Professor wins NSF grant to continue climate change research on ancient Arctic lake
Peter Siver, the Charles and Sarah P. Becker ’27 Professor of Botany and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Connecticut College, has been awarded $226,763 by the National Science Foundation to continue groundbreaking research on the potential impact of rising greenhouse gases and climate change on the Arctic.
Siver, who specializes in limnology, or the study of lakes, is one of the world’s foremost experts on the microscopic algae that inhabit freshwater lakes in North America. He is studying the remains of these tiny organisms found in an ancient Arctic lake to reconstruct the conditions and evolution of the lake’s ecosystem.
The lake, which was discovered in the 1990s by a mining company searching for diamonds, formed 48 million years ago in the middle Eocene “hothouse” period. By analyzing the microfossil remains preserved in the sediment, Siver can draw conclusions about the chemical conditions of the lake, its physical attributes and its ecosystems over time.
“Global warming is proceeding at an unprecedented rate and will ultimately result in large-scale reorganizations of ecosystems worldwide,” Siver said. “This study will provide a foundation for understanding how freshwater Arctic lakes are likely to respond.”
The research builds on more than a decade of work by Siver and Alexander Wolfe, a professor of paleobiology at the University of Alberta, as well as Siver’s research associate, Anne Lizarralde. Since 2005, they’ve secured two other NSF grants totaling more than $675,000 and published more than 30 journal articles with research findings related to the lake samples. The surprising results are featured in the latest issue of Connecticut College Magazine.
The grant, which is 100 percent federally funded, will support the project for three years and provide rigorous summer research experiences for at least six Connecticut College students.
About the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.