Life and Environment During Rapid Climatic Warming 56 million Years Ago: A Geological Analogue for the Future


Life and Environment During Rapid Climatic Warming 56 million Years Ago: A Geological Analogue for the Future


Project Description


Dr Nikolai Pedentchouk (UEA Environmental Sciences)

Dr Mark Chapman (UEA)

Rationale and Significance

One of the most extreme global warming events in the geologic past took place at the boundary between the Palaeocene and Eocene. This Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) occurred ~ 56 million years ago and is considered to be one of the closest analogues for investigating possible effects of anthropogenically released carbon on the Earth system. Several possible carbon sources have been proposed for this event, however, there is a lack of studies integrating geochemical and biological data to explore the link between climate perturbations and palaeoecological changes during the PETM.

Having this type of information would allow for a better understanding of the role of increasing temperatures on terrestrial and marine biota during future climate change.

Research methodology

This project will rely on an established collaboration between the primary supervisor and Russian scientists from Geological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia.

The student will be expected to a) review published geological and palaeontological data on several PETM intervals from southern Russia, b) generate new micropalaeontological data and investigate the extinction patterns within the microfossil assemblages, c) acquire new stable isotope data on carbonate sediment samples. Outcrop sediment samples will be available at UEA before the beginning of the project; however, there will be an opportunity for additional fieldwork in Russia.


The student will take advantage of the excellent micropalaeontological, geological, and geochemical expertise available in the School of Environmental Sciences and will have access to several isotope ratio mass spectrometers at UEA.  They will work closely with the supervisors and support staff to generate new foraminiferal species abundance and stable isotope data. There will be an opportunity to interact with international scientists in the laboratory and the field. The project will provide key academic and practical skills for employment in academia or industry.

Person specifications

To succeed in this project, the student should have a background in Earth Sciences, ideally with knowledge of soft rock geochemistry and/or stable isotopes. Some knowledge of micropalaeontology as applied to palaeoceanography will be beneficial. Acceptable degree subjects are Geology, Earth Science, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Chemistry.


  • Pagani M., Pedentchouk N., Huber M., et al. (2006) Arctic hydrology during global warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene thermal maximum. Nature 442, 671–675.
  • Shcherbinina, E., Gavrilov, Y., et al., 2016. Environmental dynamics during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) in the northern Peri-Tethys revealed by high-resolution micropalaeontological and geochemical studies of a Caucasian key section. Palaeogeogr. Palaeocl. 456, 60-81.
  • McInerney, F.A. & Wing, S.L., (2011) The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet Sci. 39, 489-516.
  • Chapman, M. (2010) Seasonal production patterns of planktonic foraminifera in the NE Atlantic Ocean: Implications for paleotemperature and hydrological reconstructions. Paleoceanography 25, PA1101, doi: 10.1029/2008PA001708.
  • Frieling, J. et al. (2017) Extreme warmth and heat-stressed plankton in the tropics during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Sci. Adv. 3:e1600891.

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