Lake Ohrid project team ASSEMBLE... by Jack Lacey

569 meters of core, 1.2 million years of history, and a multi-disciplinary international team of scientists: It can only be the ICDP SCOPSCO Lake Ohrid Deep Drilling Project! Last fortnight the project held it's 4th workshop at the University of Hull. Jack Lacey, PhD student in the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, tells us about the project and reports on the meeting…
Lake Ohrid is situated on the border between Macedonia and Albania, and is Europe’s oldest lake. It has an outstanding biodiversity, containing hundreds of organisms that are not found anywhere else on the planet. These factors contribute to it being designated a UNESCO world heritage site and provide a unique opportunity to study the links between biological evolution, geological processes and environmental events. An international team of scientists, including myself and my PhD supervisor Melanie Leng from the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, British Geological Survey, are working to reconstruct the geological and biological history of Lake Ohrid, from its initial formation over 1.3 million years ago to present day.

Workshop group photo
In April-May 2013 members of the SCOPSCO group and a team from US-based drilling company DOSECC cored Lake Ohrid. The fieldwork was a resounding success (as previously blogged) with over 2.1 km of sediments recovered from four drill sites. The deepest core reached 569 meters below the lake floor in the centre of the lake, which will likely provide a full record since Lake Ohrid formed. After the drilling campaign the cores were transported to Germany, where they are subsequently being opened and documented (a process likely to take around 2 years in total).

Ohrid Landsat Map
Over the last 18 months, since drilling, there has been a broad range of scientific techniques applied to investigate the core material (diatoms, pollen etc.) and at the BGS we are responsible for analysing the carbonate isotopes – which essentially means we are providing information on the water balance in the lake. There is a fantastic Climatica article (by Melanie and Jonathan Dean) that gives a simple overview of how isotopes can be used in lakes to study climate change. At the workshop I presented my research on environmental change in the lake over the last 12,000 years (Lacey et al. 2014) and a low resolution study of the full (1.3 million years) core (Wagner et al. 2014). Initial findings over the longer period have been analysed but results are embargoed at the moment! However, and keep this to yourselves… it looks like evolution of the plants and animals within the lake (i.e. the changing of one species into another species) was slow and driven by gradual adaption to specialised habitats rather than by catastrophic events (i.e. eruption volcanoes, mega droughts). 

Special thanks go to Jane Reed (University of Hull) for hosting and organising the event, and enabling such a successful and productive meeting to take place.  

To find out more about the Lake Ohrid drilling project visit the SCOPSCO website, or the ICDP project page.

By Jack Lacey
@JackHLacey (BGS BUFI-funded student at the University of Nottingham within the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry)