Exciting Preliminary Results!

Lab Note #3
Oct 02, 2015

Hello everyone!

Apologies for the lengthy hiatus from a post!

Lots of good news coming out of our lab here at UMass. Both Tom and I have been working away diligently in the biogeochemistry lab and we now have data going back to a depth of 50 centimeters from our main target lake (which we have named Eriksvatnet – in honor of the first Viking to till the surrounding fields).

Tom recently presented these preliminary results at the American Chemical Society conference in Boston while I have just returned from a fruitful trip to Prague to present at the International Meeting of Organic Geochemistry. Our research certainly garnered lots of attention and excitement. The poster I presented is shown below. If you look at the main right-hand figure (under Preliminary Results), and I should stress that these results are tentative, it looks as though our fecal sterols (the solid lines at the bottom of the plot) decline right when we see an increase in temperature (at ~27 cm depth). This would be a very interesting result if we can reproduce it elsewhere, lending weight to the hypothesis that it wasn’t climate change, but rather external socio-economic factors that brought about the demise of the Norse. Again, however, these results are very preliminary and we have a long way to go before being able to say that definitively.

In addition to presenting in Prague, I was also able to stop off in Besanҫon, France and visit our colleagues at the University of Franche Comté. They were very happy to hear about our preliminary results and graciously agreed to let me sub-sample two more sediment records that we have already worked on briefly, Lake 547 and Lake Igaliku (other lakes nearby Eriksvatnet in the Eastern Settlement), at high resolution.

So all in all we hope to have records of temperature and human occupancy from 3 lakes within the Norse Settlement Region! Exciting stuff!

On the financial front I am happy to announce that we have been successful in pursuing more funding for this project. I was fortunate to receive both a Student Research Grant from the Geological Society of America (GSA) and a prestigious Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) from the National Science Foundation. The GSA grant was for ~$1,800 while the DDRIG award was for ~$16,000. So all in all this should allow us to pay for all of the analytical costs associated with analyzing the three records mentioned above at high resolution.

All of this was only possible through your generosity and I continue to be very thankful. The project is really starting to take shape and will be an integral part of my PhD. Tom and I plan to be more diligent about updating the project page as we continue to get new results this year, so be on the lookout for more exciting news!

Thank you all very much!

Greg de Wet

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