The scientific approach focuses on the holistic use of biogeochemical tracers, such as elemental concentrations (Cd, Pb, PGE etc.) and isotopic ratios (D/H, 18O/16O, 13C/12C, 15N/14N, 87Sr/88Sr...), - often referred to as "proxies" - that are measured on a substrate (e.g. mineral phase, fossil, mussel-shell, teeth, seawater, plankton, ice cores etc.) to infer specific environmental parameters (such as condition of formation, temperature, acidity, salinity, CO2 level, composition, bio-productivity etc.).
Variations in these "proxies" characterize the factors triggering or resulting from (paleo)environmental changes and document at different scales, the short and/or long-term effects of these modifications on the Global Earth System. Although not commonly carried out, the analyses in close conjunction of modern and ancient global changes, including anthropogenic pollution are highly complementary and mutually beneficial. Ongoing changes are monitored and documented at very high resolution, while the geological record traces the evolution of these changes through time, providing an extra dimension, missing from the modern data.
Environmental changes due to recent anthropogenic activities can have many adverse effects on human health, which require monitoring. The themes constitute cutting-edge international research challenges. To address them, innovative analytical procedures are continuously being developed using the facilities available at the VUB and its partner universities. This analytical toolbox is then applied to various earth, environmental and pollution problems, often coupled with modeling.
This research is supported by various external-funding sources (FWO, BELSPO IUAP, STEUNPUNT MILIEU-GEZONDHEID) and by a VUB Strategic Research grant (2013 - 2017).