For most of the past decade, Dr. Wan Yang has spent his summers in the Bogda Mountains in northwest China, collecting rock samples that predate dinosaurs by millions of years in an effort to better understand the history of the earth's climate and perhaps gain clues about future climate change.
"The formation of rocks has everything to do with climate," says the associate professor of geological sciences and engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. "Different climate settings have different sediments, soil types and vegetation. The beauty of the geological record is that we can see changes in the past, which gives us some guide to predict future changes."
Yang spends his summers working in northwest China because it's one of the few places to have a land record from Pangea, the supercontinent that existed between 200 million and 350 million years ago. Land records are hard to preserve because they are exposed to the elements, Yang says, so most research has typically been done using marine records instead. The seawater offers better protection of the rocks below, as Missouri S&T students saw first-hand in June during a field course led by Yang and two other professors from Trinity and Guizhou universities in southern China.