Niels de Winter


FWO Post-doctoral researcher & Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow

  • PhD Science – 2019 – Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • MSc Earth, Life and Climate - 2013 – Utrecht University
  • BSc Earth Science – 2011 - Utrecht University

Room F8.13; 

UNBIAS: UNravelling BIvAlve Shell chemistry


UNBIAS: Unravelling Bivalve Shell Chemistry


As a sclerochronologist, the aim of my research is to extract information about past climate on the sub-annual to decadal scale from skeletal tissues of fossil organisms, such as mollusk shells. This type of information at the human timescale is mostly missing from paleoclimate reconstructions, which often focus on long-term (thousands to millions of years) trends. This gap in our knowledge undermines our understanding of the evolution and dynamics of the climate system at this important scale, and impairs our ability to produce models for short-term climate change.

In this project, I collaborate with Utrecht University and the Dutch Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) to grow bivalve mollusks under controlled conditions to study how their shells record the climate and environment they grow in. I apply a combination of new techniques such as the clumped isotope paleothermometer and high-resolution trace element analyses to characterize the chemistry of bivalve shells in great detail. This way, I will link shell chemistry to growing conditions and develop new proxies for reconstructions of sub-annual to decadal climate variability through geological history.

In a second phase of this project, these improved proxies are applied on well-preserved fossil bivalve shells from the Pliocene Warm Period, Miocene Climatic Optimum and other greenhouse climate periods. These improved reconstructions will teach us about the dynamics of greenhouse climates on the human timescale and allow us to improve our models used to project future climate.