B.S. Soil Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; M.S. Geology from San Jose State University
Email sburgess [at] mit [dot] edu
Seth’s primary research focuses on the intriguing temporal coincidence between episodes of voluminous continental magmatism and global-scale biotic crises. Seth concentrates on the pair of events marking the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods of Earth History; the end-Permian biotic crisis, which killed > 90% of marine life, and the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province, which erupted enough magma to cover a USA-sized area of land in over a mile of lava.
U-Pb and Ar-Ar geochronology done in the mid-1990's linked the two events in time, but with low precision compared to what is now possible. These dates allowed for the tantalizing possibility that magmatism may have triggered mass extinction, but prohibited the determination of which event occurred first. Clearly, for magmatism to be a plausible trigger it must have began prior to the mass extinction event. The goal of Seth's work is to determine both the absolute age and relative timing of both events. To do this, he employs U-Pb geochronology, the radiometric dating technique offering the highest possible precision and accuracy on rocks of this age.