HAYS, Kan. -- Dr. Richard Zakrzewski is using mice to discover the past, which may also predict the future. Zakrzewski (pronounced zahkSHEVski), professor of geosciences and chief curator of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, was the featured speaker at the Fort Hays State University Honors Convocation Program, where he also received the President's Distinguished Scholar Award.
Zakrzewski is a graduate of Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich., with a bachelor of science degree. He received his master of science degree and a doctorate in geology from the University of Michigan. He is a faculty member at FHSU serving on numerous committees, as interim department chair on several occasions and as a teacher in the Department of Geosciences.
Zakrzewski is part of a team of scientists from all over the world that has been researching the evolution of rodent communities and changes in climate over a 5-million-year span. His research centers on an archeological site in Meade County.
His presentation was "Restoring the Vanished Worlds: Of Men and Mice." He discussed how the fast-paced evolution of rodents allowed scientists to more accurately date the rock formations. By studying these rock formations they discover what the world may have been like millions of years ago, what they call the "vanished worlds."
Zakrzewski said that as a result of his research in Meade County sites, he has found 35 additional sites with fossils in them and may have discovered two new species of rodents. He also has found evidence in layers of ash that Yellowstone National Park, which he described as a giant volcano, will erupt again.
"There is a wide span in the estimated dates of which the ashes fell. The general assumption is that the volcano erupts every 600,000 years," said Zakrzewski. "This means that it is due to erupt, but it could happen now or it could happen in 70,000 years. We don't know."
Other FHSU faculty and students were also honored for their scholastic achievements at the program.