Cecile Hilgen

Vening Meineszgebouw A
Princetonlaan 8a
Kamer 3.44
3584 CB Utrecht

Volcanoes, estuaries, earthquakes, ice caps, forests, and oceans – all of these Earth system features are interconnected. I developed a passion for understand the fundamental processes that regulate the past, present and future dynamics of Earth’s climate. During my bachelor’s, chose to specialize in the fascinating field of Earth sciences. However, while studying deep time, I realized that I missed the relevance of this field to today's societal demands. Therefore, I pursued an educational minor to learn how to effectively share knowledge and engage the next generation. For my master's degree in Earth, Life, and Climate, I focused on the biogeochemistry of the North Sea and the impacts of recent climate change on high-Arctic lake sediments. Additionally, I had the opportunity to participate in a North Pole expedition, which made me realize that cooperation between policymakers, stakeholders, the public, and scientists is crucial for a sustainable future. In my current PhD research, I hope to improve the availability of high-resolution and time-constrained data, which is crucial to support efforts to mitigate global warming.


For billions of years, our planet has been shaped by natural forces and complex interactions between living and non-living components across its land, ocean, and atmosphere. As a high school student, I was drawn to the geological timescale, the preservation of fossils and dinosaurs, and the natural forces that shaped our planet. However, during my undergraduate studies in Earth sciences, I realized that the recent influence of anthropogenic forces on the chemical composition of the earth is disrupting the chemical footprint of the planet's natural state. I asked myself, how did the world look before humans existed? In order to answer this question, we need to discover evidence of past environmental conditions and gain a better understanding of the Earth system as it exists today. My interest shifted from slow geological processes to faster, human-scale processes that are more connected to the present state of our planet. Humans have a major impact on the interactions between land, atmosphere, and oceans, threatening many ecosystems, polluting aquatic systems, and expanding beyond the Earth's natural state. Therefore, I realized that comparing the natural state of Earth's climate before and during the anthropogenic impact is necessary to assess the consequences of human presence. By studying natural archives, we can unravel the complex interactions between Earth's past climate and its living systems. 


Through paleoclimatology, we can delve deep into the mysteries of our planet's past to put present changes into perspective, and predict changes the Earth may undergo in the future. By sharing this future perspective with all parties involved, we can enforce mitigation strategies for climate change on local, regional, and global scales. The Earth has already experienced periods of extreme heat and cold, severe storms and drought, and catastrophic events such as volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts, yet life on Earth has persisted and thrived in a remarkable variety of forms, demonstrating the resilience and adaptability of the natural world. Since we as humans have accelerated these weather phenomena, we have the ability to control them and reduce their speed in order to mitigate the impacts of Earth's changing climate today. Challenge accepted!

Fieldwork Svalbard - South-Barentsøya 2022

NoSE expedition 2023 - Multi-core Norwegian Trench 2023