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The Working Group on Micropalaeontology and Palaeoecology (MicPal) at the University of Cologne aims to provide new perspectives on past ecosystems and ocean-climate dynamics through foraminiferal research.

Foraminifera are single-celled organisms that occupy a vast range of benthic and planktic habitats in the world’s oceans. They produce minute shells (mostly made out of carbonate or sediment particles) which are commonly preserved in the fossil record of marine sediments. Due to their abundance and wide stratigraphic range, foraminifera have been at the center of micropalaeontological research since the mid-19th century. At first primarily used as biostratigraphic markers, our increasing understanding of foraminiferal biology has established them amongst the key-indicators of past environmental conditions in palaeoecological research. Foraminiferal shells further provide invaluable palaeobiological and geochemical archives for numerical estimates of those hydrographic parameters (e.g., water temperature, primary productivity, bottom current strength) which are at the core of modern paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

Current research of MicPal largely focuses on the Neogene of the Atlantic-Mediterranean-Paratethys regions. Specific research topics include:

  • The interplay of tectonics and paleoclimate as trigger mechanisms of the development of Neogene marine ecosystems in semi-enclosed seas;
  • The role of marine gateways connecting the North Atlantic and Mediterranean in ocean-climate dynamics from late Miocene to Holocene (IODP Expedition 339);
  • Improvement and development of foraminifera-based biogenic and geochemical proxy methods.

The MicPal lab is equipped with facilities for the storage and preparation of microfossil samples and state of the art stereo microscopes combined with digital imaging systems. MicPal also operates a new Zeiss Sigma 300-VP scanning electron microscope used for high-resolution micro-imaging as well as elemental analyses (EDX, EBSD).