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Climatic forcing and local controlling factors in the sedimentary evolution of high-latitude continental margins

Final Report Summary - CLIFORM (Climatic forcing and local controlling factors in the sedimentary evolution of high-latitude continental margins)

Project context and objectives

The project aimed at a regional approach to the study of marine glacial systems in order to identify the effect of climatic forcing and its interaction with local factors on the recent sedimentary processes during the last glacial cycle. This regional approach to the study of high-latitude continental margins offers the possibility of reconstructing relatively complete records of the ice sheet behaviour, which plays an important role in regulating the world climate, atmosphere, ocean circulation and sea level changes (Oppenheimer, 1998; Nakada et al., 2000; among others). A better understanding of climatic changes can be achieved through the study of the marine geological record on polar margins. Specifically, knowledge about changes in ice-sheet dimensions in the past is necessary to better predict future changes that will affect the earth's natural systems.

The project included the study of datasets from a range of geological settings on high-latitude margins and basins, both from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The use of a wide variety of datasets (swath bathymetry, seismic reflection profiles of different resolutions, backscatter imagery and sediment samples) was intended to obtain information reflecting the record of glacial, glacimarine and marine geological processes.

The specific objectives included:

- characterisation of sedimentary systems, based on morphological features;
- analysis of sedimentary systems from different physiographic domains with a regional perspective;
- reinterpretation of local studies and the establishment of relationships between the systems and associated processes;
- analysis of factors controlling sedimentation, differentiating local factors (e.g. physiography, tectonics, sedimentary subsidence, type of substrate, oceanography) and climatic changes as a global factor. The interaction and feedback processes between controlling factors were also studied;
- communication of results.

Work performed

Since the beginning of the project, three types of activities have been performed: scientific activities, communication and activities related to training and the development of the fellow's scientific competences.

Scientific work

The main part of the project focused on three selected study areas, where particular methodologies were applied, depending on the geological characteristics, the available dataset and the scientific objectives. These three areas were selected to complete the range of physiographic domains and methodologies studied by the fellow, in order to increase her experience and understanding of the high-latitude margins and basins with a regional perspective.

1. Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula

This area had been studied by the fellow as part of her PhD thesis (García, 2009). The study focused on the sedimentological interpretations based on the analysis of sediment cores from all the physiographical domains of the Central Bransfield Basin. The results were published in the journal Marine Geology (García et al., 2011a).

2. Greenland Basin

This area was selected to include glacially influenced deep basins to the geological settings studied in the project. Datasets from the Greenland Basin included swath bathymetry data and sub-bottom profiles (TOPAS). The analysis of these datasets involved the processing of the raw data. The training on using the processing software (Caris, Fledermause) has benefited the capabilities of the fellow. Part of the processing was carried out at the Department of Geological Sciences at Stockholm University, Sweden, under the supervision of Dr Martin Jakobsson. Results from this study have been submitted for publication to the journal Quaternary Sciences Reviews (García et al., submitted).

3. Bourgeois Fjord, West Antarctica

Shallow areas of the Bourgeois Fjord were studied using a dataset that includes micro-bathymetry obtained with a remote operated vehicle. This ultra-high resolution method offers a very detailed study of the morphology of the inner fjord, allowing a new approach to the study of the recent glacial processes. The data (microbathymetry, swath bathymetry and TOPAS profiles) has been processed and the results will be included in a research paper already in preparation.

In addition to the main objectives of this project, the fellow has continued her collaboration with other international research groups. This collaboration led to the publication of scientific papers (García et al., 2011b; Casas et al., 2011; Ercilla et al., 2011), the participation in oceanographic cruises (SAGAS-bis, CONTOURIBER I and CONTOURIBER II) and research projects (SIMBAD, France, and GLOBANT, MONTERA, CONTOURIBER, Spain).

Communication

The research work carried out during this project has been communicated to the scientific community by the research fellow participating in conferences: VII Spanish Symposium on Polar Sciences, Palma de Mallorca (Spain), 2011; European Geosciences Union General Assembly (EGU), Vienna, Austria, 2011; Marie Curie Conference, Turin, Italy, July 2010.

Training and development of the scientific competences

The fellow has participated in several courses and workshops offered by the University of Cambridge: Introduction to the UNIX command line, Planning and managing a research project, Widening your circle of influence, Voice and pronunciation for non-native speakers, Time management, Stress, relaxation and coping, MBTI for life science, physical science and technology post-docs workshop and Assertive communication for post-docs.

Main results

The final results of this project respond to the objectives in the project proposal. From the scientific point of view, the publication of three papers in prestigious journals and the presentation of communications to specialised sessions in meetings and conferences is availing the scientific quality of the research carried out during this project.

The direct involvement in the processing of datasets has improved the scientific capabilities and independence of the fellow for her research. Her participation in courses and workshops that focused on a range of topics (project planning and management, time management, communication) has contributed towards improving her capacity for developing a competitive scientific career. Her knowledge of the English language has also improved significantly. The knowledge and experience achieved by the fellow will be directly applied to her research during the next stage of her career: a post-doc position at the Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences in Spain.