Micropaleontology Undergraduate Research Lab
University of Maine at Presque Isle

The Micropaleontology Undergraduate Research Lab (MURL) was established in 1990 to foster undergraduate micropaleontologic research at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Thus far, ten students (see photographs below) have written and submitted research publications to the Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, with nine of these students having their work successfully go through peer-review and be published (see publications list for references). This work has resulted in eight publications, five of them first-authored by un undergraduate student.

The research conducted at the Micropaleontology Undergraduate Research Lab is unusual both for the small size of the parent university and for the published record by undergraduate students. The Ocean Drilling Program is an international partnership of scientists and research institutions that study the evolution and structure of the earth. This program uses the oceanographic drillship JOIDES Resolution to recover sediment samples from the ocean bottom throughout the world. The Resolution has a displacement of 16,595 long tons, and a derrick that towers 61 meters (200 feet) above the waterline. It is capable of recovering several kilometers of cored ocean sediments, even from great depths.

Some of the undergraduate research (three publications) has dealt with siliceous sponge spicules. This is an ideal group for undergraduate research, as the literature is compact and there is an uncomplicated taxonomy. The remainder of the published papers have dealt with silicoflagellates. These are a single-celled algal group of organisms with siliceous skeletons. This group is the research specialty of MURL Director Dr. Kevin McCartney. In 2003, one of the undergraduate students discovered, named and participated in the description of a new species, Naviculopsis trigeminus (Engel and McCartney, 2005).


W. John Ahlbach and Kevin McCartney during the initial study of sponge spicules from ODP Leg 120, off Antarctica. The study was done while Ahlbach was taking courses at the University of Maine (Orono); their joint paper was published in 1992 (see Ahlbach and McCartney, 1992).

Ryzard Zolnik and Kevin McCartney during a study of sponge spicules from ODP Leg 127, in the Japan Sea. This study utilized a microscope borrowed from the University of Maine (Orono). Their paper was published in 1992 (see Zolnik et al., 1992).

From left to right: Linda Woestendiek, Eric Brunden (did not finish program), Kevin McCartney and Sherry Churchill during study of silicoflagellates from ODP Leg 138, East Equatorial Pacific. This study uses a microscope obtained from an NSF equipment grant. Their paper was published in 1995 (see McCartney, Churchill and Woestendiek, 1995).


See this publication on pdf format

L. Kirk Lurvey and Kevin McCartney during their study of sponge spicules, silicoflagellates and ebridians from the Greenland margin. Their paper was published in 1998, (see Lurvey and McCartney, 1998).

David Cassidy and Kevin McCartney during their study of sponge spicules of the Japan Sea. Their paper was not accepted for publication. (No photo yet available)


Robb Engel, Tracy Reed and Rita Williamson combined with Kevin McCartney to publish three papers for ODP Legs 183 and 199. Robb was first author in a Leg 199 paper that described a new silicoflagellate species (see Engel, R., and McCartney, K. (2005)).

Chris Power and Kevin McCartney during their study of silicoflagellates off Suriname, South America. Their paper was published in 2007, (see Power and McCartney, 2007).

List of undergraduate reviewed publications:
Ahlbach, W. J.* and McCartney, K. (1992): Sponge spicules from Ocean Drilling Program Hole 749B. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, 120:833-837. *William Ahlbach did this work as an undergraduate student at the University of Maine.

Zolnik, R.*, McCartney, K. and White, L. D. (1992): Siliceous sponge spicules from ODP Site 795. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, 127:541-544. *Ryszard Zolnik did this work as an undergraduate student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

McCartney, K., Churchill, S.* and Woestendiek, L.* (1995): Silicoflagellates and ebridians from ODP Leg 138, Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, 138:129-162. *Sherry Churchill and Linda Woestendiek were undergraduate students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Lurvey, L. K.*, McCartney, K., and Wei, W. (1998): Sponge Spicules, silicoflagellates and ebridians from ODP Site 918D, Greenland. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, 152:191-199. *Kirk Lurvey was an undergraduate student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, now graduate student at U-Maine.

McCartney, K., Engel, R.*, Reed, T.*, Williamson, R.*, Bohaty, S. M., and Wise, S. W., Jr. (2003): Silicoflagellates from ODP Holes 1138A and 1040A, Kerguelen Plateau. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, Leg 183. http://www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/183_SR/011/011.htm *Robb Engel, Tracy Reed and Rita Williamson are undergraduate students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Engel, R., and McCartney, K. (2005): Silicoflagellates recovered from the deep sea, Ocean Drilling Program Leg 199, Site 1219, East Equatorial Pacific. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, Leg 199. http://www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/199_SR/202/202_.htm *Robb Engel, Tracy Reed and Rita Williamson were undergraduate students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

McCartney, K., Engel, R.*, Reed, T.*, and Williamson, R.* (2006): Silicoflagellates and ebridians recovered from Leg 199 Sites 1215, 1216, 1217, 1218 and 1220, East Equatorial Pacific. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, Leg 199. http://www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/199_SR/210/210_.htm *Robb Engel, Tracy Reed and Rita Williamson were undergraduate students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Power, C. P., and McCartney, K. (2007): Silicoflagellates recovered from Ocean Drilling Program Leg 207 Sites 1257 and 1258. Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Reports, Leg 207. http://www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/207_SR/111/111.htm *Chris Power was an undergraduate student at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

To read more about the Micropaleontology Undergraduate Research Lab:
McCartney, K. (1994): Ocean drilling: Undergraduate research goes to sea. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 14:193-196.


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