My current research is situated at the intersection of Paleoclimatology and the economic history of the premodern world. Paleoclimate research has advanced rapidly in the last few years and is increasingly adding high resolution, multi scalar proxy data on climate and climate change. I'm particularly interested in ice core geochemistry, a very exciting and dynamic science. Historians, especially of the premodern world, simply can no longer afford to ignore the growing natural archive produced by ice core analysis. Other proxy data, inter alia from tree rings, speleothems, sediment cores, are crucial as well, and every month there are new and important data. I am part of a small team that has been working on understanding the impacts of explosive volcanic eruptions on the Nile watershed. We have focused on the Ptolemaic period so far but plan on extending our study through Late Antiquity and examining the inter-regional impacts of climate change across the Mediterranean world, but with particular focus on the Nile and Euphrates rivers. Our ongoing work suggests that there is now a lot of exciting work to do to understand human societies as coupled human-natural systems with feedback loops. We plan on exploring what the impact of human society was on the environment, how the environment shaped human societies of the past, and what the impact of climate change was on these societies. Science has given us the ability now to answer these crucial questions in far more detail than ever before.
The two inter-coupled plasma mass spectrometers (IC-PMS) in the lab of Joe McConnell, Desert Research Institute
On the left, the famous Kallimachos decree, taken at the "Egypt and the Classical World" exhibit at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It is normally housed in Turin. The text is dated to 39 BCE and details the severe famine and Nile flood failure that had occurred in the 40's BCE while Kallimachos was the local governor. The Nile failure and famine are likely associated with the massive eruption in 44 BCE, one of the largest in the last 2500 years. On the right, the chronology of explosive eruptions from ice core records from 305 BCE to 200 CE from the NEEM- 2001-S1 ice core record. Courtesy of Michael Sigl, Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland.