My research is interdisciplinary in nature and makes contributions to the fields of paleoceanography, biogeochemistry, ecology, and analytical method development; primarily using fossil and living foraminifera. Foraminifera are sand-grained sized protists that live in the ocean and secrete a calcium carbonate shell. Fossil specimens are widely used as tools (or ‘proxies’) for reconstructing past climates, which ultimately provide scientists with a fundamental understanding of how Earth’s climate will evolve in the future due to natural and anthropogenic forcing.
A few of the primary research questions I seek to answer: How do organisms (like forams) make their shells? How do they exert control over the incorporation of trace elements into the calcite? Why is the geochemistry of non-spinose species strikingly different from the spinose species? Does foram genotype and symbiotic and microbial associations (their ecology) complicate their geochemistry?
Understanding how foraminifera calcify and control the chemistry of their shells has broad implications for the use of trace element/Ca ratios measured in their shells as proxies for environmental conditions in the past. Decades of research shows that many foram based paleo-proxies are fundamentally sound (the proxies work, but we still have a lot to learn). In my lab, we seek to improve paleo-proxy relationships by culturing live specimens in an effort to gain a better understanding of how trace elements are incorporated into the calcite shell and apply these laboratory based relationships to samples from the fossil record for paleoclimate reconstructions. We are also interested in understanding how forams will be impacted by future changes in ocean chemistry and temperature. We also continue to apply new calibrations to seafloor sediment samples for paleoclimate reconstructions.
Click on the links on the right for details about select past and present projects.
(Viewing this from a smart phone? Project links are below).