To enhance long-term environmental prediction and planning, a five-year study led by a University of Maine paleo-oceanographer will focus on the past 11,000 years of Gulf of Maine temperature trends and variability.
Katherine Allen, a UMaine assistant professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences, and the Climate Change Institute, has received a more than $584,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study Gulf temperatures from the early Holocene to the present. That includes the last
30 years when the Gulf of Maine has been warming faster than most of the rest of the world’s oceans.
The award follows an NSF-funded collaborative research project led by Allen in 2016 that focused on Pacific Ocean stratification since the last ice age.
Allen will lead a multidisciplinary team of researchers and Native American students from New England on a 10-day expedition in the Gulf of Maine to collect plankton and to core ancient marine sediments. Ancient marine sediments are a rich archive of the habitat in which they were deposited. In her research to understand past ocean chemistry and biology, Allen analyzes the chemical composition of marine microfossils — shells — that have accumulated on the seafloor for thousands of years.
Whole shell geochemical analysis will be conducted on populations of foraminifera, single-celled organisms found throughout the fossil record. One planktonic species, Neogloboquadrina incompta, is of particular interest in the study of long-term temperature change in the Gulf of Maine and other high- and mid-latitude regions.
In addition, materials from coastal archaeological sites will be radiocarbon-dated to refine the chronology of regional fishing practices. A focus will be to test a hypothesis regarding the beginning and end of intensive swordfishing in the Gulf of Maine.
In the project, whole shell geochemical analysis will be conducted on populations of foraminifera, single-celled organisms found throughout the fossil record. Materials from coastal archaeological sites also will be radiocarbon-dated to refine the chronology of regional fishing practices.