Peter Siver, the Charles and Sarah P. Becker '27 Professor of Botany and Director of the Program in Environmental Studies at Connecticut College, has been awarded $379,756 by the National Science Foundation for climate-change research.
Siver will lead a team of researchers, including Connecticut College students, in a three-year project to analyze fossils in the sediments of ancient lakes in the Northwest Territories of Canada and use them to reconstruct historical climate conditions. Siver, who specializes in limnology, or the study of lakes, is a pre-eminent expert on microscopic organisms that inhabit freshwater lakes in North America.
The samples of Arctic sediments were collected by a private company that was assessing the area's potential for diamond mining. Siver acquired drilled cores from the company and was delighted to find they date back about 60 million years.
"The project quickly expanded once we realized the scope of what we had," Siver said. "With these older samples, we open a window into the past that we have not explored before."
Siver will use the samples - which are already on campus and ready for analysis - to hypothesize how future global warming could affect the Arctic. The samples are particularly useful because they contain sediment from the "Cenozoic hot house" period, when much of the Arctic had a subtropical climate.
"We now know that this area once supported life forms similar to what one would see in a tropical rain forest today," Siver said. "To be able to categorize that is indeed a unique opportunity."
The grant will run through January 2015 and is 100 percent federally funded.
About the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science." With an annual budget of $6.9 billion, the NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities.