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Research at St Andrews

Nicola Allison

Person

Nicola Allison
Postal address:
School of Earth & Enviro Sciences
Irvine Building
St Andrews

United Kingdom

Email: na9@st-andrews.ac.uk

Direct phone: +44 (0)1334 463952

Research overview

My research focuses on biomineralisation. In particular I study how organisms form CaCO3 biominerals, what the chemistry of these minerals can tell us about past environments and how biomineral formation will be affected by climate and environmental change.

Calcium carbonates are formed by a range of important marine organisms including corals, molluscs and foraminifera. These calcareous structures provide tissue support and protection and serve to provide habitat spaces for other organisms e.g. coral reefs. I maintain an aquaria system to culture marine organisms under tightly controlled conditions to study the effects of rising seawater temperatures and atmospheric CO2 (ocean acidification) on biomineralisation processes. I also research how CaCO3 chemistry is affected by the environment conditions at the time of deposition and investigate how the chemistry of fossil carbonates e.g. ancient reefs, may record climatic information. These accurate records of past seawater temperatures are key to understanding past global climates and for validating models predicting 21st century climate change. 

Biominerals are composite materials of both CaCO3 and organic matrices. I have built an apparatus to precipitate biominerals under the conditions analogous to those predicted to occur in organisms and my group is researching how  organic materials e.g. amino acids and proteins affect biomineral formation.

 

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