I’m now in my last couple months of uni, and everything is becoming ‘the last’ or ‘final’ – such as my final piece of coursework I am currently working on! For the Quaternary Environmental Change module we are assessed by 50% coursework and 50% exam. You can tell the coursework is third year stuff – its the hardest one so far! Basically the idea is to produce a short paper for the Journal of Quaternary Science – based on fictional data I have to analyse myself and understand the findings! The data is from sedimentary sequence taken a valley in the Andes mountains of Colombia – a multi-proxy record of paleoenvironmental change.
What do I mean by sedimentary sequence? I’s a really amazing concept that has blown my mind a bit throughout this module because I’ve really thought more about it since the Glacial Worlds module. Basically there are many locations around the world where you can drill down into the ground/ice/ocean bed and pull up a cylindrical ‘core’. These cores contain information about the environment for the past thousands and millions of years – during the time the ice or sediment built up – because the information gets trapped and buried there. And if you figure out what it means, you can piece together a picture of what the world has been doing long long before the existence of humans. This is what scientists around the world are working on – and its no easy task as there are many complexities, missing pieces and problems that make it hard to correlate records from different datasets and regions and figure out the reasons why the climate changed in that way. The information in the cores are called ‘proxies’ which means they are an preserved indicators of the physical environment as opposed to direct measurements that you could make if you traveled back in time.
Anyway back to the coursework! My task is to analyse the data, processes the raw ages ‘received from the lab’, looking at the description of the sediments alongside what the different proxies are indicating at each depth to figure out what went on in terms of climate in that region over the past 40 thousand years or so. It’s a tough task and to make it harder – none of the proxies are perfectly reliable – they each have limitations and errors which I have to realise and take into account when making conclusions.
Luckily the lectures throughout the module have given lots of subtle clues as to how to go about this coursework – and I’m glad I went to the lectures for this reason! Whilst I’m at the stage of understanding my data, the next challenge will be to write up my paper in the style of a Rapid Communication – which means going to the library and having a read of the Journals in the basement to understand the style. I’ve also done some research on the existing understanding of the paleoclimate in the region so that I can report the significance of my findings. I’m hoping I can get this done soon whilst also revising for my final exams – wish me luck! If you have any questions feel free to comment below!