Grads & Postdocs

 Postdoctoral Scholars

Dr. William Daniels is a postdoctoral fellow in the UMass Biogeochemistry Lab. His research interests include limnology, molecular paleoclimatology, isotope geochemistry, and human-environment interactions. He works on aquatic systems from Rhode Island to the US Great Lakes to the Arctic. In the Biogeochemistry Lab, Will’s current focus is on the application of branched GDGT and leaf wax biomarker proxies in the Lake El’Gygytgyn sedimentary record in effort to understand the ancient Siberian environment during the mid-Pliocene warm period and during the multiple super-interglacials thought to have occurred at Lake E. The mid-Pliocene warm period (~3 million years ago) was the last time atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations were as high as they are today, and so the MPWP serves as a critical analog for understanding future climate change. Learn more about Will’s research here:


 Dr. Robin Dawson is a postdoctoral research associate at UMass working with Stephen J. Burns and Isla S. Castañeda on understanding the paleoclimate of Madagascar and the evolution of the Indian Ocean Monsoon during the Pleistocene and Holocene. Robin is using stable isotopes as well as organic geochemistry (molecular fossils) from speleothems and lake sediments to characterize vegetation change, precipitation, and temperature fluctuations in the past. She also works closely with anthropologists who are studying whether megafauna extinctions in Madagascar were driven by climate or human activity. Learn more about Robin’s research here:


Dr. Tobias Schneider is a postdoctoral fellow in the Geosciences Department of UMass Amherst. He is working with Prof. Isla S. Castañeda and Prof. Raymond S. Bradley. He obtained his MSc in Geography and his PhD in Climate Sciences at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern, Switzerland (supervised by Prof. Dr. Martin Grosjean). His SNSF early Postdoc-Mobility research project is entitled “Past climate variability from southern Greenland lake sediments: exploring the potential of sedimentary lipid biomarkers combined with novel hyperspectral imaging techniques“. The project aims at providing high-resolution climate reconstructions based on lake sediments from lakes located in southern Greenland. Tobias investigates lipid biomarkers such as branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs, temperature proxy) and δ2HLW-isotopic ratios measured on leaf waxes (hydroclimate proxy) extracted from lake sediments to obtain climate reconstructions over the mid- to late-Holocene (~7 ka BP). Furthermore, Tobias is testing a proxy-to-proxy (PtP) calibration between a novel hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technique and brGDGT-derived temperature. A successful calibration would not only increase the temporal resolution of the reconstructions, but also drastically lower the analysis costs and acquisition time.


Graduate Students


Rebecca Smith is a PhD student in the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She is investigating this Plio-Pleistocene history of the Indonesian Throughflow from IODP Site U1463. She is using multiple organic geochemical temperature proxies to examine how changes in the Indonesian Throughflow have varied over time and their resulting influence on the hydroclimate of continental Australia.

Boyang Zhao is a PhD student in the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. His research interests lie in utilizing organic geochemical proxies to examine the climate of southwest Greenland to better understand the environments in which Norse settlers to Greenland lived. He is also interested in proxy validation and calibration, and is using modern vegetation, soil, surface sediment and sediment trap samples to investigate how climate signals are recorded in the sedimentary record. Learn more about Boyang’s research here: