The Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) awarded its first Scientific Award Climate Research this month. Among the three winners are two VUB scientists: Niels de Winter and Wim Thiery.
“It is an honour and a privilege to receive this recognition for our research into climate extremes and their impact on humans and the environment,” says Prof Thiery. “We will use the prize money to make our website My Climate Future more accessible for young people around the world. I sincerely thank the FWO for putting the climate crisis on the agenda with this prize, and I hope that in the next edition we can honour three talented female laureates.”
Prof Thiery received a prestigious ERC consolidator grant for his project on the long-term impact of climate change at the end of last year. With his research team, he plans to use demographic and climatic methods to analyse the impact of increasing heat waves, forest fires, crop failures, floods, droughts and tropical storms. Their focus will be on the risks for current young generations.
Niels de Winter investigates how shellfish such as mussels, oysters and cockles build up their shells layer by layer over varying periods, from days to hundreds of years. Fossils of these shells act as archives of previous environmental changes, providing researchers with climate-related information such as seawater temperature and salinity. While most climate reconstructions cover thousands or millions of years, fossilised shells offer detailed insights into seasons and weather patterns in the distant past. “Understanding these changes is important, especially as the future climate is likely to differ significantly from weather data in the past century,” says De Winter. “Through my research on reconstructions of short-term environmental changes from shells, we can obtain information about weather patterns during warmer climate periods in the distant past.”
de Winter adds: “This award is a very nice reward for my work on past climate change reconstructions. It is good to see that the FWO is continuing to support the developments of these high-resolution reconstructions. This award will allow us to take our research a step further and better understand how to use fossils to study past climate.”
Wim Thiery [email protected]
Niels De Winte [email protected]