fish and chondrichthyans. The aim of this project is to describe the fauna present in these layers and compare differences and similarities in faunal composition between the Early and Middle Triassic “fish hash” layers.
- Palaeopathology and evidence of feeding behaviours in Triassic marine reptiles. (Biology focused)
In the Early Triassic Grippia bone bed, numerous bone elements have been recovered indicating feeding behaviour and/or evidence of healing from injuries. The aim of this project is to describe the material and discuss the causes and implications this may have on the palaeobiology and palaeoecology of the ecosystem. Micro-CT scanning will be used for this project. The student will be expected to acquire the necessary skill set for working with computed tomography data.
Other possible projects
We also have several specimens of Late Jurassic marine reptiles from Svalbard that could be used for descriptive and taxonomy-based master projects (Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs). Many of these specimens will require a large amount of preparation work, feel free to contact Aubrey or Jørn if this is of interest.