Huub Zwart

University of Birmingham


Development and application of novel palaeoclimate proxies based on 3-hydroxy fatty acids


Dr James Bendle & Dr Tom Dunkley-Jones

PhD Summary

My project revolves around the development of proxies from a novel suite of biomarkers, 3-hydroxy fatty acids. These biomarkers originate from Gram negative bacteria, they are found in lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which are one of the constituents of their outer cell membrane. The composition and relative abundance of these 3-hydroxy fatty acids has been shown to correlate with environmental conditions such as soil temperature and pH. As Gram negative bacteria are found in a wide range of environments, and LPS is relatively well preserved through geological time, this is a potentially rich and untapped source of terrestrial climate information. I am calibrating and testing these proxies in the modern environment and will study their robustness for application in paleo-environmental reconstructions.

What inspires you?

As long as I can remember I’ve been going outdoors, I love being outside for hikes, sports or any reason. Although the path hasn’t been as straight as it could be (tried some other things first) studying Earth Sciences was the best choice ever.

Previous Activity

A Bachelor (BSc) and Master’s (MSc) in Earth Sciences (Climate reconstruction) at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

During my final research project on tracing soil organic carbon in a subtropical river system, I learned how challenging (and fun!) the use and interpretation of biomarkers can be. Needless to say, 6 months was not enough for me and therefore this project had the looks of being a very promising sequel!

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

CENTA’s realistic view on how not everyone ends up in academia, the additional trainings and courses that CENTA provide to let your skillset meet industry standards was a big plus for me.

What are your future plans

Doing a PhD is only a first step towards an academic career. But it helps you developing into an independent researcher. The skill-set that the CENTA DTP provides is a massive bonus for wherever you end up.