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Miss Amy Waterson

Local and global effects of long-term environmental change: A turtle's eye view (Supervisors: Dr. Daniela Schmidt, Prof. Paul Valdes and Dr. Paul Barrett)

My PhD research focuses on the long-term response of biota to global environmental change. I am interested in how the exploration of past biological diversity can inform and improve understanding of future biodiversity dynamics under changing global climate conditions.

My research aims to provide a palaeo-time perspective on the potential links between climate and chelonian (turtle, tortoise and terrapin) diversity and distribution. Chelonians are an immensely successful group of vertebrates that have endured for over 220 million years. They have persisted through numerous major environmental perturbations, including the formation of global hothouse conditions in the Late Cretaceous and Eocene, the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, and post-Eocene global cooling trends. The study of their past reactions to major climatic events can provide baseline information to help project possible responses to future climate change, as well as support implementation of appropriate strategies for chelonian diversity management at local and global scales.

I am applying niche modelling techniques, which incorporate palaeoenvironmental data and fossil chelonian data, to elucidate the environmental constraints on the diversity and distribution of chelonians in space/time and to determine whether significant events in their evolutionary history coincide with major episodes of global environmental change. Parallel to this I am also compiling a review of current palaeoclimate proxy data for marine and terrestrial realms during the Mesozoic and Paleogene (~252 – 23 Ma); these data will be compared with outputs from a fully-coupled general circulation model (HadCM3L), to allow for detailed investigation of chelonian palaeobiogeographical habitat and climatic niches at specified time slices during Earth's history.

Research keywords

  • Ecological niche modelling
  • Turtle
  • GCM
  • Paleoclimate
  • Proxy data
  • Climate change