Palynology & Paleoenvironmental Dynamics
Our research group in the Institute of Earth Sciences is focused on analyzing the natural dynamics of Earth’s environments and ecosystems using the geological record. Our approach is rooted in the concept that understanding how the Earth system has worked in the past will allow to better predict its future. As such, our research addresses one of modern society’s most pressing questions: How will the Earth’s environments and biota respond to human-induced global change in the future?
In light of the rate and magnitude of human impact on the Earth system, our research targets periods of the Earth’s history with similar climatic conditions as they prevail today or as they are expected for the near future. Past time intervals characterized by elevated levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases or extremely rapid environmental change are a particular focal point of our research.
Our research goals are achieved by analyzing sediment archives from a broad range of environments, including both terrestrial and marine settings, and applying a wide spectrum of analytical techniques. Fossil remains of ancient vegetation (pollen and spores) and marine phytoplankton (dinoflagellate cysts) provide detailed information on climatic, environmental, and biotic change on the continents and in the oceans. The results from these microfossils are combined with geochemical data derived from both inorganic and organic components of the sediments. This integrated approach is accomplished through interdisciplinary research projects requiring geoscientific and biological expertise that we carry out together with national and international cooperation partners.
Identifying and obtaining high-quality sedimentary archives from sites all over the world is a crucial prerequisite for our scientific work. To obtain these samples, we regularly carry out field work on different continents as well as expeditions on research vessels to the world’s oceans. The sample material is then evaluated using state-of-the-art analytical methods in the Institute of Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University.