Keele MSc project abroad

Earth and Planetary Sciences, Department of Physical Sciences

MacEwan University, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Advisor: Dr Alix Cage

foram  Placements are offered at the Department of Physical Sciences at MacEwan University (Edmonton, Canada) in collaboration with Dr Anna PieĊ„kowski (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 logo for Geological Society Accreditation logo for IEMA Accreditation logo for IES Accreditation logo for RGS Accreditation logo for Athena Swan Bronze

*Accreditation is dependent on the degree route and modules taken