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2013 NERC PhD

Reconstructing abrupt climate events during the Lateglacial to Interglacial Transition (LGIT) 15ka to 8ka BP

Ian Candy

It is now clear, through the study of the Greenland ice-core records, that the climate of the North Atlantic region was, during the LGIT, frequently punctuated but abrupt cooling events. These events, typically driven by changes in the strength of the thermohaline conveyer, are clearly recorded in the oxygen isotopic records of the ice-cores due to the high sensitivity and rapid response time of the δ18O value of snowfall, and hence ice, to abrupt temperature changes. In other terrestrial records more traditional proxies (i.e. pollen) significantly lag behind temperature changes so these abrupt events, frequently lasting only 100 to 200 years, are poorly expressed. It has been shown by an increasing number of studies that the δ18O value of lacustrine carbonates that were deposited across the LGIT has the potential to record these events because the δ18O value of lake waters, as with the δ18O value of snowfall, responds very rapidly to any changes in air temperature. This PhD aims to investigate the characteristics of abrupt cooling events by generating high precision δ18O based palaeoenvironmental records of the LGIT from lacustrine records across the UK. Furthermore, synchronisation of these records is planned through the application of tephrostratigraphy. As well as generating internationally important records of abrupt cooling events this project, through analysing sites along climatic gradients, will investigate the spatially variability of the impact of these climatic intervals. The project will, therefore, greatly contribute to our knowledge of the spatial and temporal variability of the impacts of abrupt cooling events. Specific details available from Dr. Ian Candy at ian.candy@rhul.ac.uk


The timing and rates of glacier response to Late Pleistocene climate change in the North Patagonian Ice Field.

Varyl Thorndycraft , Adrian Palmer and Ian Matthews

The prediction of 21st Century glacier response, and associated hazards such as outburst floods, to anthropogenic warming is reliant on accurate and precise palaeoglaciological models. Whilst the behaviour of palaeo ice sheets in the mid-latitude regions of the northern hemisphere is relatively well–understood through geomorphological mapping, detailed sedimentology (including the record of annually-laminated, varve, sediments) and high resolution geochronology, as yet there are few similarly resolved reconstructions and models of mid-latitude ice fields from the Southern hemisphere. This project aims to investigate the rates and timing of the last deglaciation of the Northern Patagonian Icefield (NPI) by focusing on the region of the Lago Buenos Aires (Argentina)/General Carrera (Chile) basin, occupied at the LGM by one of the main outflow glaciers of the eastern iceshed of the NPI. This basin is characterised by a series of latero-terminal moraines marking the limit of glacial advances during the Last Glacial Maximum. Subsequent ice retreat has allowed a complex of retreat moraines to form, with sediments characteristic of glaciolacustrine varves deposited within these margins. These annually-laminated sediments provide an excellent opportunity to reconstruct: 1) the rate of glacier retreat at annual-to-decadal scales; and 2) the frequency of glacier outburst floods. Multiple sequences will be studied with correlations aided by tephrochronology. The student will be trained in geomorphological mapping in the field and using aerial and satellite photography; field sedimentology; micromorphology (thin section and SEM); and high precision geochronology, including varve chronology, tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating. Specific details available from Dr. Varyl Thorndycraft at varyl.thorndycraft@rhul.ac.uk


Chinese loess dust sources in the late Cenozoic

Tom Stevens

Atmospheric dust is a fundamental driver of global climate change. However, very little is known about the source, flux, and response of dust to climatic and tectonic changes. Large accumulations of dust form loess deposits on the Chinese Loess Plateau of China and are some of our best records of past climate change. This PhD would join a NERC funded research project and an international team of researchers applying novel single grain techniques such as heavy mineral analysis and zircon U-Pb dating to provenancing loess dust. These newly applied techniques are starting to provide fundamental breakthroughs in our knowledge of past dust transport and activity. The PhD could focus on a number of aspects of this research, including variation of dust sources during glacial phases and long term variability over the Miocene-Pliocene. More details about the project can be found at: www.rhul.ac.uk/chinesedust Specific projects can be discussed with Dr Thomas Stevens via thomas.stevens@rhul.ac.uk Specific projects can be discussed with Dr Thomas Stevens via

