Prehistoric human and faunal evidence of late Pleistocene-early Holocene age in submerged caves of the Yucatan peninsula, southern Mexico

  • Dr. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck (Heidelberg University, Germany), Dr. Dominik Hennhoefer (KU)
  • Widespread karst cave systems, so-called ‘cenotes’, developed during the Pleistocene in northeastern Yucatán (southeastern Mexico), and were inhabited by both ‘prehistoric’ animals and different human civilizations. The continuous formation speleothems inhabit high potential for stable-isotope and radiometric age determination. Holocene sea-level rise submerged and preserved the vast of the caves, creating a relatively stable archive to study the paleontology and climatic history since the Pleistocene glaciations.

Paleobiology and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of an Aquitanian microbial bioherm (Miocene, Rhine Rift Valley, Germany)

  • Dr. Patrick Zell (LfD Hessen, Germany), Dr. Dominik Hennhoefer (KU)
  • The early Miocene (Aquitanian) hosts the terminal record of marine transgression in the Rhine rift system. This project investigates a marine to brackish sediment succession and associated microbial bioherm in the Mainz Basin that further hosts a diverse vertebrate and invertebrate faunal assemblage. The combination of sedimentological, paleontological and geochemical analyses creates a detailed reconstruction of this dynamic paleoenvironment.

Understanding the impact of Climate Change and Volcanism on Early Jurassic Flora and the continental Sedimentary Record, in the Southern Hemisphere

  • Dr. Aisha Alsuwaidi (KU)
  • The Early Jurassic was subject to major disturbances to the global carbon cycle, associated with the emplacement of the Karoo-Ferrar large igneous province (LIP). These perturbations are recorded in the carbon-isotope composition of terrestrial and marine organic matter and carbonate as carbon-isotope excursions. Karoo-Ferrar intrusive and extrusive volcanism is thought to have been the primary driver of massive ecological and environmental disturbances including pulsed releases of isotopically light carbon into the atmosphere; global warming; oceanic anoxia; intensified wildfire activity and weathering; methane clathrate dissociation and possibly iron fertilization of the oceans. Although significant research has been conducted on the Early Jurassic marine record, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the terrestrial response close to the main LIP. Here we propose to examine continental sediments and fossil plants from Argentina, Tasmania and South Africa to elucidate on environmental and ecological responses due to LIP activity 


Silicified fossil wood - exploring new applications for problematic samples 

  • Dr. Aisha Alsuwaidi (KU)
  • Silicified wood is ubiquitous through terrestrial sedimentary archives in locations associated with hydrothermal and volcanic activity, however silicifed wood is often ignored and considered not useful for reconstructing past environments. In this research silicified wood samples from well constrained Jurassic continental sections in Tasmania and Antarctica, will be mapped for elemental  concentrations; examined to see if a radiometric date can be derived from these samples, and if this date is comparable to the age of associated igneous rocks. Samples will also be examined and compared geochemically to surrounding igneous rocks to explore how well these samples geochemically represent the original hydrothermal activity.


Kayenta and Moenave Formation, Colorado and Nothern Arizona USA, Terrestrial Records of Climate Change in the Early Jurassic 

  • Dr. Aisha Alsuwaidi (KU)
  • Sediments of the Kayenta and Moeneve Formation, Glen Canyon Group, represent Early Jurassic sand, silt and mudstones, with an estimated Early Jurassic Sinnemurian to Toarcian age. Detailed Chrono- and chemostratigraphic studies have never been undertaken on these sediments although studies of the palynology, magnetostratigraphy and paleontology have provided approximate ages and correlations with the well-studied Newark Basin sediments. This project aims to establish an absolute age for the sediments as well as working on high resolution carbon (bulk organic and carbonate), and oxygen isotopes, which combined with detailed sedimentology will allow reconstruction of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental record for the Colorado Plateau in the Jurassic. This research will contribute to enhanced understanding of the Early Jurassic global carbon cycle perturbations and environmental change.


Late Quaternary Sea-level Change and Paleo-Environments of Coastal Abu Dhabi

  • Dr. Thomas Steuber (KU)
  • The Quaternary (from 2.6 million-years-old to recent) sedimentary deposits of Abu Dhabi are archives of climate and sea-level change that have shaped the modern geomorphology of Abu Dhabi. These geological formations derive from aeolian, fluvial, or marine erosion, transport and sedimentation processes. They have not yet been systematically studied in view of a reconstruction of environmental change, and a consistent chronology of the most recent geological formations has only tentatively been established. While the global record of Late Quaternary sea-level change is well known, with amplitudes of >120m between successive glacial maxima and interglacials, the impact of these profound changes on the coastline of the Arabian Gulf is still controversially discussed because of the scarcity of reliable age datums, and differing interpretations of the chronology of sedimentary formations. This project involves the study of the Quaternary sedimentary deposits of Abu Dhabi by methods of geochronology (optically stimulated luminescence, radiocarbon), sedimentology (field and petrographic analysis), and geochemistry (elemental as well as stable oxygen and carbon isotopic composition). Remote sensing applications will aid in understanding the areal distribution of sedimentary formations, and digital elevation models will allow to trace the extent of Quaternary sea-level highstand deposits in coastal Abu Dhabi.

    The results of this project will significantly improve the understanding of how Quaternary alternations of arid and humid phases in conjunction with high-amplitude sea-level change has shaped the modern geomorphology of Abu Dhabi. Environmental reconstruction of the most recent sea-level highstand (4,000 – 6,000 years ago, c. 2 m above current sea-level) will be used as an analogue to predict environmental change over the next 150 years, which will be important for a sustainable infrastructure planning in coastal Abu Dhabi.