- Senior Lecturer in Organic Geochemistry (Geography)
BECS (Biomarkers for Environmental and Climate Science) Research Group:
General Research Interests:
I use organic geochemistry as a tool to understand how the Earth system responds to climate change. Molecular fossils, or biomarkers, are ubiquitous in sedimentary deposits and can often be applied in both marine and terrestrial environments, making them useful proxies for reconstructing environmental change. As an organic geochemist I collaborate with researchers in a number of different fields to generate multiproxy climate records. I also work with bioscientists to understand how/why organisms produce biomarkers and how those biomarkers relate to modern environmental parameters.
Alkenones as a Proxy for Lake Temperature
Alkenones are globally abundant hydrocarbon lipids produced by haptophyte algae. Haptophytes produce large quantities of alkenones seasonally, not only in the oceans, but also in lakes. These lipids are utilised for reconstructing past surface ocean temperatures; however, the diversity of alkenone producers in lakes makes equivalent lake surface temperature reconstructions challenging. My research focuses on proxy development for using alkenones in lakes, including bettering our understanding of how the organism relates to the lipids that it produces.
Hydrologic and Ecosystem Change in the Sierra Nevada of Southern Spain
BECS members have taken multiple expeditions to high elevation lakes in the Sierra Nevada of Southern Spain with colleagues from the University of Granada, Spain and Northern Arizona University, U.S. to collect and analyse samples from lakes located at >3,000m elevation. Two long sediment cores were collected from a lake, Laguna de la Mosca and a peat bog, Borreguil de Caldera. The sediment core from Laguna de la Mosca extends 2-meters into the lake sediment and is the longest core ever recovered from this high elevation in the region. Preliminary radiocarbon dates suggest that the record extends back just over 8,200 years of climate history. The core from Borreguil de Caldera is 56-centimeters long and covers the last 4,000 years of climate history. Initial biomarker and pollen analyses are underway from these cores to determine how hydrology has changed in the past and how the ecosystem responded.
Astrobiology: Molecular Signatures of Life in Mars Analogue Environments
BECS is pleased to collaborate with Dr. Vernon Phoenix, University of Glasgow, and use molecular fossils to detect signatures of life in a unique Mars analogue - the Chilean Altiplano! The Chilean Altiplano offers the key elements that are essential to the search for evidence of life on Mars. Like the Martian surface, water in the surface soils of the Chilean Altiplano is trapped in solid form due to subzero temperatures, however, can become liquid due to intense solar radiation during the day. This combined mix of cold, high insolation flux and liquid-water-unstable conditions offers an excellent analogue to explore the preservation of molecular signs of life. We currently have three PhD students (see BECS Members) working on this exciting UK Space Agency-funded research with an aim to provide critical information on preservation and distribution of molecular signs of life that will inform sampling strategies and underpin data interpretation for ExoMars 2018.
Toney, J.L. (2015) ERC Starting Grant, ALKENoNE - Algal Lipids: the Key to Earth Now and aNcient Earth.
Toney, J.L. (2014) (Scientist-in-Charge) for Garcia-Alix, A. Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow, "Natural responses to past North Atlantic Oscillations: Southern Iberian Peninsula vs. United Kingdom, Analogues for future environmental changes (NAOSIPUK)"
Phoenix, V., Toney, J.L., and Quince, C. (2013) UK Space Agency - Aurora Programme, "Preservation and detection of molecular signatures of life under cold, high-solar flux, liquid-water-unstable conditions".
Toney, J.L. (2013) Carnegie Small Research Grant, "Gauging North Atlantic climate change through palaeoclimate lake records".
Toney, J.L. (2012) SAGES Theme 2 research enabling fund, “Detecting methane emissions from peatlands during the past millennium using methanotroph biomarkers”.
Jimenez-Moreno, G. (2011) El Cambio Climático en el Sur de la Península Ibérica: Reconstrucción Basada en Sedimentos Lacustres del Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada. Budget for organic biomarkers to JLT.
Toney, J.L. (2011) International Partnership Development Funding – University of Glasgow for collaboration initiation with Dr. Yoshihiro Shiraiwa at Tsukuba University, Japan.
Toney, J.L. and Seki, O. (2011) The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation grant for field work in Hokkaido, Japan.
Toney, J.L. (2010-2011) Brown University Graduate School – Dissertation Fellowship.
Toney, J.L. (2011) Consortium for Ocean Leadership – Grant to attend ‘IODP Early Career Workshop’.
Toney, J.L. (2010) NSF Scholarship to attend Urbino Summer School on Paleoclimatology.
Lead Superviser Ph.D. Candidate:
Jill McColl - University of Glasgow, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences."Climate variability of the last 1000 years in the NW Pacific: high resolution, multi-biomarker records from lake and ocean sediments."
