VUB geochemist and palaeoclimatologist Niels de Winter has received an Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award from the European Geosciences Union (EGU). EGU is the most important geoscientific union in Europe. The Outstanding Early Career Scientist Awards recognise the scientific achievements of an early career scientist in a particular field.
Niels de Winter is an FWO researcher at the VUB research group Analytical, Environmental and Geo-Chemical (AMGC). He holds a Marie Curie Grant from the EU, through which he is currently jointly affiliated with the University of Utrecht.
De Winter develops methods to reconstruct climate based on fossil shells, which he then compares with modern shells and teeth from, for example, deceased horses. The unusual comparative technique allows him to reconstruct seasonal differences in the geological past. For example, his previous work taught us that 70 million years ago the days were half an hour shorter than they are today, and that a year back then lasted for 372 days. He is also taking part in archaeological research on population migrations during the Neolithic period.
Niels de Winter is currently applying the new “clumped isotope” technique at the University of Utrecht and in the lab of the AMGC group at VUB to make very accurate seasonal temperature reconstructions from fossil shells. The innovative technique makes much more precise climate reconstructions possible.