Nicola Kirby

University of Birmingham


Climate or tectonics as the dominant driver of global climate and ocean circulation patterns in ancient high-CO2 worlds?


Dr Kirsty Edgar (University of Birmingham) and Dr Tom Dunkley-Jones (University of Birmingham)

PhD Summary

This project will use samples from the recent IODP Expedition 369 in the Indian Ocean to generate new high-resolution palaeoclimate records. I will use taxonomy and geochemistry of foraminifera from these deep-sea sediment cores to investigate climate, oceanography and carbon cycling in this area. By looking at these parameters over key greenhouse intervals, e.g. the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum around 50 Ma, I hope to determine what drove subsequent cooling from these states. This will enhance our understanding of how climate factors interact in high-CO2 worlds, and contribute to predicting future climate change.

What inspires you

I realised in school that by studying the Earth I could study biology, chemistry, physics – and pretty much every other subject – all while getting outdoors!

Previous activity

My undergraduate degree was an integrated masters (MSci) in Geology at the University of Southampton. In my fourth year, I chose to do an independent research project in palaeoclimatology. This involved generating neodymium isotope records from fish teeth, with the aim of resolving ocean circulation patterns over key glacial stages in the Plio-Pleistocene. This led to a job as a research assistant in the Palaeoclimate Prep Lab at the University of Southampton, where I worked for a year on samples relating to various ongoing projects, while also giving me the opportunity to extend my masters research project by generating further isotope data.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I worked as a lab assistant because I enjoyed the processes behind generating palaeoclimatological data during my undergraduate degree. As a member of staff, I then had the opportunity to take part in the side of research that you don’t always see as an undergraduate student, such as going to conferences, listening to talks from fellow researchers and preparing manuscripts. Starting a PhD was the best way to extend my interest in lab work while getting more involved in advancing science.

Why did you choose CENTA?

CENTA offered me the opportunity to study a fascinating project under high level researchers, while also providing additional training and experience outside of my project.

Future plans

The laboratory and science communication skills that I will gain in my studies will benefit me greatly as a scientist, whether I continue to work in academia or go on to work as a geoscientist elsewhere.