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Melissa Berke

Melissa Berke

Contact Info

Email: Melissa.Berke.1@nd.edu
Phone: 574-631-4857
Office: 164 Fitzpatrick Hall

Summary of Activities/Interests

One of the primary motivations of my research is to investigate past climate variability and associated global ecosystem change, using organic geochemical biomarkers to measure and quantify change through time. I am interested in questions that involve the intersection of the biological, geological, and chemical realms as recorded in the well-preserved, high-resolution archives of the sedimentary record. More specifically, I am driven towards investigations which utilize compound specific isotopes as valuable tools able to constrain environmental change and drivers over a wide-range of spatial and temporal scales. This research begins in the field, with sampled sediments, soils, or other geologic materials, and moves to the laboratory, where careful extraction using organic solvents uncovers the chemical signals of past life. Beyond the application of these biomarkers, some of my current work is aimed at bridging a critical gap between usage and mechanistic understanding of these proxies. For example, I have been determining what potential physiological information is recorded by plants beyond environmental conditions in leaf wax isotope ratios, and then looking at transport and incorporation of these leaf waxes into the geologic record.

Biography

Ph.D., Department of Geology & Geophysics, University of Minnesota (2011)

M.S., Department of Earth Sciences, University of California Riverside (2003)

B.A. (Honors), Department of Geology- Oberlin College (2000)

Postdoctoral Researcher, Global Change and Sustainability Center, University of Utah (2011-2013)

US Geological Survey, Eastern Earth Surface Processes Team (2003-2006)

Recent Select Papers

Tipple, B.J., Berke, M.A., Doman, C., Khachaturyan, S., and Ehleringer, J.R.,  Leaf wax and sedimentary n-alkane 2H/1H ratios reflect the environment during leaf expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2013.

Berke, M.A., Johnson, T.C., Werne, J.P., Grice, K., Schouten, S., and Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., Molecular records of climate variability and vegetation response since the Late Pleistocene in the Lake Victoria basin, East Africa, Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 55, p. 59-74, 2012.

Berke, M.A., Johnson, T.C., Werne, J.P., Schouten, S., and Sinninghe Damsté, J.S.,  A mid-Holocene thermal maximum at the end of the African Humid Period, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 351-352, p. 95-104, 2012.

Konecky, B., Russell, J.M., Johnson, T.C., Brown, E.T., Berke, M.A., Werne, J.P., and Huang, Y.,  Atmospheric circulation patterns during late Pleistocene climate changes at Lake Malawi, Africa. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 312, p. 318–326, 2011.

Fawcett, P. J., Werne, J.P., Anderson, R.S., Heikoop, J., Brown, E.T., Berke, M.A., Smith, S., Fraser, G. Hurley, L., Cisneros-Dozal, M., Schouten, S., Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., Huang, Y., Toney, J.,     Fessenden, J., WoldeGabriel, G., Atudorei, V., Geissman, J.W., and Allen, C.D., Extended megadroughts in the southwestern United States during Pleistocene interglacials. Nature, v. 470, p. 518-521, 2011.

New research opportunities for graduate students 

Now accepting graduate student applications for funded PhD and MS projects in biogeochemistry and paleoclimatology. Contact me (mberke@nd.edu) for more details.