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EPS Major Nora Richter returns from the Arctic with mud & a senior project

August 3, 2013

“It is really strange to wake up in the middle of the night and think it's the afternoon,” wrote EPS and ISP major Nora Richter after spending part of last summer conducting research in the Norwegian Arctic, where the “midnight sun” shines late into the summer nights.  As part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, Nora traveled to the island archipelago of Svalbard, at 79 degrees north latitude, to conduct field work.  The REU focuses on studying the Holocene history of glacial Lake Linne and the surrounding environment, including the glacier upstream. 

“Our day would start out with an hour long hike across the arctic tundra towards our field site,” says Nora.  “We had some great field days, which involved hiking through the arctic tundra to beautiful lakes surrounded by glaciers.” 

In the field, Nora worked with the REU team to collect a sediment core from Lake Linne.  She brought the core back to NU to examine it in the Quaternary Sediment Lab in Hogan Hall as part of her senior research project with advisor Yarrow Axford.  Nora explains, “The work for my project involved retrieving sediment cores from Lake Linne. The core will be used to develop a paleoclimate reconstruction using a combination of proxies and techniques that include chironomid records, biogenic silica, and spectroscopy.”

Nora has been conducting paleoclimate and geochemical research in EPS labs since her freshman year at Northwestern.  Early in her career, Nora worked in the Organic Geochemistry Lab.  For one project, she extracted leaf wax lipids from plants collected by graduate student Rosemary Bush along a transect across the U.S.  For another, she examined lipids in the sediments of an Icelandic lake, with the goal of identifying periods of soil erosion in Iceland.  More recently, Nora used the microscopes in Dr. Axford’s Quaternary Sediment Lab to analyze insect (chironomid) remains in lake sediments from Greenland.  Insect species assemblages provide a valuable method for reconstructing past climate changes in the high Arctic, and Nora plans to use this method, along with others, for her study of Lake Linne’s Holocene history.

In summer 2014, the REU project research will take place at Konsgfjorden, a major west-trending glaciated fjord in western Svalbard.

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