Doctoral Dissertation Research: An evaluation of sedimentary lipid hydrogen isotopes as an Arctic precipitation proxy

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview Research proposed here will evaluate the modern relationship between sedimentary lipid hydrogen isotopes and source-water hydrogen isotopes along the western coast of Greenland, providing insight into the geospatial trends of this proxy along an extensive latitudinal and climatic gradient. This study will characterize the distributions and hydrogen isotopic values of modern lipids in lake sediments and modern plants from associated watersheds in western Greenland via GC-MS and GC-IRMS. This work will address some of the uncertainties in using measurements of sedimentary lipid hydrogen isotopes to infer the isotopic composition of paleoprecipitation and paleo lake-water by calibrating the proxy in modern lacustrine sediments and will advance the ability of paleolimnologists to reconstruct past hydroclimate in the Arctic where there is a clear need for more and better reconstructions of past hydroclimatic change but relatively few proxies that can currently be applied with confidence. Intellectual Merit Verification of a modern correlation in Greenland between the hydrogen isotope composition of lipids and the hydrogen isotope composition of local source water (precipitation or lake water) will greatly contribute to the widespread application of this proxy in paleoclimate analyses, and ultimately a more comprehensive understanding of regional hydroclimatic responses to warming in the Arctic. This work will capitalize on a unique sample set that is already in-hand to generate a large dataset on modern plant lipids in Greenland. Findings of this study will improve the primary dissertation research of co-PI/Ph.D. student Jamie McFarlin by adding to informed interpretations of two aspects of hydroclimate (paleoprecipitation and effective moisture) from proxy data in paleoclimate records she is developing for northwest and southern Greenland. These records extend throughout the two most recent protracted periods of warmer-than-present conditions in the Arctic (the Last Interglacial and the early Holocene). Broader Impacts This study will extend the impact of research undertaken by three early-career women: PI- Yarrow Axford, co-PI Magdalena Osburn, and co-PI/Ph.D. student Jamie McFarlin and will engage undergraduate and high school students in climate research. Findings of the dissertation work of co-PI/Ph.D. student Jamie McFarlin, who is undertaking formal training in science writing and communication through the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, will be incorporated in educational material designed for a public audience on the science of climate. Co-PI/Ph.D. student Jamie McFarlin will pursue publication of feature stories on Greenland research in Northwestern media and beyond, and will work with PI Yarrow Axford in developing curricular materials on climate science for workshops for K-12 STEM teachers from Chicago and Evanston public schools.
Effective start/end date9/1/162/28/18


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-1634118)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.