Co-supervised Ph.D. Candidates:
Nick Thomas, University of Glasgow, Geographical and Earth Sciences, ‘Preservation and detection of molecular signatures of life under cold, high-solar-flux, liquid-water-unstable conditions'
Philippe Nauny, University of Glasgow, Geographical and Earth Sciences, ‘Signs of life in Mars analogue environments’
Rory Porteous, University of Glasgow, Geographical and Earth Sciences, 'Signs of life in Mars analogue environments'
Allen Ude Akwu-Ude, University of Glasgow, Engineering, 'Reduced water usage in microalgae growth for biofuels'
Roman Witt, visiting Ph.D. student, Max Planck Institute, School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 'Influence of the Westerlies in arid Central Asia during the Holocene recorded in sediments from lakes Son Kol and Chatyr Kol, Kyrgyzstan'
MSc Student Projects:
Bing Feng (2014) Diols and n-alkanes as biomarkers from a inland freshwater lake indicate the paleoclimate: Bardowie Lock of Scotland.
Charlotte Slaymark (2014) Plant leaf wax biomarkers and lake circulation interactions: implications for palaeoclimate records in Scotland.
Paraskevi Tsintza (2014) Identifying hydrocarbons from oil shales in stream sediments along the South Queensferry shore.
Nuffield Research Placements:
Alistair McDermid (Summer 2014) – from Kirkintilloch High School, 'Sediments, Biomarkers and Column Chromatography: Did Western Scotland Experience the Dramatic Cooling at 8.2ka?'
Undergraduate Projects, Bursary Students, and Prize GES Interns:
Stuart Allardice (2014) Visualizing the Destruction of Algal Cells for Potential Biofuels Lipids
Sanni Pulkki (2014) Detecting Potential Biofuel Lipids from Microalgal Cultures with State-of-the-Art Techniques
Rosie Bradshaw (2014) Characterizing the Hydrocarbon Content of the petroliferous Mulgrave Shale Member, Cleveland Basin using new techniques, GCxGC
Ruairidh Salmon (2014) Hydrocarbon Characterization of North Sea oil field drilling samples
Katrina Kerr (2014) The Cenomanian-Turonian Oceanic Anoxic Event
Jonathan McGourlay (2014) Paleoenvironmental reconstruction during the last 1,500 year in Southern Iberia, Spain
Allan Cochrane (Summer 2014) Palaeohumidity reconstruction during the late Holocene in Southern Iberia
Amanda Dolan (2013-2014) Characterising lipids from algae that produce biomarkers used to reconstruct palaeotemperature
Clare Noble (2013-2014) Applying a marine palaeotemperature proxy to lake sediments
Joe Armstrong (2013-2014) Detecting methane in peatlands using microbial biomarkers
Pauline Rovira (2013-2014) Charateristics of the hydrocarbons within the petroliferous Mulgrave Shale Member, Cleveland Basin
Clare Brady (Summer 2013) Assaying for environmental biomarkers from Late Pleistocene age Scottish Loch
Amanda Dolan (Summer 2013) Detecting marine dinoflagellates in geologic deposits in the absence of traditional fossils
Craig Barr - (2012-2013) 'Discovery of organic molecular fossils in the Southern Ocean during the Eocene (55 Ma) greenhouse'
Julia Rodden - (2012-2013)Final year project: 'The role of a Japanese peatland in the carbon cycle'
Charlotte McLean -(Summer 2012) GSL Bursary project: 'The role of peatland expansion and methane cycling on the East Antarctic continent in the early Eocene'
William Vorley - (2011-2012)Final year project: 'Lions Mane (Cyanea capilla) and Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) Biomarker Assay'
Daniella Peel - (2011-2012)Final year project: 'Transport and deposition of bacterial hopane biomarkers in Siberian fluvial and lacustrine settings'
Casey Bryce (2011-2012) Bursary work on sediment cores, haptophyte cultures, and water column sampling at Loch Sunart, Scotland, UK
Elizabeth Denis - Honors Thesis, Brown University, US 'Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in lake sediments record historic fire events: Validation using HPLC-fluorescence detection'
Scarborough - residential field course 'Petroleum Geology'
Arran - residential field course
- Co-organized 'The International Micro-symposium on: Bioremediation, Biotechnology, and Biogeochemistry', August 2014, Glasgow, UK at the University of Glasgow.
- Co-organized ‘The Second International Joint Meeting of Alkenone Bioscience and Geoscience’, February 2014, Tsukuba, Japan at the University of Tsukuba.
- Co-organized ‘The First International Joint Meeting of Alkenone Bioscience and Geoscience’, July 2012, Tsukuba, Japan at the University of Tsukuba.
- EGU Annual Meeting (2012), session: ‘Cenozoic greenhouse climates and carbon cycle dynamics’
- AGU Fall Meeting (2010), session: ‘Breakthroughs in continental paleothermometry: Applications of terrestrial proxies’
- Team member for application to Athena Swan Bronze status at the University of Glasgow.
- Graduate Representative for Earth Systems History to Dept. of Geological Sciences faculty meetings (2010-2011), Brown University
- Graduate Representative for Quaternary Sciences at the University Graduate Committee, (2001-2002) Northern Arizona University
- Scottish Crucible Participant (2013)
- Reviewer for a number of international journals.
- Proposal peer review NASA.
- Earth Science Women’s Network – European Board Member
- EGU Women in Geosciences Mentor
- STEM Ambassador for Science Outreach, U.K. (2012)
Workshops and Short Courses:
- 2012 Dinocyst Course, Utrecht, Netherlands.
- 2010 Urbino Summer School on Paleoclimatology
Links to Outreach Activities: