Student Success Stories

Matt Konfirst

Matt Konfirst

Matt Konfirst came to NIU as a postgraduate who was interested in learning paleontology as a "hobby" while he was pursuing a career as a recording artist and private music instructor. His advisor (Reed Scherer) introduced him to the subject of micropaleontology (fossils that are not observable with the unaided eye) and its application to understanding the evolution of Earth’s climate history, and his interest ballooned from there. Alongside his earth science studies and passion for music, he was also studying the German language…

Matt’s academic background opened up a number of opportunities for him. Shortly after beginning graduate studies at NIU, Matt was invited to participate in a multinational, high-profile climate research project called ANDRILL (ANtarctic geological DRILLing project). The science team met in Christchurch, New Zealand and flew from there to Ross Island, Antarctica, a small island near the Antarctic mainland and home of the continent’s most active volcano. For the next two and half months drilling operation recovered ~1100 m of core by drilling through the Ross Ice Shelf and into the sediment beneath. The result of the project was a fantastic record of the climate changes that have occurred in the Antarctic since the Miocene (~20 million years ago).

After returning from "the ice" Matt applied for a Fulbright Scholarship. Networking in Antarctica, fluency in the German language and a hot-button research topic all came together, and Matt spent an academic year in Bremerhaven, Germany at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). Here he pursued a research program based on high resolution studies of diatomite (concentrated diatom fossils that have been transformed into rock) intervals from the ANDRILL AND-1B core. Here it was his fluency in English that allowed him to network and led to the next opportunity…

While still at AWI, Matt was asked to participate in an expedition aboard the German research vessel, Polarstern. The cruise departed from Punta Arenas, Chile and zigzagged across the Pacific Sector of the Southern Ocean, collecting sediment cores, water column measurements, air samples and topographic information about this little studied region of the seafloor. After two months without seeing a single speck of land, the appearance of Wellington, New Zealand was a welcome sight!

Matt is currently nearing completion of his Ph.D. and is looking forward to continuing his research goals… and possibly to recording another CD…

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Dissertation Research

Using variations in absolute and relative abundance of siliceous microfossils (predominantly diatoms) to track Milankovitch-paced orbital variations in the geologic record with the goal of better understanding natural variability in the Earth’s climate system.

 

Abstracts and Publications

  • Konfirst, M.A., Scherer, R.P. (2010). Initial results from a diatom investigation of a core from the Amundsen Sea, Antarctica.
  • Konfirst, M.A., Kuhn, G., Monien, D. Scherer, R.P. (2010). Milankovitch Cyclicity in Early Pliocene Diatomites of the ANDRILL AND-1B Core.
  • Konfirst, M.A., Kuhn, G., Monien, D. Scherer, R.P. (2010). Correlation of High Chaetoceros Abundance and Terrestrially-Sourced Geochemical Tracers in Lower Pliocene Diatomite, ANDRILL Core AND-1B.
  • Konfirst, M.A., Scherer, R.P. (2010). Fragmentation Patterns in the Diaotm Genus Rouxia and its Relationship to Low Amplitude Obliquity Changes in the Early Pliocene.
  • Konfirst, M.A., Scherer, R.P., Monien, D., Kuhn, G., Winter, D., Sjunneskog, C. (2009). Using cyclic variations of Early Pliocene diatom assemblages to determine sediment accumulation rates in the ANDRILL AND-1B core.
  • Konfirst, M.A., Scherer R.P., Winter D., Sjunneskog C., Warnock J., Kuhn G., Niessen F., Helling D., Magens D. (2009). Fragmentation patterns in the diatom genus Rouxia and their potential for identifying latent depositional hiatuses in the early Pliocene diatomite of the ANDRILL AND-1B core.
  • Konfirst, M.A.Sjunneskog, C., Scherer, R.P., Doran, P. (2008). Diatoms as a record of limnological change through the Last Glacial Maximum in Lake Fryxell, Taylor Valley, Antarctica.
  • Spaulding S.A., Edlund M., Ashworth M., Colon-Ortiz L., Daley, A., Heathcote A., Konfirst M.A., Laub B., Menicucci A., Miyazaki R., Powell R., Smith J., Stanish L. (2007). Notes on Iowa diatoms: comparison of the morphological range of modern populations with specimens in the Reimer Iowa Collection.
  • Sjunneskog, C., Konfirst, M.A., Scherer, R.P., Doran, P.T. (2006). A Diatom Record of Environmental Change Over the Last 48 kyr in Lake Fryxell, Taylor Valley, Antarctica.

Epilogue

Matt completed his Ph.D. in May of 2011. Shortly thereafter Matt was hired as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University.