A Puzzle of Epic Proportions
Biogeochemist Dr. Rosalind Rickaby Receives Rosenstiel Award For Piecing Together Earth’s Early Climate Clues
March 11, 2009
Virginia Key, FL — The University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science announced today that it has selected Rosalind E.M. Rickaby, Ph.D., as recipient of the 2009 Rosenstiel Award. A university lecturer in Biogeochemistry and a Tutorial Fellow of Wolfson College, Rickaby works in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. Her current research on the interaction between marine phytoplankton and dissolved carbon dioxide in the oceans is helping to establish a critically important record of the influences these microorganisms have had on the Earth’s climate.
The Rosenstiel Award honors scientists who, in the past decade, have made significant and growing impacts in their field. It is an award targeted for researchers that are already making outstanding scientific contributions in their early to mid-career stages.
Rickaby’s innovative approach to the measuring changes in atmospheric pCO2 levels during the Cenozoic suggests that direct climate signals of the past are harbored within, and can ultimately be deciphered from, the genetic make-up of existing organisms like marine algae. Her proposed studies are helping to gather extensive and necessary information on the history of pCO2, while also yielding additional insight into the feedback between phytoplankton and climate, the carbon isotopic signatures of the geological record and the mechanistic link between the amino acid sequence and specificity of RUBISCO (an important enzyme in the transfer of inorganic carbon into the biosphere) with a view to enhanced crop photosynthetic efficiency.
In her research she has also devised an ingenious solution to examine the oxygen isotopic composition of the water in certain hydrated carbonate minerals, such as Ikaite. With this technique scientists will be able to ascertain precise changes in the oxygen isotopic composition of seawater in areas where Ikaite forms, which are critical to understanding the magnitude of temperature changes during the last glacial periods.
“Dr. Rickaby exemplifies what we are looking for in a Rosenstiel Medal awardee: She is young and dynamic, and exhibits a broad range of original scientific theories that continue to earn her prestigious awards and international acclaim,” said Dr. Peter Swart, chair of the division of Marine Geology and Geophysics. “Her broad range of interests and independent spirit make her an excellent role model for up-and- coming scientists.”
The extraction of chemical signatures from the fossil shells of marine microorganisms as a tool for constraining past ocean conditions and their influence on climate, on timescales ranging from hundreds to millions of years, is fundamental to Rickaby’s research. Her innovative approaches have led her to a greater understanding of the physiological response of phytoplankton to the evolving carbon cycle in the past and how they might react in the future.
“I am fascinated by the jigsaw of complex interactions that take place between the evolution of mineralizing organisms, ocean chemistry, atmospheric composition and Earth’s climate,” said Rickaby.
Rickaby received her M.A. in Natural Sciences from Magdalene College, University of Cambridge in 1995, and her Ph.D. from the University’s Department of Earth Sciences in 1999. She spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.
The Rosenstiel Award, created through an endowment from the Rosenstiel Foundation, recognizes outstanding scientists for their contributions to marine science. It is awarded annually to one individual on a rotating basis for achievements in six broad disciplinary areas: marine geology and geophysics; meteorology and physical oceanography; marine and atmospheric chemistry; marine biology and fisheries; applied marine physics; and marine affairs. This year's award to Rickaby falls within the discipline of marine geology and geophysics.
About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
Founded in the 1940’s, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu
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