The Secrets That 180,000 Years of Arctic Sediment Can Reveal
Terms such as “ice sheet instability” and “marine carbon and nutrient cycling” may not mean much to the average person walking around today. However, the information that is held within those scientific terms is important for all of us.
Allyson Tessin, Ph.D., assistant professor in Kent State University’s Department of Earth Sciences, has received a $248,140 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund her research on “The Role of Ice Sheet Instability in Marine Carbon and Nutrient Cycling in the Eurasian Arctic.” The Arctic region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with melting ice sheets having far-reaching consequences. The study seeks to shed light on the complex interactions between ice sheets, oceanic ecosystems and global climate patterns.
Tessin and her team are using sediment cores collected from the Arctic Ocean to study how past climate events have impacted ocean chemistry and ecosystems. The cores, collected in 2015, have recorded an astounding 180,000 years of ocean conditions. To obtain the core samples, Tessin spent time at sea on the Norwegian icebreaker the Kronprins Haakon in the Barents Sea.
The Barents Sea is noted as the fastest-warming area in the Arctic Ocean and is currently transitioning into an “Atlantified” state due to a warming hotspot in the Arctic. Certain predictions indicate that as more of the Barents Sea becomes ice-free, the evaporation could lead to increased snowfall and intensified winter conditions in continental Europe.
“We hope that this will provide information for future warming in the Arctic,” Tessin said. “By studying the chemical composition of marine sediments, we can reconstruct past carbon and nutrient cycling. Our main goals are to produce records of nutrient availability changes and changes in the sources of those nutrients.”
The information that can be gleaned by studying the makeup of these marine sediments could potentially show how nutrient availability has changed over time and how the sources of these nutrients have evolved. This could shed light on environmental changes and impacts.
While Tessin was the lead author on the proposal and is the lead investigator for this project, she is working with her Ph.D. student Rachael Gray, along with colleague Ellen Martin, Ph.D., a professor from the University of Florida, and her student Paloma Olarte. The funding will support all four researchers as they produce geochemical records for the study. Gray, Tessin’s student, will have the opportunity to spend time in Florida learning new techniques and producing data.
Once the study closes, which is expected sometime after 2026, the team will present its findings at conferences and in scientific journals.
Article images courtesy of Allyson Tessin.