Quantifying temperature changes in the Oligocene icehouse

This project is available from the academic year 2020/21 onwards.

Theme: Past Life & Environments

Primary Supervisor:

Bridget Wade

Earth Sciences, UCL

Bridget Wade's Profile Picture

Project Description:

The Paleogene was a time of dramatic climate change from the greenhouse climate of the Eocene to the icehouse of the Oligocene. Many previous studies have focused on Eocene temperature changes, but the Oligocene (34 to 24 million years ago) has received relatively little attention. During the Oligocene the Antarctic ice sheet expanded and contracted considerably between times of very expansive ice sheets to intervals of relatively little ice. This project focuses on quantifying Oligocene temperature change using palaeoclimatic proxies (oxygen isotopes and Mg/Ca) of excellently preserved foraminifera from multiple sites. A detailed study of foraminiferal geochemistry will build an accurate picture of how the Oligocene climate responded to the waxing and waning of the Antarctic ice sheet and provide the data to reconstruct thermal gradients between high and low latitudes.

Analyses will be conducted in the new micropalaeontology laboratory at UCL which is equipped with multiple microscopes with image capture facilities. The student will be provided with a wide range of training including foraminiferal taxonomy, stable isotope and trace element geochemistry, stratigraphy, and scanning electron microscopy. In addition, the student will have the opportunity to undertake a variety of postgraduate training workshops at UCL, attend the Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology and will be encouraged to present their research at relevant UK and overseas conferences. They will be joining a large and active research group in Palaeoenvironments.

Policy Impact of Research:

Studying intervals of dramatic climate change, allow a greater understanding of the oceans and climate system. Knowledge of the climate is particularly important to society in light of current increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide which are predicted to cause rapid global warming. These records will provide the data to test and refine climate models.

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