BRANDON, MB — Brandon University’s very own paleobotanist Dr. David Greenwood (above right, with Mackenzie Desautels, BSc. ’11) is back in the international spotlight as his contribution to a paper entitled Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch is released today in the esteemed British scientific journal Nature. He is currently in Australia to give a presentation on geological records of climate change, similar to what he discovered for the Nature paper, at the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane. With funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Dr. Greenwood focuses on reconstructing climates of the past through his research on fossil plants.
“There are very few people in the world who do this type of analysis, so being aware of my research, the researchers at the University of Frankfurt contacted me by email and asked if I was willing to assist them,” he said, explaining how he collaborated with the paper’s lead authors, a graduate student, Lineth Contreras and her supervisor Dr. Joerg Pross. “This paper reconstructs Antarctica’s climate in a time of extreme global warming — the early Eocene Epoch.”
Dr. Greenwood outlined his research, which examined sediments that had been extracted from the sea bed containing pollen from Antarctica’s Wilkes Land forests as part of the international ocean drilling program. The discoveries that he made about the climate of Antarctica 52 to 54 million years ago from these samples are remarkable.
“Our analysis showed that this part of Antarctica had an almost tropical climate with palms and other kinds of trees that are restricted to the tropics, very different to the permanent ice and bare rock that exists there today,” he said. “The record we have also includes a time after (the middle Eocene), when the warming episode ended, and it shows a cool temperate rainforest such as you would see today in southern Chile replacing the tropical forests on the Antarctic coast.”
This is not the first time Dr. Greenwood has lent his expertise to an international research team or publishing endeavour. His findings, along with those of various colleagues from around the globe, have appeared in many other scientific publications.
“However, being published in the science journal Nature is always special. I published a similar paper in Nature in 2009, but on the Arctic, and with a different team,” he said. “Both papers are a thrill because Nature is considered in all of the sciences the pinnacle for scientific publishing and its very hard to get published there.”
This level of research is not unusual at Brandon University. Dr. Greenwood explained that his success story is just one among his colleagues in the Faculty of Science. Nevertheless, the acting Dean of Science Dr. Phillip Goernert is delighted with this latest success.
“Dr. Greenwood and colleagues’ current paper in Nature illustrates research at the highest level. The topic of the paper is an extension of Dr. Greenwood’s ongoing research plan that reconstructs climates of the geological past,” said, Dr. Goernert. “Students in the Faculty of Science are most fortunate to have Dr. Greenwood available to serve as a mentor for their research projects.”
Dr. Greenwood’s trip to his homeland of Australia is another highlight of his summer. The conference to which he is contributing is held in a different country every four years and attracts geoscientists from around the globe. At this gathering, he will be chairing a symposium that will focus on the geological record of climate change. He will give a presentation about the Antarctic climate study that is appearing in Nature and will discuss follow-up studies on his research about the Arctic.