My research focusses on the underlying mechanisms of shell formation in foraminifera. These unicellular organisms produce a shell consisting of calcium carbonate for which they take up ions from the surrounding seawater. This process and the resulting chemical composition of their shells is influenced by the conditions (temperature, pH, etc.) in which these organisms live. Quantifying these relationships (for example Mg-incorporation as a function of seawater temperature) and application to fossil foraminifera allows reconstructing past changes in seawater conditions and thereby, past climates. I collect and culture foraminifera under a range of pCO2’s, salinities, etc to develop new tools to reconstruct the history of our earth. At the same time, I use these specimens to look at their biological controls on calcification. This will help to predict their response to current changes in ocean chemistry (like ongoing acidification and warming) and their ability to calcify in the near future.
It is surprising how little we understand of such a fundamental and ubiquitous process. Despite the geological relevance, abundance, evolutionary longevity and value for understanding Earth’s climate, very little is known about the fundamental process by which they form their shells. I find biomineralization in foraminifera a highly challenging research subject since it requires bringing together geology, chemistry and biology.
10 februari 2017 - NRC Handelsblad - Schelpdiertje houdt stand in verzurende zee