We employ an analytically diverse approach that primarily targets Cenozoic sedimentary records to provide concrete narratives of past climates and environments as well as a better understanding of the recurrence and magnitude of natural hazards. Past and current research endeavors involve diverse themes, including the reconstruction of past changes in climate dynamics, landscape evolution, biogeochemical cycles, natural hazards and basin development. Furthermore, the group addresses impact of these changes on biological evolution as well as biotic and abiotic factors that control postdepositional sediment alteration. Our research approach is motivated by the idea that extracting information from sedimentary archives requires a comprehensive understanding of the spatial and temporal dimensions and drivers (climate, tectonics, humans, etc.) controlling sediment production, transport, burial, and postdepositional alteration. For this, we design research projects using a holistic approach that starts with understanding the catchment dynamics, physics, and chemistry of the investigated lake and ocean basins through the collection of ideal data and samples in the field. Geophysical data is analyzed using computational methods while samples collected at the field sites undergo basic analysis (eg. sedimentological & petrophysical etc.) and, depending on the particular scientific question to be answered, more sophisticated sedimentological, inorganic, organic and isotope geochemical analyses.
Our ability to make accurate predictions about future climate dynamics, and in particular future precipitation, rests on our understanding of natural climate variability under different climate boundary conditions (ice sheet extent/sea-level, orbital and greenhouse-gas forcing). Ice core and marine sediment records have provided us with key insights into Earth’s climate response to external and internal forcings on integrated and extra-regional scales. However, these records typically lack the ability to detect the expression of climate change in the continental context. This information gap can only be overcome by studying continental sediment records which provide the means of delivering quantitative information on precipitation and temperature, thereby helping to develop concrete narratives for future climate and environmental change scenarios. Long and continuous sedimentary records are also ideally suited to provide information on tectonic processes as well as responses of the landscape, biogeochemical fluxes, and ecosystems to the combined intrinsic and extrinsic Earth system forces.
To this end we are closely involved in major multinational and interdisciplinary research projects with a strong paleoclimate focus under the umbrella of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP). Currently, the group co-coordinates three active ICDP drilling programs with drilling sites in Indonesia (Towuti Drilling Project, Lake Towuti, Sulawesi), China (Weihe Basin Drilling Project) and on the Tibetan Plateau (NamCore, Lake Nam Co, China), while also continuing and developing new scientific drilling programs. Past projects with our involvement include the El’gygytgyn (Siberia) and Ohrid (North Macedonia and Albania) drilling projects. In addition, we are involved in smaller scale projects targeting long continental climate but also volcanic hazard records in the Italian Apennine.
2023 - 2027 | Sinergia Research Grant | Swiss National Science Foundation | with H. Vogel as Lead PI | Deep biosphere-geosphere interactions at the top of the world (DIGESTED): An interdisciplinary approach to interpret a Myr climate record from Lake Nam Co (Tibetan Plateau)
2022 – 2028 | Scientific Drilling Grant | International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | The Weihe Basin Drilling Project, China (Phase 1): Mio-Pleistocene Asian hydroclimate variability and dynamics | Lead PI: Zhisheng An (CAS, China), Co-PI’s: Peter Molnar (U. Colorado, USA), Peizhen Chang (Sun YAT-SEN U., China), John Dodson (U. Wollongong, AUS), Carmala Garzione (U. Arizona, USA), Mark Lever (U. Texas, USA), Youbin Sun (CAS, China), Youhong Sun (U. Geosciences, China)
2020 - 2026 | Scientific Drilling Grant | International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | The Nam Co Drilling Project, Tibet (NamCore): A one million year sedimentary record from the third pole | Lead PI: T. Haberzettl (U. Greifswald, Germany), Co-PI’s: J. Wang (CAS, China), L. Zhu (CAS, China), G. Daut (U. Jena, Germany), Volkhard Spiess (U. Bremen, Germany), D. Ariztegui (U. Geneva, Switzerland), N. Barbolini (U. Stockholm, Sweden), L. Clarke (U. Manchester, UK), A. Henderson (U. Newcastle, UK), J. Woerd (U. Strasbourg, France), N. Waldmann (U. Haifa, Israel)
2019 – 2023 | Infrastructure Grant | Swiss National Science Foundation | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | Swiss membership in the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | Lead PI: F. Anselmetti (U. Bern), Co-applicants: O. Müntener (U. Lausanne), A. Foubert (U. Fribourg), D. Ariztegui, R. Kipfer (EAWAG)
2014 – 2017 | Research Grant | Swiss National Science Foundation | with H. Vogel as Lead PI | Climate history of the Indo-Pacific region and subsurface biosphere of Lake Towuti: The Swiss contribution to the ICDP Towuti Drilling Project (research part) | Co-applicants: D. Ariztegui & M. Chiaradia (U. Geneva), F. Anselmetti (U. Bern)
2014 – 2017 | Infrastructure Grant | Swiss National Science Foundation | with H. Vogel as Lead PI | Climate history of the Indo-Pacific region and subsurface biosphere of Lake Towuti: The Swiss contribution to the ICDP Towuti Drilling Project (drilling part) | Co-applicants: D. Ariztegui & M. Chiaradia (U. Geneva), F. Anselmetti (U. Bern)
2015 | Workshop Grant | International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | The Lake Chad deep Drilling Project (CHADRILL)- Unraveling 10 million years of environmental and climate changes in Africa: Implications for human migration and deep life | Co-PI’s: F. Sylvestre (CEREGE, France), M. Schuster (U. Strasbourg, France), M. Abdheramane (U. N’Djamena, Chad), N. Waldmann (U. Haifa, Israel), R. Flecker (U. Southhampton, UK), D. Ariztegui (U. Geneva, Switzerland)
