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Guggenheim fellowship supports research on evolution by Virginia Tech scientist
Date:4/15/2010

Shuhai Xiao, professor of geobiology in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, has been named a Guggenheim Fellow. The award will support the often arduous research in Arctic Siberia that Xiao has begun to augment his years of study in South China to understand the co-evolution of the environment and early animals 600 million years ago.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise. Xiao has devoted much of his career to researching life in the Precambrian eon -- studying the co-evolution of environments and life in early Earth history using paleobiological, geological, and geochemical data. In 1998, Xiao and his colleagues discovered thousands of 600-million-year-old embryo microfossils in the Doushantuo Formation, a fossil site near Weng'an, South China. In 2000, Xiao and colleagues reported the discovery of a tubular coral-like animal that might be, for lack of a better word, a parent.

Using high-powered imaging equipment, researchers observed 1 micrometer cells and surmised that these nanocrystals started to nucleate and grow on the cell membrane before it degraded. A major part of Xiao's research over the past decade has been to determine under what conditions the crystals grew and replicated cells before they degraded.

Meanwhile, with colleagues in China and the U.S. and his students, Xiao has worked to answer a number of paleoclimatic and geochemical questions, such as how much carbon dioxide there was warming our planet 1.5 billion years ago and how much oxygen was in the ocean water during these primitive ages.

The Guggenheim Fellowship will augment his latest research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. Xiao and Jay Kaufman, professor of geology at the University of Maryland, are using geochemical and paleobiological data to understand the co-evolution of the environment and biosphere 600 million years ago. The researchers and their Russian collaborator Di
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Contact: Susan Trulove
strulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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