Monday, February 6, 2023

Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch

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Dr. Brigham-Grette is a Professor and Chair of the Polar Research Board of the US National Academy of Sciences. She has been conducting research in the Arctic for 40 years, including eight field seasons in remote parts of northeast Russia since 1991. After graduating with a BA in Geology from Albion College (1977), she completed her MSc (1980) and PhD (1985) at the University of Colorado. Julie served as a postdoctoral fellow in Bergen Norway and then at the University of Alberta (1985-87) before taking a faculty position at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1987. Her research interests and experience span the broad spectrum of arctic marine and terrestrial paleoclimate records dealing with the Late Cenozoic to recent evolution of the Arctic climate, especially in the Bering Strait region. She most recently co-led the $10M International Continental Scientific Drilling Program at Lake El’gygytgyn in NE Russia collecting a record of Arctic change over the past 3.6 million years. She has also been involved in the development of sea ice proxies and the sea ice history of the Bering Strait Region of the western Arctic. For several years Julie and collaborators have run a Research Experience for Undergraduates on Svalbard studying modern processes in front of tidewater glaciers. She as new interests in public engagement, using science to inform policy on coastal management challenges with rising sea level. Life on our planet is constrained within bounds set by the transport and transformations of the elements. Carbon cycling in particular plays a central role in Biogeochemistry on a range of scales in time and space.My research addresses what happens after deposition of organic matter in sediment, and as it turns out, what happens is … a lot! Processes such as diagenesis, chemical decomposition and the existence of metabolically active microorganisms at the deepest and most extreme extent of our exploration lead us to wonder why and how organic matter is preserved for millions of years in rocks.To address this, my research test the limits of what it means to be refractory, labile or biologically available, by exploring the degradation, dissolution and utilization of ancient organic matter in soils, aquatic systems and the deep subsurface.

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