Luminescence dating of atmospheric dust flux from European loess sequences

Tom Stevens

Loess deposits contain information on the past atmospheric transport of dust particles, a poorly understood but critical driver of climate change. The record of dust flux in loess deposits is therefore a crucial archive for understanding past dust dynamics. Dust accumulation in loess can be measured directly via high sampling resolution optically stimulated luminescence dating, allowing quantification of past dust movement. This allows detailed accumulation rate models to be built up that can be used to evaluate the controls on dust flux over the late Quaternary. This PhD would involve the detailed luminescence dating of loess sequences in Eastern Europe in order to gauge past accumulation rates a number of sites. The project would seek to identify the timing of dust pulses in the late Quaternary, and what the forcing influences on these events may be. The project would link to existing international collaborations on the timing, causes and measurement of dust accumulation in one of most significant loess depocentres globally. Specific detail on this or related topics can be discussed with Dr Thomas Stevens via thomas.stevens@rhul.ac.uk


Finding El Dorado: locating the biodiversity corridor between the Amazon and Guiana Shield watersheds

Jay Mistry

This project follows on from a current NERC-ESRC funded studentship project on ecosystem services and scale, supervised by Jay Mistry. The aim of the project is to identify the hydrological link(s) between the Amazon and Guiana Shield basins, key landscape points that allow species migration and the promotion of high biodiversity. This will be done through: high resolution mapping through radar image analysis, GPS ground truthing and aerial videography; mark and recapture studies of aquatic species; and participatory methods to engage local people. The results will inform the development of management plans within the region and help biogeographical interpretations of aquatic species distributions. Specific details available from Jay Mistry at j.mistry@rhul.ac.uk

Adapting to the impacts of climate variations and climate change in the Guiana Shield: building resilience in indigenous communities

Jay Mistry

This project builds on current research by Jay Mistry through the COBRA project in Guyana and Duncan McGregor’s climate-agriculture research in the Caribbean. The aim of the project is to analyse historical and contemporary strategies of local communities to adapt to increasingly extreme climatic events, for example, rainfall and subsequent flooding/drought and assess the ecological impact of adaptation methods. This will be done through: high resolution mapping and GPS ground truthing; analysis of time-series climate and vegetation cover data; biophysical field measurements; and interviews with local people. Results will inform local people and be fed into national level policy-making on climate adaptation. Specific details available from Jay Mistry at j.mistry@rhul.ac.uk

Plant biodiversity and dryland multifunctionality in West Pokot, Kenya

Jay Mistry

Recent studies on drylands suggest that plant species richness has consistent effects on the ability of ecosystems to maintain multiple functions, such as carbon storage, productivity, and the build-up of nutrient pools, over and above those of climate and abiotic factors, highlighting the importance of plant biodiversity as a driver of dryland multifunctionality. This project will investigate how and to what extent biological production (both natural and managed) maintains and enhances dryland multifunctionality, using remote sensing, GIS, soil and biological sampling and analyses, integrated with qualitative participatory methods. This project builds on long-term engagement of Duncan McGregor and Jay Mistry with the West Pokot environment and its people. Specific details available from Jay Mistry at j.mistry@rhul.ac.uk


Mutual Climatic Range paleoclimate reconstruction through the use of Ubiquity Analysis

Scott Elias and Simon Blockley

We are interested in pursuing a research project to more fully develop a pilot study done several years ago, in which the modern ranges of beetle species found in British Late Pleistocene fossil assemblages are mapped in climate space, using ubiquity within individual cells of a climate matrix as a means of species weighting in Mutual Climatic Range paleoclimate reconstructions. The previous study (Blockley et al., 2006) demonstrated that not all species of predatory and scavenging beetles are normally distributed in climate space. This discovery invalidates the use of linear regression models to refine MCR estimates. The ubiquity approach shows considerable promise in future refinement of the MCR method. We are looking for a student interested in participating in this ubiquity mapping project, as part of a larger effort to refine seasonal paleotemperature reconstructions in northwest Europe. Specific details available from Scott Elias at s.elias@rhul.ac.uk


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