Source: GNS Science
The Hatherton Award, from Royal Society Te Apārangi, is for the best scientific paper by a PhD student at any New Zealand university studying physical sciences, earth sciences or mathematical and information sciences.
Dr Grant’s research paper has been extremely well received.
Her paper, ‘The amplitude and origin of sea-level variability during the Pliocene epoch’, was published in the leading science journal Nature, tracking in the 99th percentile of articles published at the same time. The paper also gained attention from the International Panel on Climate Change.
Dr Grant’s research involved the geological coring of sediments from the Whanganui Basin, on the west coast of the North Island. The Whanganui Basin is where some of the best evidence anywhere in the world for global sea-level changes can be found.
Dr Grant recovered shallow marine sands and muds deposited three million years ago, under climate conditions similar to those predicted for the end of this century.
From these sediment cores, Georgia developed a new method for reconstructing past water levels – by relating wave energy to sand particle transport which is dependent on water depth.
Her research shows approximately one third of Antarctica’s ice sheets melted during the Pliocene epoch around three million years ago, causing sea-levels to rise as much as 25 metres above present levels. Levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere were similar to today’s levels and in response, temperature was two to three degrees Celsius warmer.
Winning the Hatherton Award is truly amazing, and I feel encouraged that paleoclimate research plays an important role in understanding our climate crisis
Dr Grant, who originally came to Wellington from the Bay of Islands to study architecture, says she always enjoyed science.
“After a year of studying architecture – and not being very good – I reflected on what was important to me and how I wanted to contribute to society. I researched various environmental courses before settling on geology. I’ve never really looked back – except to the ancient past.”
“Winning the Hatherton Award is truly amazing, and I feel encouraged that paleoclimate research plays an important role in understanding our climate crisis.”
Dr Grant’s research was made possible with funding from the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant. She thanks her PhD supervisors, Prof. Tim Naish and Dr. Gavin Dunbar; her co-authors of the paper; the Antarctic Research Centre of Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science for their support; and Prof Robert McKay for the nomination.