rock samples on table

Hot Summer Days Ignite Scientific Minds

As temperatures soared in July to the hottest in Earth’s modern history, Emily Cepin toiled inside a Montclair State University lab gaining insights into today’s climate crisis by extracting pollen fossils from rock sediment formed 56 million years ago. The work is both tedious and timely.

Posted in: Department Research, Students

Cepin in lab examining pollen sample
Emily Cepin monitors chemical reactions to pollen samples extracted from ancient rock to understand the repercussions of global warming.

If we don’t do something soon, it’s going to be that much harder to overcome and it’s going to lead to severe and consequential events.

Emily Cepin

Cepin’s research looks at how plants and vegetation are changing today compared to a long ago extreme climate event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a geologic period of intense global warming. To analyze pollen from that period she removes minerals like carbonates and silicates from ancient rocks using a series of chemical reactions.

“Analyzing the pollen samples will allow me to understand how plants and vegetation responded to the PETM event and compare it to how plants are changing in response to the current climate crisis,” explains Cepin, a senior Earth and Environmental Science major mentored by Assistant Professor Ying Cui.

Cepin’s research is among nearly 40 projects underway this summer conducted by Montclair undergraduate students. The student researchers are tackling some of the world’s toughest scientific and engineering challenges, everything from finding a cure for malaria to building technology for classrooms and protecting swimmers from jellyfish in the coastal bays of New Jersey.

Read more about the research Emily and others are doing this summer!