Amelia Shevenell from the University of South Florida specializes in big ideas about paleoceanography and the Antarctic Ice Sheet. She’s also keen to push the methodological envelope, which can be risky if things go pear shaped. For Amelia, though, the work resulted in papers in Science (Mg/Ca) and Nature (TEX86).
The method, while of course important, is not the main motivation. Instead, it’s the huge, gaping holes in our knowledge of Southern Hemisphere climate variability that seem to motivate Amelia. The questioning and search for challenges was there from the start. In high school, Amelia’s uncle unleashed her on climate variability over the past century in the Durham NH area. Coring away, when I was scooping ice cream.
Amelia had plenty of inspiration from her family, including Great Aunt Mary Sears. The family spirit of exploration and possibility was infectious, and Amelia double majored in geology and studio art. She still does pottery (example above) and, unbeknownst to her, worked for years with actor Jeff Bridges (full story at the end of the podcast).
Throughout, Amelia’s been interested in how Antarctic functions within the climate system. And it’s weird, sometimes. During the Miocene Climate Optimum, “It’s almost like we’re having ice growth during a period of warming … and nobody’s really said that out loud”. Now, Amelia is working with her colleagues to link together the deep sea records with shelf- and land-based evidence to try and understand the shockingly large ice sheet variability that seems to have happened at millennial time scales.
Getting all this done, while raising a family and going for tenure at USF, isn’t for the faint of heart. Although she was tenured at UCL, Amelia chose to return to the US for family and financial reasons (living in London on a geoscientist’s salary is, in British understatement, a bit difficult). Now, Amelia’s mom is next door and helping with child care, and her husband sounds epic. But it’s all-consuming, nonetheless.
Still, as you’ll hear in the interview, the practical realities of family and career haven’t done anything to diminish Amelia’s enthusiasm for her science!
Music: Running Waters by Jason Shaw CC BY 3.0 US; Siesta by Jahhzar CC BY-SA 3.0.