Sophie Alexander

Sophie Alexander

The Open University


Onset of the Antarctic Circumpolar current and the oceanogrpahic isolation of Antarctica

PhD Summary

My project aims to reconstruct Southern and Atlantic Ocean palaeo-circulation utilising deep-sea sediments from the Eocene. Using neodymium isotopes of fish teeth and coatings precipitated on planktonic foraminifera, I’ll test for an earlier opening of Drake Passage and onset of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current prior to existing estimates. In addition to this, it is hoped that this project will aid in the understanding of Earth system dynamics during extreme greenhouse warm periods.

What inspires you

My childhood featured regular trips to the Natural History and Science Museums in London, sparking an early interest in science. I’d change my mind, every week or so, over what type of scientist I wanted to be when I grew up. With professions ranging from microbiologist to astronomer, when I selected my A-levels, I realised that studying geology would allow me to combine my enjoyment of science and being outdoors.

Previous activity

Before starting my PhD, I studied an MSci in geology at the University of Southampton. As part of my 4th year, I undertook an independent research project in palaeoclimatology. My project utilised an isotopic record generated from benthic foraminifera, combined with other sedimentological proxies to draw conclusions about the extent of the Antarctic ice sheet and the circulation within the Southern Ocean during the Mid-Oligocene.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

During my final year at Southampton, I really enjoyed the research process throughout my independent project. The challenges of solving questions and testing hypotheses about the Earth system’s past is a unique role and was so appealing to me. I wanted to continue doing what I had so enjoyed during my 4th year at Southampton, so a PhD seemed the next logical step.

Why did you choose CENTA?

Initially, the project attracted me to apply for a CENTA studentship. During the application process, I became more familiar with the wide range of exciting training opportunities and facilities that partaking in a CENTA studentship allows access to.

Future plans

The training opportunities provided within the CENTA DTP combined with specialised training for my PhD labwork will allow me to develop a skill-set crucial to success as a scientist, geochemist and palaeoclimatologist.