Science background

Jared Peters in front of the northern Irish coast
Jared Peters in front of the northern coast of Ireland.

Jared Peters, PhD, is a geoscientist who specialises in marine sedimentology, marine palaeoglaciology and climate change.  He also has extensive research experience with geochronology, marine micropaleontology, geomorphology and terrestrial sedimentology.  Although his primary research interests focus on Quaternary environmental change and cryosphere-hydrosphere interactions, he is interested in all aspects of the natural sciences and even some of the humanities.

Less-sciencey science background:

For anyone who finds the above description to be a bit congested with peculiar terms, here is a summary with less of the uncommon scientific words.  Jared Peters has researched sediment deposits on the ocean floor and the processes that placed them there.  More specifically, he looks at the sediment left behind by ice sheets where they meet the ocean, or did in the past.  With data gathered from the sea floor, Jared assesses the likely climatic and environmental changes that caused the sediment depositing processes.  The study of these deposits and depositional processes is called sedimentology.

In addition to sedimentology, Jared has extensive experience in analysing the age of ancient sediments (or things deposited with them).  To do this he typically employs the principal of steady radioactive decay; when applied to the element carbon this is called radiocarbon dating, which is one of several geochronological (geo = Earth, chron = time, ological = of a particular scientific study) methods.

Another technique that Jared often uses is called marine micropalaeontology (micro = small, palaeo = ancient, ontos = creature, ology = study).  To do this, Jared identifies and counts many, many thousands of the tiny seashell-like shells of single-celled organisms called foraminifera.  This needs to be done with a microscope because the foraminifera shells usually range from 50-500 μm (or 0.05-0.5 mm, or 0.00197-0.0197 inches).  Foraminifera are everywhere in the world’s oceans and they are beautiful, so it is too bad that, even though you have likely been absolutely covered in them, you have probably never seen them.  Different species of foraminifera are adapted to different climates and environments.  Thus, by examining the foraminiferal record, Jared is able to reveal conditions of the ancient oceans.

Yet another research method that Jared employs is called geomorphology (geo = Earth, morph = change, ology = study).  This field of research examines landforms in order to assess how they were made.

By applying the above techniques (and some other analyses) to landscapes that have been overridden by ice sheets (i.e. they have been “glaciated”), Jared models the palaeoglaciological record.  This means he reconstructs the behaviour of ice sheets that are now gone or are much smaller than what they once were.  Since ice sheets both affect and are affected by the Earth’s climate, this is a form of climate change study.  The period of time that Jared is most interested in is the last 2.5 million years, which is called the Quaternary Period.  Since this is the only period in which we have all lived, it is typically everyone’s favourite.

A specific interest of Jared’s that falls within the realm of Quaternary palaeoglaciology and environmental change deals with cryosphere-hydrosphere interactions.  The cryosphere is the Earth’s frozen water and the hydrosphere is the Earth’s liquid water.  So, the interactions between the two are of great importance to ocean circulation, sea level, climate change and periodic “catastrophic” floods.

Whooah.  The laymen’s explanation took a while.  This is why scientists work so hard to stay versed in the specialised vocabulary of their field.  They aren’t using strange words just to sound smart or keep people from knowing what they are talking about.

General Background:

Jared wasn’t always a scientist.  He also toiled for almost a decade as a carpenter and sheet-metal worker.  After that, he spent a few years working as a rock climbing guide.  While guiding, Jared lived in a very small log cabin without heat, plumbing, sewer, or electricity.  This gave him a lot more time with his thoughts.  So, when he wasn’t climbing, he spent his time reading as many books as he could get his hands on.  Eventually, this sparked his interest in science and education.

Since then, Jared has accumulated four higher-education degrees.  He has an AAS in adventure sports management.  Followed by a BSc in geoscience.  Then he went on to get a MSc in geography from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.  Finally, he earned his PhD in marine palaeoglaciology and Quaternary environmental change from Ulster University in Northern Ireland.