Brachiopod Paraspirifer bownockeri from the Middle Devonian of Ohio (USA); width: 5,6 centrimetre. photo: U. Jansen, Senckenberg-Museum, Frankfurt on the Main.

Brachiopod Paraspirifer bownockeri from the Middle Devonian of Ohio (USA); width: 5,6 centrimetre. photo: U. Jansen, Senckenberg-Museum, Frankfurt on the Main.

First meeting of the project BASE LiNE Earth in Prague. photo: D. Henkel, GEOMAR

First meeting of the project BASE LiNE Earth in Prague. photo: D. Henkel, GEOMAR

03.02.2015

500 Million Years of Ocean History

GEOMAR coordinates European research and training project BASE-LiNE Earth

3 February 2015/Kiel. The research project BASE-LiNE Earth is dealing with the question of how the history of the ocean from the past 500 million years can be reconstructed using calcite shells from fossil sea dwellers. Apart from research the project offers talented young researchers the possibility of doing their PhD in an international research environment. The project, coordinated at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, is funded with 3.8 million Euros by the European Commission.

All life on earth has been close to extinction – and that at least five times in the last 500 million years. Environmental variations that led to these events are directly linked to the ocean in most cases. How did the sea, which is normally considered as life-giving become life-threatening in certain phases? And why did some species survive despite the changes? These are fundamental questions which will be investigated using innovative technologies and methodologies in the framework of the European research project BASE-LiNE Earth during the next three years. Apart from finding solutions to scientific problems, BASE-LiNE Earth will serve to educate talented young scientists, who are recruited through an ambitious selection procedure and can do their PhD in the framework of the project. The EU is funding the project, which is coordinated at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, in the framework of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie action within the HORIZON2020 program with 3.8 million Euros in total. The challenge for the future BASE-LiNE Earth doctoral candidates lies in the task of getting information from remote epochs of the earth’s history. “If historians want to get insights into what happened 100 or 200 years ago they visit libraries or archives, in which written evidence of these times can be found”, says project coordinator Prof. Anton Eisenhauer from GEOMAR. “We also use archives. But they look somewhat different. We use calcite shells of fossil brachiopods, for example, in which the chemical history of ocean water is reliably stored”, the geochemist from Kiel continues. Of course, calcite shells do not provide  information in written form, but it is encoded in the chemical and mineralogical composition. “If we have reliable data on the relation of elements like strontium, magnesium, boron or their isotopes to each other, we will be able to decode the information,” says Professor Eisenhauer. From this we will then reconstruct the age of the shell, as well as the chemical composition of the past ocean and the prevailing environmental conditions, such as temperature and acidity of the ocean water.. We already know, for example, that during the biggest mass mortality 251 million years ago the ocean did not contain oxygen and was acidified in large parts. “This is similar to some of the scenarios that we expect for the future of our ocean,” Professor Eisenhauer elaborates. Model calculations, which are done in the framework of the project, shall show to what extent the earlier environmental changes can be compared to the present. The challenge hereby is to gain such information and to make it available for use. That is why in the framework of BASE-LiNE Earth, in cooperation with industrial partners, the most modern analytical methods for obtaining information are being generated and developed jointly with commercial partners from this area.In total 21 scientific institutions from eight European countries, as well as partners from Canada, Israel, Palestine and Australia are involved in the project. In spring, the project will invite tenders for 15 doctoral positions, among them two at GEOMAR in Kiel. The Integrated School of Ocean Sciences (ISOS) at Kiel University offers a comprehensive education program in which scholarship-holders can not only pursue their scientific objectives but also develop further job qualifying skills and exchange experiences. Apart from this, within the coming years our partners will provide services to a broader interested public in exhibitions and school materials. “Of course, we will integrate doctoral candidates into the process.  The young researchers will be trained in how to communicate their work in a comprehensible way,” underlines the project coordinator. Further information can be found on the project website www.baseline-earth.eu. 

 

High-resolution images:

 Brachiopod Paraspirifer bownockeri from the Middle Devonian of Ohio (USA); width: 5,6 centrimetre. photo: U. Jansen, Senckenberg-Museum, Frankfurt on the Main

First meeting of the project BASE LiNE Earth in Prague. photo: D. Henkel, GEOMAR

Contact:
Jan Steffen (Communication & Media), Phone: +49 431/600-2811, presse(at)geomar.de 

Files:
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