ICARUS Palaeo Research Lab
The new Palaeo Research Lab at ICARUS, which incorporates the Irish Sediment Core Research Facilities (ISCORF) lab founded in 2009, is now up and running, thanks to funding from the Geological Survey of Ireland. Building on the expertise and equipment of the ISCORF lab, new lab space and new equipment greatly expands the research capabilities into palaeoenvironmental reconstructions across stratigraphic cores from peatlands, floodplains and salt marshes, and from speleothems and other palaeoarchives. The new lab supports the research of Palaeoenvironments research strand at ICARUS (PIs Shaw, Orme, McCarron, Charlton and Scroxton), their research groups, undergraduate and graduate thesis students, collaborators, and external scientists who wish to conduct work in the labs. It is expertly run by Dr. Michelle Curran.
Currently, the Palaeo Research lab is spread between two existing spaces, the ISCORF lab and a lab in the Department of Geography. Renovation of a new lab space is ongoing and we are excited to share this new space once it is ready.
A Nabertherm Ashing Furnace, high precision balance, desiccator, and drying oven allow for the measurement of various sediment characteristics (including organic, inorganic, carbonate and carbon content) through the loss-on-ignition process. Ashing of peat and soil samples at 550⁰C is used to remove the organic material, allowing for precise measurement of the mass lost relative to the dry sample weight, as a means of accurately determining the proportion of organic and mineral material. Ashing at 1050⁰C allows the carbonate content to be calculated. Further analysis can include the isolation of mineral material from the ash, enabling subsequent grainsize analysis, which can be used to detect past high-energy, depositional events (e.g., past storminess and flood frequency).
Microfossil Preparation and analysis
A Fisherbrand GT1 Benchtop Centrifuge, hotplate, fridge, water bath and microscopes enable the preparation, long-term storage and microscopic analysis of pollen/fungal spores, testate amoebae, and diatoms. This facilitates research into past vegetation and ecology, peatland water table levels and sea surface temperature respectively.
Speleothem Processing Equipment:
The Palaeo Research Lab is a one-stop shop for speleothem sample processing in Ireland. It contains the necessary equipment for full preparation of speleothem samples, from collection through to sub-sampling ahead of analysis. This includes a Flexovit Diamond Blade Tile-Saw for cutting and trimming samples and a Flex Wet Stone Polisher with diamond pads ranging from 50 to 3000 grit for polishing speleothem sections. For subsampling, a CNC Sherline NexGen Benchtop Mill micromill enables sub-mm scale milling or drilling of calcium carbonate powders from the central growth axis. These powders are used for geochemical analysis to measure stable isotope ratios or trace element concentrations via mass spectrometry. A Dremel 3000 multi-tool allows for fine-scale hand-held subsampling of small chips and powders used to date the speleothem and provide a robust age model for the palaeoclimate reconstruction.
Peat Coring Field Equipment:
Two Russian Corers, a Golf Hole Corer and a Eijkelkamp Corer, along with other facilitating field equipment such as GPS units, ranging poles and tape measures etc, allow for collecting peat and sediment cores in the field, facilitating both our research projects and teaching students in the field.
Visiting the ICARUS Palaeo Research Lab
Our lab is open to collaborators and visiting scientists. Collaborators and visiting scientists are advised to contact either Michelle Curran ,firstname.lastname@example.org, or the relevant PI. A teamup.com booking system is in preparation and will be functional once the new combined labspace is open.
We are also interested in hosting interested school and community groups for laboratory ‘experience days’. These would involve demonstrations and hands-on activities in our newly refurbished teaching laboratory, and guided tours of the Palaeo Research Lab.