BECS (Biomarkers for Environmental and Climate Science) research group started up in February 2013. I am currently building our lab group and have lots of exciting projects in the works. If you are interested in becoming a Ph.D. student, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Lab technician or undergrad worker at BECS, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Dr. Jaime L. Toney
Senior Lecturer in Organic Geochemistry

JaimeToneyOriginally from a coastal town in Connecticut, US, I love being outdoors & near the water, whether it is a lake, stream or the ocean!! I did my undergraduate work in geology and biology at Union College in upstate NY studying pollen records from lakes. I continued with this work in the desert southwest at Northern Arizona University, before becoming interested in biomarkers during my Ph.D. in the Geosciences Department at Brown University, Rhode Island. My research focuses on using the molecular fossils that are left behind by microorganisms to unravel past climate change. I am equally interested in developing new proxies and applying existing proxies to paleoclimate problems.

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Dr Julien Plancq
Research Associate for the ALKENoNE project

11940695_10153895836251992_7651841705286269192_nOriginally from a coastal village in the “Côte d’Azur” (south-east of France), I started my scientific career by studying marine calcareous nannofossils (coccolithophores) in order to infer paleonvironmental changes during the early Jurassic. I obtained my Master degree in Paleontology, Sedimentology and Paleoenvironments at the University of Lyon (France) in 2009. Afterwards, I developed a PhD in Paleoceanography (2009-2013) within the Earth Science Department of the University of Lyon, during which I became interested in biomarkers.  A major goal of my PhD work was to identify the coccolithophore species that were responsible for alkenone production during the Cenozoic, in order to better constrain the use of these specific biomarkers as paleoenvironmental proxies in marine sediments predating the Quaternary. I have also combined phytoplanktonic lipid biomarkers (alkenones, long-chain diols) with nannofossil assemblage data in order to infer paleoenvironmental changes during the Cenozoic. I have thus a double expertise in organic geochemistry (analysis of lipid biomarkers, especially alkenones) and in micropaleontology (calcareous nannofossils). I use this multi-proxy/multi-disciplinary approach to study the relationship between coccolithophores and their environment, notably through paleoceanographic reconstructions. In addition, I intend to better constrain the use of alkenones as palaeoenvironmental proxies. After two Teaching and Research contracts in France and a short Postdoctoral position at the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands), I joined BECS in September 2015 as Research Associate for the ALKENoNE project. The project aims at developing a temperature calibration for paleoclimate reconstructions, by studying alkenone composition and alkenone producers in Canadian lakes. I will thus combine the use of surface sediment samples with environmental genomics and algal culturing.

Dr. Antonio García-Alix
Marie Curie Intra European Fellow

antonioI was born in a coastal village in Almería (Southeastern Spain). I started working with temporal series, continental sedimentary records and paleoenvironmental changes when I was undergraduate, and I obtained my BSc degree in Geology at the University of Granada in 2000. Afterwards, and at the same University of Granada, I developed my PhD in Earth Sciences (2001-2006), which was mainly focused on sedimentology, paleoecology, stratigraphy, and vertebrate paleontology. The reconstruction of paleoenvironments has been the main target of my research career, combining different disciplines such as sedimentology, paleontology, stratigraphy, geochemistry, climate change, archaeology and paleolimnology. I joined BECS in July 2014 to develop the project “Natural responses to past North Atlantic Oscillations: Southern Iberian Peninsula vs. United Kingdom, Analogues for future environmental changes (NAOSIPUK)” funded by a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship.

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Nick Thomas
UK Space Agency-funded PhD (co-supervised with Vernon Phoenix)

nickI began my academic career in 2005, with my undergraduate degree: BSc (hons) Human Biology at Sheffield Hallam University. Seeking to reinforce my theoretical and practical abilities, I returned to SHU in 2011 to complete an MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology. Now at the University of Glasgow studying for a PhD in Earth Sciences, I am undertaking a multidisciplinary piece of research, investigating the preservation of biomarkers of extinct or extant life in a unique terrestrial Mars analogue environment – the Chilean Altiplano. Bringing together cellular biology and next-generation DNA sequencing with organic geochemistry, I aim to develop an understanding on the likelihood of clear quality evidence being obtained regarding past or present existence of life on Mars by robotic missions such as NASA’s Curiosity rover and the planned 2018 NASA/ESA ExoMars Rover(s).

Jill McColl
NERC-funded Ph.D. Student

JillMcCollStarting my science career in 2007, I embarked on a 4-year Marine Science (with Arctic studies) degree at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). During my degree, my main focus was studying the properties of sediment cores from the Arctic Ocean to infer changes on how productivity and ocean circulation have changed over the past 10,000 years! My interest in the Arctic Ocean was further enhanced during two trips there, including: a semester studying “Arctic climate change” and “pollution in the Arctic” at The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) in 2009. UNIS is the world’s northernmost institution for higher education and research, located in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen at 78°N. I also went back to the Arctic in 2010 on a 3-week scientific cruise on board the RRS James Clark Ross.

