As our climate changes and the oceans warm, become increasingly acidic, and lose oxygen, it is important to understand how the changes we observe today compare to those in the Earth’s past. A primary goal of my research is to connect past and present climate change using the microfossil record.

Active project include:

Reconstructing Pelagic Oxygen Minimum Zones

By applying geochemical and micropalentological techniques to the shells of planktic foraminifera that live in oxygen minimum zones, we can reconstruct how this habitat and its spatial extent have varied in the past. We have been focusing on periods of rapid climate change, especially associated with glacial cycles to understand how oxygen minimums may vary through time.

Planktic Life Without Oxygen

Planktic foraminifera much possess special adaptations to thrive in oxygen minimum zones and other oxygen poor habitats. We are working to better understand the spatial distribution of these species and how they are making a living in such a hostile environment. Doing so will improve the use of foraminifera as tools in the fossil record and help us understand how protists may cope with extreme environments.

Foraminifera as a Signal of Change

Changes in the presence and abundance of planktic foraminifera species in the fossil record is critical to interpreting past climate change. But how have faunas changed over the past three decades of active climate change? We are using high resolution observations of planktic foraminifera faunas to understand the rate and dynamics of faunal turnovers, connecting the observational record of the present to the past.

You Are What You Eat – But What is That?

Despite their importance for understanding our past, little is known about the role even modern foraminifera play in their ecosystem. We are using emerging isotopic tools to assess the trophic positions of modern foraminifera and developing these tools so that we may understand the ecology of extinct species as well.