Position: PhD Student, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University
Area of study: Paleoclimate
Project: Reconstructing the Indo-Australian Monsoon over the last glacial-interglacial cycle using speleothems and paleoclimate modeling.
What does that mean??
Contrary to popular belief, studying ‘paleoclimate’ does not mean I look at the weather of dinosaurs (although sometimes I wish there were more dinosaurs involved…). “Paleo” simply means ‘old’, so in a nutshell, I am studying ‘old climate’. Changes in the Earth’s climate have been occurring for millions of years, as the Earth moves naturally between ice ages and interstadials (or warm periods). As the climate changes, key players in the climate system, such as temperature, rainfall, greenhouse gas concentrations and ice volumes change as well. All of these changes leave chemical fingerprints that we in the present day, can uncover and interpret.
I am using stalagmites (the ones on the floor) from caves in Indonesia to re-create a picture of what the rainfall has been in that region over the last 90,000 years. When it rains on the surface, the rainwater filters down through the soil and into the caves below. Drops of water drip from the ceiling over time, forming stalagmites on the cave floor. Each drip carries information about the climate at the time that drop fell and over thousands of years, the drips all add up, and eventually you get a stalagmite, which will tell you about the climate over the whole period that it formed. Pretty neat huh!
How did I get here?
Well, it all began when the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” came out. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you go and grab a copy. It’s a natural disaster movie starring Dennis Quaid as an under appreciated paleoclimatologist, who suddenly gets thrust into the spotlight when the North Atlantic Ocean circulation shuts down. I was so intrigued by science behind the movie and I began to do some research into whether it could really happen (turns out it can and has – minus the Hollywood special effects). From then on I was hooked and now I spend my time trying to better understand the complexities of climate.
Where will I go?
I am still only just starting my PhD, so I will be continuing my current research for the next three years or so. After that, who knows! I would love to keep studying climate in some form or another, and hopefully one day I will get to head off to Antarctica to study climate proxies there.