Meet Geologist Dr. Stephen Pekar

The students become detectives as well, collecting clues to figure out the history of the rocks, many of which are older than the dinosaurs.

People often ask me: Why is it important to study climate changes that happened so long ago? The short answer is that the past gives us clues about the present and the future. Today, due to rising levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, our climate is warming quickly. It is as if our planet is sitting on a hot plate. These greenhouse gases are rising to levels not seen in tens of millions of years. So, when I play detective and study the last time our planet experienced similar conditions, I’m basically looking backwards in order to help predict our future.

So what do I do to collect clues about our past climate? Well, I look at sediments and tiny fossils called “microfossils”. These are the shells left behind by one-celled creatures that lived long ago. There is a lot I can learn from these microfossils, and I will tell you and show more about that throughout this virtual exchange. My research has taken me on expeditions around the world! Right now I am in Cape Town, South Africa, about to embark on an expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I have also been on four expeditions to Antarctica, including two expeditions where I lived in an unheated tent!

I’m excited to embark on this expedition with you, and before long, to get the chance to show you the amazing research vessel, the JOIDES Resolution, which will be my home at sea for the next few months. Let’s play detective at the bottom of the ocean together!