After spending 4 years studying the Arctic Ocean, I have changed my direction and I am now working on lakes in Japan. My research focuses on using biomarkers (molecular fossils) preserved in lakes to infer changes on how temperature and precipitation has changed over the past 1000 years in Japan. I am also interested in the organisms that produce these biomarkers and proxy development.

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Mike Marcell Zwick
ERC-funded Ph.D. student for the ALKENoNE project
mike-marcell-zwickBorn in northern Germany, I studied Geosciences and specialized in palaeoclimate reconstructions. At this juncture I am particularly interested in the development and application of micropalaeontological, geochemical and geophysical methods to infer parameters relevant to the understanding of past climate systems and to use that knowledge in modelling.
In my bachelor thesis I conducted morphological and statistical analyses of planktic foraminifera tests from the Holocene (NE of Brazil) and created a model that predicts the size normalized weight of Orbulina universa based on shell thickness and porosity. I used this model to explain several intraspecific characteristics and to determine if phenotypological variances can be used to distinguish different genotypes in down core studies.
For my master thesis I participated in a 9-week expedition (PS87 – “Alpha Ridge-Lomonosov Ridge Expedition”) to the Central Arctic Ocean, a region governed by extreme seasonality and a prominent indicator/amplifier of climate changes. We collected material that I later used to reconstruct ice concentrations and water mass characteristics (salinity, productivity and temperature) above the western Lomonosov Ridge for the last 130 ka. For this intent I analysed Ostracod thanatocoenoses, applied biostatistical methods and performed geochemical measurements (δ18O/δ13C) on selected species/morphotypes of Ostracods and benthic/ planktic foraminifers.
During my studies of organic geochemistry, I became fascinated by the application of biomarker derived proxies for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. This is why I joined BECS in October 2016 as postgraduate research student for the ALKENoNE project. Within this project I am especially interested in the use of alkenones of haptophyte algae for quantitative lake temperature reconstructions in the Canadian Prairie. Extending the terrestrial temperature record far beyond the measured record is vital for the understanding of drought related processes and future vulnerability assessments.

Philippe Nauny
Co-supervised PhD student with Vern Phoenix

naunyInitially trained as a chemist technician, I obtained a joint Master’s degree in chemistry and biology in 2008 from the Université Louis Pasteur (Strasbourg, France), working on the directed evolution of ribozymes. After working as a research assistant for some years in France and Belgium, I joined the University of Glasgow during Summer 2014. My project aims to compare different Martian analogues found in the Chilean Andes under the supervision of Dr. Vernon Phoenix and Dr. Jaime L. Toney. The research will mainly focus on (1) the detection and characterisation of the organic biomarkers found in the soil of the different analogues and (2) the identification and the potential characterisation of the different microorganisms growing there.

Roman Witt
Visiting PhD Student, Spring 2014
German federal ministry for education and research funded and associated member at the International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles

romanTopic: Influence of the Westerlies in arid Central Asia during the Holocene recorded in sediments from lakes Son Kol and Chatyr Kol, Kyrgyzstan

After studying Biogeosciences at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany with reaching Bachelor and Master of Science degrees, I stayed at Jena`s excellent scientific infrastructure to do my PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. Here I focus on the paleoclimate reconstruction in Central Asia using lacustrine sediments. Our research area is located in Kyrgyzstan, where we have cored two lakes, Lake Son Kol and Chatyr Kol. These Sediments have stored every change in past environmental and climatic conditions within their fine laminated layers. We are focusing on plant and algae derived Hydrocarbons, so called alkanes and alkenones. Their concentration, distribution and compound-specific hydrogen isotopic composition are related to growing conditions of the living organisms. For example temperature and relative humidity conditions can influence these proxies. To reconstruct the climate conditions within the Holocene we measure these biomarkers using Gas-Chromatographs (GC) coupled with Flame Ionization Detectors (FID), Mass Spectrometers (MS) or Isotope Ratio MS systems.

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Bianca Cavazzin
NERC – IAPETUS-funded PhD student

biancaI am a NERC-IAPETUS funded PhD research candidate based at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, working with Dr. Jaime Toney. As a paleo-environmental geographer, I am interested in continental-scale environmental responses to rapid climate variability through the synthesis of North America high-resolution proxy data for the past 2000 years. Specifically, I have a keen interest in the late Holocene paleoenvironmental change in response to climatic variability and human impact with foci on the Canadian Prairie eco-region, using biomarker proxy including of GDGT and long chains diols within lacustrine sedimentary deposits.
Prior to my current position, I completed my MSc in Environmental Monitoring Modelling and Reconstruction at the University of Manchester, after receiving my BSc in Geography at the University of Brighton.

