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Keir Nichols, Ph.D. Graduate Student

My Research:

Keir Nichols

I am primarily interested in the use of in situ produced cosmogenic nuclides to study the history of ice sheets. My background is in Physical Geography (BSc, Aberystwyth University) and Geoscience Research (MSc, Keele University), so to study geology at Tulane I had a lot of catching up to do. I work with my advisor Dr. Brent Goehring in the Tulane University Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory (TUCNL), where we extract carbon from quartz using the TU Carbon Extraction and Graphitization System (TU-CEGS). My main project involves measuring the cosmogenic in situ C-14 concentration of erratic cobbles and bedrock samples collected from the sides of nunataks in the Weddell Sea Embayment, Antarctica. I’m studying the past thickness and constraining the timing of thinning of three different ice masses that drain ice from the West and East Antarctic ice sheets into the embayment at present. Past studies using long lived cosmogenic nuclides yielded results that were inconclusive with respect to the Last Glacial Maximum (ca. 21 ka), which is why we are using the short lived nuclide, C-14, to address this problem. Whilst at Tulane I have been fortunate to learn how to use the TU-CEGS, making measurements for numerous external collaborators and being included in their published research. I have been able to partake in fieldwork in southern California, Norway, and Alaska, collecting samples for cosmogenic nuclide studies. I have also presented my PhD research at the WAIS Workshop, Interdisciplinary Antarctic Earth Sciences Meeting, and AGU.

My Life at Tulane:

I thoroughly enjoy working and studying at Tulane and living in New Orleans. The Tulane Uptown campus is a beautiful place to work, located opposite the stunning Audubon Park and the picturesque St. Charles Avenue streetcar. The Tulane Reily Center has been wonderful for intermural soccer and the gym facilities. Live music and food festivals are probably the best ways to spend spare time in New Orleans, with Voodoo Festival being a personal favourite every year. The extremely warm summers are made up by the lovely warm winters, when I am able to wear shorts every day whilst my friends and family in the UK suffer with snow.