"To bring the future into focus, we have to return to the past"
Prof Dr Appy Sluijs is Professor of Paleoceanography. He conducts research into climate changes in the geological past and into the relationship between CO2 and the Earth's climate. He does so by examining and taking samples from rocks in the seabed. Analysing these samples allows Sluijs to see how the climate varied in the past, why, and what kind of biological impact these variations had. This knowledge helps to increase our understanding of how the 'Earth System' reacts to changes such as those occurring right now.
'The biggest advantage of the past is that it’s already happened'
To conduct this research, Sluijs and a large group of international scientists take to the ocean on large ships to extract core samples from the ocean floor. These samples consist of layers of mud that have been deposited on the ocean floor over millions of years. 'We examine the core samples quite closely while still on board, but once we're back on land we study the samples in much greater detail and can draw conclusions about how the ocean changes over time.' Thanks to these core samples, Sluijs has discovered, among other things, that the greenhouse gas disaster that led to the extinction of many deep-sea species 55 million years ago was the result of a climate change reaction.