Funds support the acquisition of a new gas chromatograph to be used in paleoceanography and paleoclimate research at Brown University, specifically in the application of alkenone paleothermometry to understanding the ocean's role in climate change on timescales that range from tens to millions of years and from regional to global scales. Existing equipment in the laboratory has played a central role in high profile research and in training a large number of young scientists, but it has reached the end of its serviceable life and must be replaced. The more modern capabilities of the new instrument will also enable to laboratory to expand its toolbox to include a wider array of biomarker-based proxies for paleoenvironmental reconstructions.
The broader impacts include technical training for graduate and undergraduate students, both at Brown and from collaborating institutions, which further supports student research opportunities. The lead investigator also maintains an active outreach program for high school students and teachers each summer in which biomarker analysis is a major component. Results of biomarker research are also disseminated more generally through publications and an active speaking program to general audiences.
Our research on past ocean temperature changes and ecosystem change relies on making high quality measurements of organic molecules extracted from marine sediments that tell us about the past with great fidelity. The prinicipal tools for this research is gas chromatography, the method that lets us separate and identify these organic molecules (called "biomarkers" because they can be associated very specifically with certain producing organisms). Our laboratory requires a gas chromatographic systems that is highly automated, to allow us to make many 1000's of measurements each year. Thiis grant allowed us to replace a 10 year old instrument that was no longer supported by the manufacturere with a new system that should provide for years of research and training in the PI's lab. During the course of the award, we performed extensive tests on the new GC to ensure that it gives results comparable to our previous system. A number of parameters were varied to yield optimum chromatographic separations and signals. In the course of method development, we actually discovered new ways to improve our chromatographic separations, so performance of the laboratory is better than before. The new system now is being put into use by graduate students and undergraduates working with the PI. We also developed a new collaboration with Brown University digital archivists that will make chromatographic results searchable online.