David Gillikin

2017 Peru team: Jordy Herbert ‘18, Prof. Gillikin, James Molloy ‘17, Prof. Rodbell and Tshering Lama Sherpa ‘18.

I taught Earth and Life through Time in the Fall and had a productive sabbatical this past winter and spring terms. I spent much of my sabbatical wrapping up various projects and writing manuscripts. I also continued my research in coastal North Carolina, where I am setting up a long-term monitoring experiment using clamshells to understand how the coastal creeks and bays are changing. I also spent some time in the Peruvian Andes with Professor Don Rodbell and three students. We cored five lakes in the basins around Lake Junin (all above 14,000 feet) and Jordy Herbert ’18 is working on understanding how these lakes became polluted with nutrients though time. After a brief vacation, my next week of fieldwork was in the Masi Mara in Kenya, where we sampled the Mara River its tributaries. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds because the Mara has a high density of deadly animals, with crocs and hippos being the biggest risk. We had an armed ranger with us most of the time, and just avoided areas with big crocs. We had hoped to find some bivalve shells in the Mara, but could only find shell fragments of unknown age. Nevertheless, the river water chemistry data we collected is valuable and will shed light on the carbon and nitrogen cycling in this river. I have also advanced my speleothem research and have active programs in New York (with Hannah Barnes ’18 and Sarah Katz), Peru (with Joe Ammirato ’18), and Portugal.
The stable isotope laboratory is also doing well and has been a busy place. We hosted students from the Keck Geology Consortium, Denison University, and the University of North Carolina, as well as many Union students from Geology and Biology. As lab director I oversee all incoming samples and outgoing data. I’m also involved in scheduling the instrument and method development. Luckily, Anouk Verheyden is now a Lecturer with her co-curricular activities focused on keeping the lab running. We also have Sarah Katz as a lab technician (shared with Don Rodbell’s core lab) who has been running most of the samples, as well as several work study students prepping samples and standards and keeping a supply of vials clean and ready to go (Mason King ’17, Jordy Herbert ’18, Hayley Bennett ’19, and Laura Piccirillo ‘20). The lab continues to be very successful and receives samples from around the world.
We’ve been enjoying the old farmhouse we moved into four years ago. Although renovations have been a lot slower than I hoped, the house is very comfortable. Our son Lucas is now nine years old and just started 4th grade. He loves fictional writing and science and at home is a huge help with moving firewood, picking apples, and maple sugaring.

Prof. Gillikin alongside the Mara River looking at a stretch of the river to not sample because of the 17 hippos in sight.

Prof. Gillikin sampling a tributary to the Mara River in Kenya.

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