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Advances in the reconstruction of temperature history, physiology and paleoenvironmental change : evidence from light stable isotope chemistry



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The rationale of this study is to apply light stable isotope chemistry towards investigations that require temporally high-resolution data. High-resolution (or high sampling frequency) data sets, are critical for testing environmental and/or paleoenvironmental hypotheses that seek to explain processes occurring over rapid or short time intervals. The investigation of climate variation (e.g., seasonality, El Niño, deglaciation), animal migration and physiology, and disturbance ecology (e.g., fire, flooding) benefits from the recovery of proxy information at decadal to subannual resolutions. The type of material used also dictates a spatial scale. Herein are presented four studies that utilize high-resolution light stable isotope profiles with contrasting temporal and spatial scales. The first study employs advances in three-dimensional computer-controlled micromilling to recover ~daily to weekly deposited carbonate from small (~1 cm) mollusc shells. Stable oxygen isotope values from freshwater mollusc shells are predictably related to the local environment of growth using previously published temperature-fractionation relationships, providing a paleoclimate record of temperature and precipitation. The second study investigates variation in stable carbon isotope values from Aplodinotus grunniens otoliths, for which high-resolution patterns were critical in assessing metabolic rate as the governing control. The third study employs high-resolution stable oxygen and carbon isotope values to determine chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) seasonal and ontogenetic migration in Lake Ontario and its tributaries. Lastly, high-resolution stable hydrogen and carbon isotope values of chitin derived from Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) guano are presented, providing a record of abrupt climate change. Thus, this thesis reports on promising new research avenues for paleoclimatology, paleoecology, and modern ecology.



stable carbon isotope, thermal behavior, paleoclimate, otolith, metabolic rate, deuterium, bat guano, stable oxygen isotope, semi-arid



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Geological Sciences


Geological Sciences


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