Project Overview

Biominerals in a changing climate: unraveling structure, composition, and materials propertie

Faculty Sponsor

Rebecca Metzler (


Physics and Astronomy
Earth and Environmental Geosciences


Predications suggest the oceans will steadily get warmer and more acidic due to anthropogenic climate change. One set of marine organisms likely to be impacted by these changes are those that produce mineralized materials (e.g. bones, shells, exoskeletons, teeth). We work to explore how climate change may impact biomineralized tissues by examining the structure, composition, and materials properties of these materials. In the summer of 2024, we will work to approach this topic in two different ways: 1. Looking to the past to see how these groups of animals have responded to increasing temperatures and decreasing pH (in collaboration with Prof. Paul Harnik in Earth and Environmental Geosciences); 2. Using lab based experiments to explore how these types of animals may respond to simulated future environments (in collaboration with Prof. Gary Dickinson at The College of New Jersey).
Project 1: For this project, we will use samples of marine mollusk shells collected in the Northern Gulf of Mexico to examine the long term impact of climate change on shell microstructure and morphology. The shells of marine mollusks can be preserved in seafloor sediment for millennia and dated using radiocarbon methods, which allows us to compare shells over time and among regions in response to changing climatic conditions in the coastal ocean. The student(s) involved in the project will be involved in sample preparation, data collection (visual light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, electron backscatter diffraction, etc.), and data analysis.
Project 2: For this project, we will be using barnacles (an intertidal organism that adheres to a substrate for life and produces a mineralized exoskeleton that has a volcano-like shape) to explore the impact of climate change on metamorphosis (from a larval stage), adherence to a substrate, and exoskeleton mineralization. The student(s) involved in the project will be involved in monitoring barnacle larvae during metamorphosis, data collection (light, fluorescence, confocal, and scanning electron microscopy), and data analysis.

Student Qualifications

Interest in interdisciplinary science

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 10/03/2023 and close on 02/28/2024

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (