Reflections on the first year of my PhD: by Jack Lacey

As a PhD student of the British Geological Survey and University of Leicester Jack aims to use lake sediments to reconstruct N Hemisphere/Mediterranean climate change over the past 2 million years. His main study site is Lake Ohrid, on the Macedonia/Albania border, which is not only Europe’s oldest lake but also one of the world’s most biologically diverse in terms of how many unique species call it home. He is investigating past environmental conditions within the larger framework of the ICDP sponsored SCOPSCO project, which looks at linking evolution and climate over the lake’s extended history. Below is Jack’s summary of the first year of his doctoral research: 

In the first year of my research I have been exploring a 10 meter core recovered from the lake which spans the last 12,000 years – covering the time period since the last Ice Age. This has involved preparing samples taken every 2 cm from the core, my record is the highest resolution record to date, I have been processing them to look at both the chemistry of the organic content (mainly from plants and animals) and the carbonate content (ie shells). The results show both the long-term impacts of a changing climate (progressing from colder to warmer) and also short-term events where conditions rapidly revert to a previous state, as well as the introduction of more recent human influences such as widespread forest clearance. These findings set the scene for deeper cores drilled (see below) as part of the International Continental scientific Drilling Program sponsored SCOPSCO project. 

Me on night shift duty on the drilling platform in May
I travelled to Macedonia in May this year to assist in the drilling of the long cores from Lake Ohrid, in collaboration with 45 other students, scientists and drillers. The project was a resounding success, we drilled a total of over 2750 meters from four separate sites in the lake. The longest continuous core was 570 meters from a water depth of 250 meters. Drilling in deep water is technically very challenging but the drilling team (DOSECC) assisted by the UK’s drilling manager (Ali Skinner) did a fine job. We will obtain information from the sediments from the cores on for example: the age and origin of the lake, the controls on evolution within the lake, as well as past lake level fluctuations and active tectonics (e.g. earthquakes). 

A sunset over Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
Currently, I am writing up my findings from the 10 meter core data and will present them at the Quaternary Postgraduate Symposium in late August, then I plan to submit my findings as a paper for publication. Going through into my second year I will receive material from the SCOPSCO long cores and can start processing and analysis to see how the climate and environment of Lake Ohrid has changed over the past 2 million years. 
The drilling platform whist on Lake Ohrid
I created a blog whilst in Macedonia which contains lots of information and photos of the drilling process, the local area, and lots of stunning sunsets - take a look! It can be found: here.

This project is funded by the British Geological Survey University Funding Initiative (BUFI). My supervisors include Prof Melanie Leng from Leicester and the BGS as well as Dr Bernd Wagner in Cologne. 


Twitter: @JackHLacey