L. S. Devriendt
Carbonate minerals are windows into our planet's past
A great deal of information about the Earth’s past climate and environment is inferred from the chemical and isotopic analysis of calcium carbonate minerals (CaCO3). In that sense, the chemical composition of carbonate minerals is a powerful tool to reconstruct critical environmental parameters such as temperature, sea level, ice volume, salinity, rainfall, ground elevation and more. A sound reconstruction of past environments requires a full understanding of the processes driving the transfer of chemical elements and isotopes from the growth medium (e.g. seawater) to the precipitating mineral. This is particularly important for minerals that are biologically secreted because biological processes partly control the chemical composition of the growth medium. A well-known problem in the field of paleoclimatology (i.e. the study of past climates) is the absence of mechanistic models of biomineralization and elemental/isotopic fractionation for the diverse organisms used in paleoenvironmental reconstructions (e.g. foraminifers, corals, ostracods). To solve the above problem and improve paleoenvironmental reconstructions, my research focuses on:
1. The development of quantitative models of elemental and isotopic fractionation between (biogenic) carbonate minerals and the precipitating solution. The model-development stage combines theory and experimental data obtained at NIOZ and from other laboratories in Europe and North America.
2. The elemental and isotopic models are then used to (a) guide/refine new and previously published paleoenvironmental reconstructions and (b) test models of biomineralization for various organisms.