Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Carol M. Dehler


Carol M. Dehler


Joel L. Pederson


Jerome M. Timmons


Rocks provide insight into ancient times before complex animals existed. The oldest sedimentary rocks in Grand Canyon (the Bass Formation) allow us to glimpse into what things might have been like over a billion years ago. These rocks record the time known as the Mesoproterozoic Era (1.6 to 1.0 billion years ago), otherwise known as the ‘boring billion’. These rocks are thought to be the right age to indicate the end of an oddly stable world when continents were quiet and life was calm, yet they predate younger rocks that record extreme events. The Bass Formation, some of the only rock of this age in the world, contains evidence for life and the carbon cycle, and yields information about Earth’s environments 1.2 billion years ago.

The carbon cycle can be studied using carbonate rocks. Assuming that the rock has the same chemistry as the water it formed in, we can measure the relative abundance of carbon isotopes to see a ‘fingerprint’ of the system during the time the rock was deposited. During the boring billion, it is thought that very little variation occurs in this fingerprint. However, as more studies are completed, we see a modest variation in units around the age of the Bass Formation. The fingerprint results from this study can be added to the growing collection of Mesoproterozoic studies and help to further our knowledge about the world from this not-so-boring period of time.



Included in

Geology Commons