I grew up on Long Island, New York close to the beaches of the south shore. As a child, I was fascinated by rocks and minerals, and often took weekly trips to the local rock shop in town. After attending an Astronomy summer program in upstate New York during high school, I started college at UMass Amherst as an Astronomy major. I eventually added Geology as a second degree program, graduating in 2007 with B.S. degrees in Astronomy and Geology, and a minor in Physics.
During my junior year in college, I worked on an Astronomy research project with Dr. Daniel Macintosh that involved categorizing images of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to better understand the environments of major galaxy mergers. For my senior thesis project in Geology, I worked with Dr. Mark Leckie measuring stable isotopes on foraminifera and neodymium isotopes on fossil fish debris from a Florida Straits sediment core. This project introduced me to foraminifera and paleoceanography, and I've been hooked ever since! I have a true passion and love for foraminifera, and they continue to fascinate me everyday.
Next, I completed by M.S. in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 2010 from Stony Brook University. I worked with Dr. David Black on a foraminiferal assemblage project using Cariaco Basin sediment. I developed an ultra high-resolution record of tropical Atlantic climate variability across Dansgaard-Oeschger Event 12.
In 2015 I received my PhD in Oceanography from Texas A&M University. I worked with my advisor, Dr. Matthew Schmidt, on a variety of projects involving paleotemperature proxies and climate reconstructions during the last glacial and deglacial periods. My first semester, I went on a month long research cruise to the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. The sediment cores I helped recover on the cruise became the basis for two chapters of my dissertation. I also sailed on cruises to the Central Tropical Pacific and the North Atlantic.
In August of 2015 I began a post-doctoral research position with Dr, David Lund at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point, where I am currently. My main research project involves understanding the mechanisms of atmospheric carbon dioxide rise during the last deglaciation through analyses of carbon isotopes in planktonic and benthic foraminifera. You can read more about how I use foraminifera for research below!
About My Research
I am a paleoceanographer, which means I am interested in what our oceans and climate were doing in the past. Specifically, I am interested in reconstructing climate and ocean conditions during past periods of abrupt climate change. I regularly go out to sea to collect sediment cores to analyze for these reconstructions. I also collect seawater to understand modern oceanographic processes.
The sediment contains microscopic fossil remains of organisms that used to be alive in the oceans. These organisms, known as foraminifera, grow hard shells that accumulate on the sea floor and eventually get buried by newer shells. Over hundreds and thousands of years, the foraminifera shells continue to pile up in chronologic order. Once I get my samples back to the lab, I carefully wash them to get rid of any clay that may have also accumulated with the foraminifera. Then, using a microscope and a paintbrush, I carefully select the foraminifera that I am interested in. Next, I do a lot of chemistry on the shells to unlock their secrets!
When the foraminifera are alive and growing their hard shells, they lock information in the shells about the seawater they are living in. For example, they incorporate more magnesium into their shells when seawater is warmer. Foraminifera also incorporate different amounts of elemental isotopes into their shells. These isotopes of elements like carbon and oxygen, also contain a wealth of information about the seawater. Carbon isotopes can tell you anything from the age of the shell (the isotope 14-carbon is radioactive!) to what circulation and productivity were like the shell formed (using the isotopes 13-carbon and 12-carbon). Oxygen isotopes give you information about the temperature and salinity of the water the foraminifera was living in. These are just some examples of the secrets that foraminifera lock into their shells.