Chemistry and Earth and planetary sciences double major Eric Ryberg is working in the Stable Isotope Lab to establish a new method for investigating past climates by using isotopes of oxygen atoms of rainwater. Isotopes of a specific element have the same number of protons, but vary in the number of neutrons, causing the atoms to have different masses. Ryberg uses rainwater samples from Ethiopia to piece together the environmental conditions that cause these isotopic variations.
In His Own Words
“The groundbreaking aspects of this investigation are so exciting. Paleoclimate research has been restricted due to the specific chemical elements required in current methods; for this reason, a lot of work has been done using ice from glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. However, because the method I am investigating only requires elemental oxygen, rocks that form from precipitation are fair game.”
Adviser: Naomi Levin, Assistant Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences