Going into the past for the future

Academics recognised as future research leaders

The University of Sydney will receive more than $1.7m from the Australian Research Council for new research into melting Antarctic ice sheets and how deep-sea carbon reservoirs affect climate change.

Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz pointing to the ‘golden spike’ in the Flinders Ranges marking the base of the Ediacaran system, a geological period that started 635 million years ago.

Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan has this week announced the Australian Research Council Future Fellowships, which fund future leaders of Australian research to tackle challenges of national importance.

Geologist Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz from the School of Geosciences in the Faculty of Science, was awarded more than $861,000 to delve into the evolution of deep-sea carbon reservoirs over the past 150 million years. By examining Earth’s geological past, we will be better able to predict the rate and implications of climate change.

“Carbon is constantly cycled between the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and the solid Earth. This cycle regulates the Earth’s surface temperature and drives its climate, affecting all life and ecosystems on our planet,” Dr Dutkiewicz said.

“The accumulation of deep-sea carbonate sediments on the ocean floor is the main mechanism by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and the ocean. This carbon reservoir is the least well-understood component of the long-term carbon cycle,” she said.

“This project will involve working with vast amounts of existing ocean drilling data, collected over many decades, and analysing these global data sets to discover new information. Working with existing data also means that I won’t get sea-sick. I am looking forward to forging international collaborations and working on a global, planetary-scale problem that is important for the future of this planet.”

Oceanographer Dr Paul Spence will conduct a series of ocean and ice experiments in a $871,0000 project to better understand Antarctica’s melting ice sheets, which are responsible for 28 percent of global sea level rise in recent decades, and could contribute a staggering 15 metres by 2500.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Laurent Rivory congratulated Dr Dutkiewicz and Dr Spence on the successful funding of these important projects.

‘Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and will soon affect every aspect of our lives, from where we can live and how our food is grown, to the jobs we will hold in the future.’

How marine snow cools the planet

Read about Dr Dutkiewicz’s research

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