When paleontologist Dr. Marina Suarez and her sister explored a site in Utah, they found the bones of a dinosaur sticking out out of the side of an outcrop of exposed rock. The dinosaur, Geminiraptor Suarezarum, was later named after Suarez.
The 2004 discovery took place while the sisters were working on graduate degrees.
Now Suarez, an assistant professor of geology at UTSA has been awarded a $478,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund her research in paleoclimatology.
In 2004, Suarez and her twin sister, a fellow paleontologist, were working on their master’s research at a site in Utah. The dinosaur was an exciting discovery for Suarez.
“Since I was probably six years old, my dream was to find a dinosaur,” said Suarez who later went on to research paleoclimatology, the study of Earth’s climate in the past.
The focus of Suarez’s research is deep-time paleoclimatology which studies Earth’s climate predating the current glacial/interglacial system, approximately two million years ago.
Suarez said that deep-time paleoclimatology enables scientists to study the full range of Earth’s climates allowing them to understand cause-and-effect relationships within Earth’s climate and to predict Earth’s response to varying events.
For instance, Suarez said climatologists expect that CO2 concentrations in the next century will exceed the range of CO2 concentrations of the last two million years.
“So, to better understand how the climate system responds to that amount of carbon in the atmosphere, studying past greenhouse climates is important,” Suarez said.
The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award is given to faculty members who aim to integrate education and research within their organizations.
Community college students will help Suarez with research in the Summer 2016 semester, involving changes in climate following carbon-cycle disruptions during the cretaceous period.
She also plans to use her data to write labs for her classes.
Suarez said that she was honored to receive the prestigious award and hopes that the funding will give her the opportunity to be positively influence students.
“After all, I feel like I’ve been successful so far because I’ve had great mentors throughout my education, and I’d like to pay it forward and also be a good mentor.”