Kate Ashley

University of Birmingham


Compound-specific isotope analysis for palaeoclimate reconstruction


James Bendle

Pallavi Anand

PhD Summary

My research is in palaeoceanography and organic geochemistry, focusing on compound-specific isotope analyses of lipid biomarkers. In particular, I am measuring ratios and carbon isotopes of alkenone biomarkers (produced by haptophyte algae) to reconstruct sea-surface temperatures and pCO2, with a focus on the mid to late Miocene (~16-5 million years ago). This also involves parallel 13C measurements of planktic forams for pCO2 estimation. I am currently applying this to samples from the Arabian Sea (IODP 355), East Equatorial Pacific (IODP 320/321) and southern Indian Ocean (ODP 183 and 189). I am also working to constrain variability in glacial meltwater input and productivity from offshore Adélie Land, East Antarctica, using compound-specific carbon and hydrogen isotope analysis of algal biomarkers (fatty acids and sterols), from both the Holocene (11,400 years; IODP 318) and from recent sediments (last 500 years; Core DTGC2011).

Previous activity

I studied MSci Geology and Geography at the University of Birmingham. During my 3rd year I undertook a project looking at the growth rate of some unusual fast-growing stalagmites from a cave in Derbyshire, and for my 4th year research project I focussed on Holocene palaeoceanography. The latter involved analysing carbon isotope ratios of fatty acid biomarkers from samples drilled off the East Antarctic coast from IODP 318, and I continue to work on these samples for my PhD.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

During my degree I became greatly fascinated by the climate system and how it has changed over time, in particularly the many ways of reconstructing it, the challenges presented and how climate proxies have improved over time. The idea of doing a PhD appealed to me, not only after enjoying two research projects and research assistant work during my MSci degree, but also realising that such research can play an important role in understanding such huge and challenging issues as future climate change.

Why did you choose CENTA?

A CENTA studentship is great because it means being part of a diverse group of natural environment PhD students and the training provides opportunities to learn a wide range of skills relevant to PhD research.