Currently Jordan Kinsley is using biogeochemical techniques to try and understand more about the ancient organic matter stored in rocks. It has long been understood that the mass extinctions in earth’s history have coincided with periods where the oceans have become starved of oxygen. With the right conditions the dead organic material which is deposited on the bottom of the ocean over time forms crude oil, bitumen and petroleum.
Jordan’s PhD involves combining the study of these biomarkers with other inorganic techniques for determining the oxygen in the ocean at a given time such as isotopic analysis. ‘These two methods have been used independently for a long time and they both claim to be good at telling how much oxygen there is, but nobody has really worked to compare them exactly or see how they might relate or if they relate at all.’
The goal of my research is to better understand how the changes in the oceans oxygen levels will affect the lives and deaths of its inhabitants.
‘If we can pin down more accurately how this kind of change in chemistry affected whole eco systems and can link that more precisely, then we can probably say something about the magnitude of the catastrophe that we may or may not be causing.’
Jordan’s passion for the earth sciences began with palaeontology but the opportunity to use more quantitative techniques lead him into the field of biogeochemistry.
‘Studying what I do is a nice halfway house because you still get all the interesting history of life stuff but with some nice precise chemical data as well. It’s all of these interconnections I just love. Not just how the earth’s system controls what’s living but how things that are alive control the earth’s system internally. The things that live on the surface and happily go about their daily lives make these permanent and massive changes to how the earth actually functions.’