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Explorers Club awards Appalachian student $2,000 grant for summer fieldwork in Mongolia

Cameron Batchelor, a junior geology major, has been given a $2,000 Youth Activity Grant from the Explorers Club in New York City to fund her fieldwork in Mongolia this summer.

The Explorers Club, founded in 1904, is an international professional society that is dedicated to growth of field research.

Sophomore geology major Cameron Batchelor was recently awarded a $2,000 grant by the  Explorers Club to help fund her participation  in a research project in Mongolia this summer. Photo courtesy of Cameron Batchelor
Sophomore geology major Cameron Batchelor was recently awarded a $2,000 grant by the
Explorers Club to help fund her participation
in a research project in Mongolia this summer. Photo courtesy of Cameron Batchelor

“Cameron getting this funding from the Explorers Club is actually a big deal, they are a highly respected organization that funds adventurists,” said Johnny Waters, a professor in the Department of Geology.

Batchelor had previously been given a $1,500 grant from the Office of Student Research, so she applied for a $2,000 grant from the Explorers Club to cover the remainder of her plane ticket.

“Since fall of 2013, I have been applying to several grants and scholarships to help fund my research trip to Mongolia to conduct essential fieldwork and since the plane ticket to Mongolia costs around $3,500, I applied to everything that I could,” Batchelor said.

Batchelor will be traveling and working alongside Waters and Sarah Carmichael, assistant professor in the Department of Geology.

“Our goal is to travel to Mongolia to conduct essential fieldwork, including collecting prime samples that will help us study the Devonian mass extinction at a different location than what has already been studied,” Batchelor said. “Most knowledge that geologists have about this mass extinction comes from North America and Europe.”

Batchelor said that during the Devonian period there was a severe global climate change that caused mass extinction. During that period, North America and Europe were very close together.

“During the Devonian period, these two land masses were located very close to each other.” Batchelor said. “It is vitally important that more samples are obtained from locations outside of this region, such as Central Asia and Mongolia, to fully understand the global climate change during this time period.”

Waters said the Devonian period was about 375 million years ago.

“What we are looking at is a period of time about 375 million years ago when there was a major mass extinction event in the tropics, probably caused by massive ocean anoxia,” he said. “Ocean anoxia is lack of oxygen in the water, so coral reefs died and the coral reef ecosystems died.”

Waters said he and the rest of the research team will be looking for rocks that show the anoxic event and the ecosystems that survived as fossils.
Carmichael said this type of fieldwork is important because geologists do not know exactly why the mass extinction happened.

Batchelor said that the area in Mongolia her and others will be working in is a remote location.

“After flying to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, we will be driving up to 17 hours to our field site, which is in west Mongolia near the border of China,” she said. “There are no roads that go to this field site, and we will have no communication with the outside world.”

The fieldwork will be completed with an international research team of about 20 scientists and about 12 to 15 support workers, who will be guides, cooks, general field assistants and drivers, Waters said.

During her fieldwork, Batchelor said she hopes to gain valuable tools in becoming a geologist.

“I hope to learn all of the essential skills there are to know to be a successful field geologist,” she said. “This will be my first time in the field as a geologist collecting samples, and I am beyond excited to do it for a month.”

Batchelor said Carmichael helped make her the geologist that she is today.

“She encourages me everyday to be the best geologist possible,” she said. “She is a great professor that pushes me to my limits and is hard on me so she can see me succeed.”

Carmichael said Batchelor has proven herself as a geologist and a student since her freshman year.

“Cameron is a great example of a great student, as a freshman she came to my office and told me she wanted to be involved,” she said. “She has already proven that she is reliable and capable to do the work, she has impressed everybody with her dedication and ability.”

Story: Nicole Caporaso, News Reporter
Photo courtesy of Cameron Batchelor

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