Project Overview

Polar Marine Diatoms and Antarctic Paleoclimate

Faculty Sponsor

Amy Leventer (




One of the greatest problems facing our world today is that of climate change, yet only through understanding Earth’s climate history can we hope to understand the future of our planet. The primary goal of research in my lab is to develop an understanding of the processes controlling climate change in Antarctica, over a variety of time scales, ranging from the most recent few decades, back in time to glacial-interglacial cycles over the past 100s of 1000s of years. While global average temperature has increased by approximately 1.5°C over the past century, in some regions of Antarctica, the temperature increase has been 4-5 times the global average, possibly the result of positive feedbacks within the climate system that have enhanced the initial warming. One way to try to understand this amplified polar response and put modern warming into a longer-term perspective is to evaluate the rate and range of climate change in the past, through the development of a high-resolution, circum-polar record of Antarctic climate.  Contributions to this science from the Colgate University Micropaleontology Lab are through the study of diatoms, microscopic algae that have siliceous frustules and are well-preserved in the fossil record. Diatoms are highly specialized to conditions such as temperature, salinity, and presence of sea ice, and therefore make excellent proxies for past climatic conditions. By analyzing how diatom abundance and species assemblages fluctuate throughout time, we can reconstruct ancient climates.

Student Qualifications

experience with light microscopy

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/05/2018 and close on 02/05/2018

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (