Keele MSc project abroad
Earth and Planetary Sciences, Department of Physical Sciences
MacEwan University, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Advisor: Dr Alix Cage
Placements are offered at the Department of Physical Sciences at MacEwan University (Edmonton, Canada) in collaboration with Dr Anna Pieńkowski (and the Geological Survey of Canada).
Foraminifera from the Arctic Northwest Passage: improving palaeoclimatology in a warming world
The Northwest Passage (NWP) is the historical route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and a key region for Atlantic-Arctic heat and water exchange throughout the Quaternary. Foraminifera (marine protists) play an important role in understanding both past and present marine environments as they are highly sensitive to changes in environmental conditions and their carbonate shells are easily preserved in the fossil record, allowing both micropalaeontological and geochemical studies to be implemented.
Unfortunately, few modern foraminiferal studies have been carried out in the NWP and we need an assessment of the response of modern foraminiferal species dynamics and geochemistry to environmental processes before we can confidently use fossil foraminifera to create robust palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Benthic foraminifera can also be used as a biomonitor of ecosystem health and it is important to establish a biomonitoring baseline for the 21st Century as soon as possible before melting sea-ice results in increased shipping through newly-opened NWP channels.
This marine ecology project seeks to produce the first transect of foraminiferal distribution (benthic and planktonic) and associated environmental data for ecological modelling for the NWP. Students will apply techniques in micropalaeontology, sedimentology, geochemistry (including novel biomarkers) on marine sediment samples obtained from across the Northwest Passage and gain experience in taxonomical skills, and ecological modelling and statistics - skills identified by NERC as one of the 15 'Most wanted' skills in the Environmental sector
*Accreditation is dependent on the degree route and modules taken