2013 – 2019 | Scientific Drilling Grant | International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | The Towuti Drilling Project (TDP): Paleoenvironments, Biological Evolution, and Geomicrobiology of a tropical Pacific lake | Lead PI: J.M. Russell (U. Brown, USA), Co-PI’s: S. Bijaksana (ITB, Indonesia), T. Rintelen (Museum f. Naturk. Berlin, Germany), M. Melles (U. Köln, Germany), G.D. Hafner (U. Windsor, Canada), J. Stevenson (ANU, Australia), I. Watkinson (Royal Holloway, UK), R. Marwoto (LIPI, Indonesia), D. Fowle (U. Kansas, USA), S. Crowe (UBC, Canada), J. King (U. Rhode Island, USA), N. Wattrus (LLO, USA)
2011 | Workshop Grant | International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) | with H. Vogel as Co-PI | Paleoenvironments, Biological Evolution, and Geomicrobiology of a tropical Pacific lake: The Lake Towuti Drilling Project | Co-PI’s: J.M. Russell (U. Brown, USA), S. Bijaksana (ITB, Indonesia), S.Y. Cahyarini (LIPI, Indonesia), D. Fowle (U. Kansas, USA), G.D. Hafner (U. Windsor, Canada), Y. Huang (U. Brown, USA), S. Idriyanti (LIPI, Indonesia), J. King (U. Rhode Island, USA), D. Oppo (WHOI, USA), N. Wattrus (LLO, USA)
The dense population of the maritime continent combined with its location on the Pacific ring of fire, and equatorial setting in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP), makes this region particularly exposed to a multitude of natural hazards. Shedding light on the recurrence rates, magnitudes, and environmental consequences of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding and droughts affecting the vulnerable societies in this region is therefore of fundamental importance. This research is also timely considering the ongoing increase of population pressure and associated land-use changes in the region. For this, we explore and investigate the sedimentary records of large lakes in Indonesia. Field sites are currently located on Sulawesi, which hosts the ancient (>1 Myr old) Malili lakes and similarly aged Lake Poso. Owing to their age, morphology and continuous sedimentary records these sites are ideally suited to generate long-term recurrence records for earthquakes and major volcanic eruptions, information for which only short instrumental and historic records exist and that is otherwise not easily accessible from outcrops. To extract information from these sedimentary archives we are using state-of-the-art geophysical and limnological surveying methods combined with a tailored sedimentary multiproxy approach.
2020 - 2024 Research Grant | Swiss National Science Foundation | with H. Vogel as single PI | The Lake Poso record: Paleoseismology, Paleoclimate, and Paleoenvironment on Sulawesi (Indonesia)
An extensive body of sedimentological research has focused on the reconstruction of paleoclimatic/environmental conditions, linking changes in chemistry and physics in aquatic settings to proxies that reflect responses of climate and environmental conditions in the past. Most of the forcing-response-proxy relationships exploited rely on the assumption that the proxy signal remains unaltered after deposition and burial. While this assumption may be applicable when studying sedimentary archives that only extend back a few centuries or millennia, there is a growing body of research implying that biotic and abiotic factors have a detectable influence on post-depositional alteration of sedimentary archives and proxies on longer/geological time-scales. When using proxies for the reconstruction of the processes listed in themes above it is thus vital to know how, and if, the initial signal has been altered by postdepositional processes. In addition, there is growing evidence that environmental changes contribute significantly to the composition of microbial communities and their preferred metabolic pathways at depth. The interrelationship of climatically/environmentally induced changes and microbial community structure in the same sedimentary archives has thus become an exciting interdisciplinary field of research in recent years. For this, we explore the evolution of (isotope-)geochemical signatures in minerals to determine the effect of biotic and chemical alteration after burial which will help to develop novel proxies to trace microbial metabolism but also diagenesis and tectonically induced fluid emanation.
Long-lived, ancient lakes that existed over time spans of several thousand to millions of years, with high rates of faunal and floral endemism, are ideal natural laboratories to study the influence of geological/environmental drivers on biological evolution and diversification. In past (Lake Ohrid, N Macedonia & Albania) and ongoing research projects on lakes Towuti and Poso (both Indonesia) and Lake Victoria (E Africa) we are collaborating closely with evolutionary biologists to better understand the impact of climatically and tectonically driven lake development on the diversification and adaptation of floral and faunal elements living within the lake. These research avenues are commonly based on integrating molecular/DNA data from modern species that provide information on ancestral relationships and (the timing of) splits of sister groups with information from sedimentary archives on the age and origin of the lake and the stratigraphic context of major disruptions that altered the style and distribution of important habitats. The fast development, emergence, and availability of next generation sequencing techniques will boost these integrated approaches in the future as smaller and smaller DNA fragments can be analyzed. In a suitable setting, which permits preservation of fragile cell tissues over geological time-scales (i.e. permanently stratified and anoxic lakes), integration of geological/environmental information from lacustrine sediment archives (see also themes above) with changes in the genome of species flocks in the same stratigraphic context will allow, as yet unavailable, fundamental discoveries with respect to evolutionary processes.