Exploring new avenues of research with planktic foraminifera (How a ‘failed’ experiment changed my research focus)
Dr. Jennifer Fehrenbache, Assistant Professor, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University
Planktic foraminifera are sand grained sized marine protists that live in the surface ocean and secrete a shell made of the mineral calcite. Although small, forams are mighty! They are common in the global ocean today and have a long fossil record. Fossil foraminifera hold, within the composition of their shells, information about the Earth’s past ocean temperature, salinity, and pH, with reconstructions spanning thousands to even millions of years. Fossil data from foraminifera informs climate models, which are used to understand drivers of past change climate events and predict how the Earth’s climate will evolve in the future due to natural and human-induced climate change. There are two key types of planktic species: those with and those without calcite spines. For the past decade, I have been culturing living foraminifera, primarily the non-spinose variety, to understand what controls the composition of their shells and to expand their utility in paleoclimate research. I also study them in the near shore environment off the Oregon coast to understand how modern climate change is modifying their calcification and assemblages. In my talk, I will share how I transitioned from studying fossil specimens during my PhD to culturing living forams and will show potential new ways we can exploit their geochemistry to reconstruct surface ocean productivity in the past.
The Earth Science Colloquium Series, sponsored by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES), provides a lively forum for discussing a wide variety of topics within the Earth sciences and related fields. Colloquia are attended by the full range of scientific and technical staff at LDEO. Colloquium attendance is required of all pre-orals DEES graduate students. The Colloquium Series supports the Lamont Seminar Diversity Initiative.