Ancient DNA as a new tool for past climate change

With a ERC Consolidator Grant grant of 2,6 mill Euro, Stijn De Schepper will develop ancient DNA as a new tool for documenting past sea ice change.

By Gudrun Sylte and Rune Rolvsjord
Stijn Foto Graven Fb1200
Stijn De Schepper receives an ERC Consolidator Grant for his work on DNA. Photo: Andreas R. Graven.

– I am truly excited that I will be able to pursue my research idea to use ancient DNA for sea ice reconstructions. It is great to see that this novel approach that has the potential to significantly advance the field of paleo-sea ice research is being recognized as ground-breaking, Stijn De Schepper, researcher at NORCE Climate and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research says.

The generous funding from ERC allows him to establish a cross-disciplinary research group of paleoceanographers and molecular ecologists at the forefront of a new research field. In the project AGENSI - A Genetic View into Past Sea Ice Variability in the Arctic, the researcher team of paleoceanographers and molecular ecologists will be using ancient DNA to better understand sea ice variations in the past. They will develop, test and apply ancient DNA as a new tool for documenting past sea ice change to better understand what is driving past Arctic sea ice and climate change.

– My team and I will use techniques from molecular ecology to innovate the field of paleoceanography, with a focus on developing new tools for investigating what is driving past Arctic sea ice change. Receiving this grant gives me the freedom to pursue fundamental paleoclimate research and will strengthen paleoclimate research at NORCE Climate and the Bjerknes Centre, De Schepper adds.

– ERC is for science what Champions League is to football. Congratulations to Stijn De Schepper for this achievement, first and foremost because he kept the faith and had the confidence to try. We need to think we are good enough, because that is exactly what Stijn shows. We are! First, it is pleasing to Stijn and the team from the departments of Climate and Environment at NORCE, and it is an amazing prestige both for NORCE and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, says Trond Dokken, Executive Vice President – Climate, NORCE.

Adds to the long list of ERC-grantsf

­ -ERC is the instrument EU uses to support investigator-driven frontier research and is an essential instrument in developing the next generation of top research leaders in Europe. Outstanding research is the very basis for innovation and technological advances, and the fact that we can be competitive in this area of ​​EU funding shows that we have research expertise entirely in the topmost of European research, says Trond Dokken.

In recent years several ERC grants has been awarded to researcher at the Bjerkness Center and it´s four partner institutions NORCE, UiB, the Institute of Marine Research and Nansensenter. Stijn De Schepper joins the series with six previous projects:

  • 2014 Ice2ice, Eystein Jansen og Kerim Nisancioglu, ERC Synergy Grant
  • 2014 Nele Meckler, ERC Starting Grant
  • 2015 Noel Keenlyside, ERC Consolidator Grant
  • 2017 John Birks, ERC Advanced Grant
  • 2017 Hans Christian Steen-Larsen, ERC Starting Grant
  • 2017 Harald Sodemann, ERC Consolidator Grant