MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Mark Bush has received a $135,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) for climate change research in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The funding is the university’s share of a joint award with
collaborating institution, the University of Arizona.
Using sediment cores raised by Bush’s team during 2005 and 2007 field work, the researchers will investigate stratigraphic (layering) patterns in the
sediment and biological indicators of climate change. Fossil pollen and diatoms (algae) recovered from the sediment can provide precise data on past
rainfall and temperature of this system.
“The Galapagos are very strongly influenced by the El Niño and La Niña weather patterns,” says Bush. “El Niño results in deluges of rain on the islands
while La Niña prompts intense droughts. By detecting these oscillations in the fossil record we can track the frequency and intensity of events, especially
the phases over many decades.”
Together El Niño and La Niña comprise the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that is largest single cause of inter-annual climatic variation, with strong
impacts manifested from Alaska to Florida. The past shifts of long-term ENSO trends have been linked to the rise and fall of Andean societies over the past
2,000 years and the collapse of the Mayan civilization about 1,000 years ago. Droughts were more important than temperature in these societal changes, and
changes in precipitation are among the harder predictions to make about future climate change, but of obvious concern to farmers and land managers
globally. Understanding the long-term variability of the El Niño Southern Oscillation is key to making accurate projections for how future climates may
change, not just in terms of temperature, but also rainfall.
The grant will support doctoral students Alejandra Restrepo and Aaron Collins for two years of research.