Research topics

Petermann Glacier, Greenland. Bottom right corner: dark, geometric bedrock. Upper and left of frame is the icy blue wall of ice

Ice extent

For my undergraduate and Masters work, I used cosmogenic exposure dating to map out where the edge of Arctic glaciers used to be. I sampled boulders left behind when the ice melted back, almost like a series of breadcrumbs (a la Hansel and Gretel). I then compared when the melting occurred to what was happening with the climate, to learn more about how the ice reacted to changes in temperature, precipitation, and ocean temperature.

Brightly lit wide image underground at Cave of the Mounds with a small family for scale

Midcontinent climate

For my PhD, I am measuring changes in the chemistry of Wisconsin stalagmites over the last few ice ages. These stalagmites contain layers of rock that look a little like tree rings. My goal is to learn about how the seasons and precipitation have changed through time here in our own backyard as we go from an ice age to a warm period. Check out the Cave of the Mounds, this is where we are working!

Satellite (Google earth) image of Mexico

Sea level

Another part of my PhD work will use stalagmites to mark where sea level was in the past. Scientists are interested in what Earth was like before the last ice age, the last time it was warmer and sea levels were higher than they are today. Sea level was thought to be 6-9 meters higher than present: a little less than 3 Shaquille O'Neals stacked up to about 4 stacked Shaqs (say that 3 times fast). This project hopes to narrow down that range of possibilities by seeing when coastal caves in southern Mexico were flooded by the rising seas of the past.