Death Valley Mystery
Geologist Launches Earth Science Series at Fullerton Public Library
Feb. 2, 2012 :: No. 81
Jeffrey R. Knott, Cal State Fullerton professor of geological sciences, will present “Why Are Pupfish in Death Valley?” Feb. 14 as the first in a series of free lectures co-sponsored by Cal State Fullerton and the Fullerton Public Library. The 2012 Town and Gown Lecture Series focuses on earth science with programs held the second Tuesday evening of each month through June.
Tuesday, Feb. 14
Fullerton Public Library
353 W. Commonwealth Ave., adjacent to Fullerton City Hall
Jeffrey R. Knott holds up samples of volcanic deposits that might hold the clue to how pupfish found their way to Death Valley. Photo by Kelly Lacefield
Knott will discuss the diminutive pupfish of Death Valley’s two-mile-long Salt Creek and the mystery of how pupfish got there. In this and other harsh environments, such as Owens Valley near Bishop, pupfish thrive — often in water that reaches 112 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Knott. He says the mystery is that no river connects to Salt Creek today, but DNA analysis reveals that the pupfish, which rarely grow longer than 2½ inches, have a common ancestry with other pupfish in the western United States and must have traveled to their isolated locations millions of years ago. A question-and-answer session will follow his lecture.
For nearly a century, geologists have tried to find when and how pupfish ended up in Death Valley. Knott and his colleagues have started to unravel the pupfish mystery by studying volcanic deposits that date back three million years, seeking the ancient river pathway that led to Death Valley and the lakes that filled it.
A geologist who previously worked in private industry, Knott joined the university in 2001. He holds a doctorate in geology from UC Riverside and is a California professional geologist and certified engineering geologist. Knott’s research interests are in the areas of Quaternary geology, tectonic geomorphology and tephrochronology.
Fullerton Public Library, 714-738-6326 or www.fullertonlibrary.org