Andrew McIntyre

The Open University


Climate and carbon cycle instability during extreme ‘greenhouse’ warmth


Philip Sexton (OU), Pallavi Anand (OU) and Kirsty Edgar (Birmingham)

PhD Summary

The PhD has three main aims: • To investigate and quantify the greenhouse climate sensitivity to orbital forcing by generating a high resolution benthic foraminiferal δ18O record spanning a 4.2 Ma interval from extreme warmth Early Eocene Climate Optimum (EECO) to the cooler mid-Eocene. • To test hypothesis for the size and volatility of carbon reservoirs during extreme warmth by generating δ13C record from same sites as the δ18O record, which will the evaluation of the size and volatility of carbon reservoirs during various background climate states. • The 3 field locations form a transect from the N. Atlantic to Southern Ocean so we can potential evaluate the stability of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) at different orbital frequencies and over different background climate states.

What inspires you

It is hard to remember what first triggered my inspiration in the natural world, but the natural world has always and will continue to inspire me to learn more about the Earth that we live on. Just like many young people the main inspirational figure in the science and the natural world is Sir David Attenborough. His famous voice commentary in numerous documentaries and videos is something that has always enthused me to get involved in science. Another key inspirational figure for me was Professor Iain Stewart who presented the 2007 series ‘The Power of the Planet’ which I think was a major driver into becoming interested in geography, and subsequently geology and climate science. Through my education history, I was lucky to have motivated and enthusiastic teachers and lecturers who encourage me to pursue this interest into further education. At university, I have appreciated the link between geography and geology, which has lead to my main interest in how climate has changed both modern timescales and geological timescales and how understanding climate is crucial to explain some of major events in Earth history.

Previous activity

As an undergraduate I attended the University of Leicester and studied a BSc in Geography and Geology obtaining a first-class degree. Currently, I am studying for my MSc in Geochemistry at the University of St Andrews. The master course includes completing a master project and my project is titled ‘The palaeoenvironmental change through the Triassic-Jurassic extinction horizon and the preservation of the primary isotopic signal in oyster shells from the Bristol Channel, UK.’ The project will produce a written thesis of ~15,000 words and an academic poster summarising the project, the key results and findings.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

During my final year of my undergraduate I became very interested in the field of palaeoclimatology and through my 3rd year dissertation and my masters project I have glimpsed into the world of research. In addition, my masters has provided the broad theory and skills of Geochemistry. With a good broad background, I looked for opportunities to further my understanding of Earth processes and climate over geological timescales, which lead myself to applying for this PhD. Undertaking this PhD will not only improve my general understanding, but will provide the platform for additional research and could lead to the completion of a career goal, to become a researcher in palaeoclimatology. One aspect of my 3rd dissertation and my masters project I really enjoyed was the collaborative nature of research. The idea of a team of people working together to discover and hypothesise new aspects of the Earth system is just fascinating and rewarding. Therefore, this opportunity of undertaking a PhD is going to be very rewarding and will be beneficial for my future ambitions to enter academia and contribute to a very important research fields of climate science, oceanography and geochemistry.

Why did you choose CENTA?

A CENTA studentship interested me as it provides me the financial opportunity to continue to study in a geoscience, which is my real passion and interest. In addition, a CENTA studentship has something unique that is integrates high quality training in environmental science, research methods and core skills, which will assist me in PhD, but also more widely in my future career. Also, as a cohort of PhD students with CENTA studentships, we are encouraged to build connections with fellow PhD students, which really interested me because from my existing research experience, connections and teamwork is crucial and makes research even more rewarding.

Future plans

My future career goal is to a respected researcher in the field of Palaeoclimatology and this PhD is the next step into achieving this goal. The Open University (OU) has a very good reputation with fellow universities and academics for producing high quality to world leading research in the Earth Sciences and to be involved with this is a fantastic opportunity. The OU has some of the best analytical facilities in the country, which allow researchers to produce high quality data, which I will get to benefit from. Lastly, the fellow researchers at the OU are well established in their respected fields, so being amongst these people in this environment will allow me to learn from the leaders of research, which will be incredibly useful throughout my PhD and in the future.