Elsa Perruchini
Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Funded PhD Student

ellaOf French origin, I started in September 2015 a Ph.D. on Research in Archaeology at Glasgow University under the co-supervision of Dr. Claudia Glatz (Lecturer in Archaeology) and Dr. Jaime Toney. I come from an interdisciplinary background, having completed two Master’s degrees in Archaeology and Anthropology of Ancient Civilizations (University Sorbonne Paris 1 and University Diderot Paris 7) and Archaeometry – Chemistry and Physics applied to Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (University Bordeaux 3).

Reflecting my background, my PhD’s project on “Consuming Identities in the ‘Cradle of Civilizations’ -Food consumption and Emergence of Social complexity in Greater Mesopotamia” will give me the opportunity to develop an integrated framework using a combination of archaeological, iconographic and ancient textual sources in conjunction with geochemistry. Organic residue analysis will be used to investigate the presence (and identify) residues of perishable substances embedded within sherds of potteries and lithic tools with the use of GC-FID, GC-MS and isotopic analysis.

The construction of society and identity in Ancient Civilizations is a theme of research which always fascinated me and I hope that this cross-disciplinary project will contribute to our understanding on food-related practices and the emergence of complex social behaviour at a time when the world’s first urban societies developed in the Near East.

Rory Porteous (Astrobiology)
Co-supervised PhD student with Vern Phoenix

Allen Ude Akwu-Ude (Biofuels)
Co-supervised PhD student with Ian Watson, Engineering

MSc Student Projects
Bing Feng (2014) Diols and n-alkanes as biomarkers from a inland freshwater lake indicate the paleoclimate: Bardowie Lock of Scotland.

Charlotte Slaymark (2014) Plant leaf wax biomarkers and lake circulation interactions: implications for palaeoclimate records in Scotland.

Paraskevi Tsintza (2014) Identifying hydrocarbons from oil shales in stream sediments along the South Queensferry shore.

Nuffield Research Placements

  • Orlaith McAdam (Summer 2015) – From St. Ambrose High
  • Alistair McDermid (Summer 2014) – from Kirkintilloch High School

Undergraduate Student Projects

Victoria Slaymark (2015-2016) Calibration of a new temperature proxy in southern Spain based on biomarkers from lake sediments

Raymond Wilson (2015-2016) Developing proxies of past poop

Natasha Caven (2015-2016) Holocene palaeoclimate change determined from lake sediment

Stuart Tennent (2015-2016) Determining solubility of potentially toxic organic pollutants in the environment

Natasha Kumar (2015-2016) Late Holocene palaeoenvironmental reconstruction on the easter Red Sea coast (Saudi Arabia)

Stuart Allardice (2014-2015) Visualizing the Destruction of Algal Cells for Potential Biofuels Lipids

Sanni Pulkki (2014-2015) Detecting Potential Biofuel Lipids from Microalgal Cultures with State-of-the-Art Techniques

Rosie Bradshaw (2014-2015) Characterizing the Hydrocarbon Content of the petroliferous Mulgrave Shale Member, Cleveland Basin using new techniques, GCxGC

Ruairidh Salmon (2014-2015) Hydrocarbon Characterization of North Sea oil field drilling samples

Katrina Kerr (2014-2015) The Cenomanian-Turonian Oceanic Anoxic Event

Jonathan McGourlay (2014-2015) Paleoenvironmental reconstruction during the last 1,500 year in Southern Iberia, Spain

Allan Cochrane (Summer 2014) Palaeohumidity reconstruction during the late Holocene in Southern Iberia

Amanda Dolan (2013-2014) Characterising lipids from algae that produce biomarkers used to reconstruct palaeotemperature

Clare Noble (2013-2014) Applying a marine palaeotemperature proxy to lake sediments

Joe Armstrong (2013-2014) Detecting methane in peatlands using microbial biomarkers

Pauline Rovira (2013-2014) Charateristics of the hydrocarbons within the petroliferous Mulgrave Shale Member, Cleveland Basin

Clare Brady (Summer 2013) Assaying for environmental biomarkers from Late Pleistocene age Scottish Loch

Amanda Dolan (Summer 2013) Detecting marine dinoflagellates in geologic deposits in the absence of traditional fossils

Craig Barr (2012-2013) Discovery of organic molecular fossils in the Southern Ocean during the Eocene (55 Ma) greenhouse

Julia Rodden (2012-2013) The role of a Japanese peatland in the carbon cycle

Daniella Peel (2011-2012) Transport and deposition of bacterial hopane biomarkers in Siberian fluvial and lacustrine settings

William Vorley (2011-2012) Lion’s Mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) and Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) biomarker assay

Charlotte McLean (2012) Geologic Society of London Bursary ‘The role of peatland expansion and methane cycling on the East Antarctic continent in the early Eocene’

Casey Bryce (2011)(Now: Postgraduate student Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh) Algal culturing & water column sampling Loch Sunart

Elizabeth Denis (Now: PhD student Biogeochemistry, Penn State) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as a proxy for biomass burning