Researcher Spotlight

Researcher Spotlight: Divya Saxena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PhD Student Texas A&M University

My current research attempts to disentangle synergistic causes of extinction “debt” among corals and mollusks in southwestern Caribbean due to closure of Central American Seaway (CAS) using environmentally sensitive stable isotope (d18O, d13C, d15N) and trace element (P, Fe, Ca, Sr, Mg) proxies.

Where and in what field did you receive your B.S., M.S. and/or Ph.D.?

I received my B.S. and M.S. in Geology from University of Delhi, India, and currently pursuing doctoral studies at Texas A&M University, College Station.

Why should everyone be interested in your research?

Modern anthropogenic fragmentation of natural habitats and populations necessitates careful examination of the geologic past in order to gather clues on ecosystem resilience, and use this information from past as a key to understanding future of life and its adaptability to changing environments.

There is so much to learn about how extinctions occurred in the past, why only certain organisms were most hard hit whilst others thrived in perturbed conditions, and whether such highly adaptive species can regress effects of climate change.

My research uses paleontological material and stable isotope geochemistry as proxies to better comprehend such attributes of geological past as climates, ecosystem dynamics, paleo-productivity, nutrient sources and sinks, changing configuration of ocean basins, and architectural framework of paleo-ecological niches.

Improved understanding of how the biosphere on land and in sea responded to climate change in geological history has significant implications for policy, governance, and mitigation practices, and in the current scenario of accelerated biodiversity loss, when we are pressed for time and initiatives (alike) to minimize impact and restore niches in fragile ecosystems my research will help guide policies and hazard management practices in affected areas.

What excites you about scientific research? 

The uncertainty inherent to scientific research and problem solving excites me the most. It poses a challenge and imputes a sense of accomplishment when things go as planned. Discovering patterns and trends in the natural world via stable isotopes or another proxy is intellectually satisfying and motivates me to continually work harder, with the ultimate goal of getting my science out to the general public.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Earth Science? 

I got introduced to Geology in 9th grade by my uncle who is a sedimentologist. During our trips to his house in summer months, I was fascinated by his exquisite rock and fossil collection, and from thereon made dedicated efforts in my geology class. What truly inspired me to pursue a career in Geology was my urge to learn about my surroundings; the river, mountains, beach, had all formed from a series of larger processes that operated on incredibly long timescales. Fathoming the vastness and grandeur of Earth was exhilarating and this had me hooked to the subject matter. I never saw mountains, snow, beaches, the same way as I once did, and getting my hand on sea shells or biotite schists furthered my excitement while on family vacation.

Today, I’m proud to have learned so much about our planet, its past and present, and feel obliged to further this understanding in whatever little way that I can through my research findings.

Given unlimited funding, what research project would your pursue?

The scope of Nitrogen isotope studies is unprecedented wherein it has the potential of unraveling paleo-nutrient cycling in deeper oceans and its relation to the surface ocean productivity in geologic past. If provided with unlimited funding, I would like to sample an entire ocean basin from beach-slope-shelf-deep waters, at shallow, intermediate and abyssal depths for planktons and nitrate concentrations to develop high-resolution bathymetric profiles of nutrient cycling and productivity throughout the year in response to seasonality, precipitation, sedimentation rate, ocean currents, and population density of larger organisms. This nutrient density and cycling map would then be used to interpret the paleo-nutrient dynamics in geologic past.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of your work? 

I’m a sports enthusiast and love being in the outdoors. I enjoy running and physical activity of any sort. In my free time, I like sketching and currently I’m learning a new software to digitize some of my artwork. Before heading out to vacation anywhere, I do a literature review of the geology of the area and love taking pictures of outcrops and geologic features (much to the chagrin of my family).

Photo that describes your work:

This picture was taken during field tour to a cavern in Bahia Honda village, Panama in March 2016. The large outcrop is a carbonate sequence, Holocene in age, that has well-development karst features. Personnel from the local community offer guided tours of several caves in the region (ecotourism) which is increasingly becoming a major occupational activity.

To learn more about Divya Saxena, email at: divya2490@tamu.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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