Dr. Peter Bijl

Vening Meineszgebouw A
Princetonlaan 8a
Kamer 304
3584 CB Utrecht

Peter Bijl's (1983) personal research interests can be summarized in the theme "Climatic and environmental evolution of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean". Peter teaches in the programmes of Earth Sciences and the Bachelor biology on marine sciences and ice, ocean and climate dynamics and history. During his PhD research, Peter focused on the reconstruction of the climatological evolution of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the transition from the hot early Eocene to the middle- and late Eocene cooling. The role of plate tectonic changes in the Southern Hemisphere on one hand, specifically the opening of critical ocean gateways around Antarctica, and on the other hand the role of declining atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the Eocene were investigated. During postdoctoral research, Peter shifted focus towards icehouse climates of the Southern Hemisphere, notably the consequences of the installation of the Antarctic ice sheet in the early Oligocene for ecosystems, sea level and oceanography, and subsequent fluctuations. From 2013-2017, Peter focused his research with an NWO-sponsored VENI postdoctoral program  on the Paleocene paleoclimate evolution. Peter joined the permanent staff of the Department of Earth Sciences in December 2015. In 2014, Peter recieved the Arne Richter Award for outstanding young scientists from the European Geophysical Union, and in 2018 the Heineken Young Scientist Award from the Royal Netherlands Society of Sciences. Peter started in January 2019 the research project OceaNice, in which he investigates the role of ocean conditions on the melt of Antarctic ice sheets during past warm climates. This research has been funded by the European Research Council.

For his research, Peter uses predominantly sedimentary archives that are drilled with the successive drilling programs now known as the Integrated Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The methods Peter applies are focused towards the organic fossils preserved in the sediments: palynology (dinoflagellate cysts (dinocysts) and pollen and spores) combined with organic geochemical biomarker tools. The palynology is foremost used as stratigraphic tool: dinocysts are often the only stratigraphic tool in polar sediments. Peter also uses the dinocyst assemblages to reconstruct palaeo-environmental conditions. The biogeography of dinocysts, caused by the high sensitivity to small changes in their environment, provides a solid means to reconstruct oceanographic changes, sea level dynamics, nutrient availability and salinity; hence a good tool to reconstruct the paleoecology of continental shelfs. The organic geochemical biomarker proxies provide independently of the palynology, additional quantitative information about a suit of environmental conditions: sea- and air temperature, oxygen concentration of water, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Peter collaborated in the establishment of several platforms of science communication with the public. For instance, websites to disseminate scientific discoveries: paleolatitude.org, planktondrift.science.uu.nl, klimaathelpdesk.org and palsys.org


Peter is alumnus of the Utrecht Young Academy and waschair between March 2022 and 2024.

Peter about to board the Joides Resolution in 2010, for IODP Expedition 318 to Wilkes Land, Antarctica

Peter and his colleagues investigate a colorful core from IODP Site U1356