Dr Peter Bijl (34) received the Heineken Young Scientists Award in the Natural Sciences 2018 for researching the relationship between atmosphere, oceans and ecosystems in the Antarctic over the past 80 million years.
The jury praised Peter Bijl for his impressive list of publications but also for his ability to communicate with the general public about his wide-ranging research and inspire new generations of researchers, for example by appearing in the media, maintaining a vlog, and lecturing at secondary schools.
Peter Bijl is an assistant professor in the Earth Science department at Utrecht University. He is also the director of the LPP Foundation, an advisory body that facilitates research in the fields of marine and terrestrial palynology, organic and inorganic geochemistry and limnology.
Bijl studied earth sciences at Utrecht University and received his PhD there in 2011 for his study of the environmental and climatological evolution of the Southern Ocean in the Palaeogene Period (approximately 66 to 23 million years ago).
Peter Bijl was still a young researcher when he began combining his knowledge of fossils with chemical and physical techniques to develop a new, now widely used method to determine the age of sedimentary rocks in the Antarctic. The key to this method lies in organic fossils (‘dinoflagellates’) and molecular fossils.
Using these methods, Bijl is now studying the climatological history of the Antarctic over the past 80 million years. His reconstructions show how greenhouse gases and changing patterns of circulation in the oceans during this period had a major impact on the development of the Antarctic ice sheet, the global climate, sea levels, and life on land and in the sea.
In his VENI-funded research, Bijl is now integrating his models of ice sheet dynamics and ocean circulation. His work has put him at the forefront of international research on Antarctic paleoclimate research.