The Mid-Cretaceous Project

Time of Transformation: integrating the dynamic geologic, climatic, and biotic systems of North America during the Early to Late Cretaceous transition

In the mid-Cretaceous, Earth entered a period of warming so severe that temperate rainforests flourished at the South Pole. These environmental and climatic disruptions mirror many of our modern challenges, including rapid increases in atmospheric CO2, sea-level rise, habitat fragmentation, de-oxygenation of the oceans, and biodiversity loss. Paleoclimate reconstructions of tell us that greenhouse gas levels and temperature rise during the mid-Cretaceous were on the scale that we humans are forecasted to experience within the next 300 years. Because of this, our work on the mid-Cretaceous will provide key data to for understanding the outcome of human-induced climate change. 


The National Science Foundation’s Frontier Research in Earth Science program is currently funding the Zanno Lab as part of a 5-year, multidisciplinary alliance to explore these trends on what is now the North American continent. Together, our research is testing whether the restructuring of ecosystems in North America during the mid-Cretaceous, including localized extinctions of dinosaurs, can be quantitatively linked to the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum. 

Current Field Areas

Menefee, Crevasse Canyon, & Moreno Hill formations of New Mexico

Cedar Mountain & Straight Cliffs formations of Utah

The Mid-Cretaceous team includes Drs Celina Suarez and Glen Sharman [University of Arkansas, USA], Dr. Pete Makovicky [University of Minnesota, USA], Drs Rich Cifelli and Rick Lupia [University of Oklahoma, USA]; Dr Marina Suarez [University of Kansas;, USA] Dr Ryan Tucker [Stellenbosch University, South Africa]; and Dr. Ethan Hyland [also at NCSU, USA].