Top Menu

Gil Ouellette, Ph.D. student

Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, one of my favorite places to visit was the American Museum of Natural History. From an early age I fostered an appreciation and a profound curiosity about the natural world, and I knew that when I ‘grew up’ I wanted to be a scientist and study the third rock from the sun; our home in the cosmos.
Thanks in no small part to my supportive family; I managed to complete my undergraduate studies at Penn State with my natural curiosity and passion intact, leaving with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical geography and a still unsatisfied curiosity. As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to be able to take a diversity of courses that allowed me to explore a wide variety of topics in physical geography and earth science. Along the line, I became involved with the Penn State Ice and Climate Research Center. Interacting with the group opened my eyes to a variety of exciting and interesting scientific questions on the cutting edge. The result of this intellectual exposure was my career long interest in reconstructing and understanding the dynamics of earth’s atmosphere and oceans throughout the past.
While an undergraduate, I spent some time travelling in the Caribbean with my family. While many tourists and travelers enjoy the Caribbean for its warm beaches; I was entranced by the remarkable diversity in the geologic and geographic character of the region. From the rainforests of Puerto Rico, to the sea caves of the Bahamas; the beauty and diversity of the Caribbean hooked me.
It didn’t take much effort to put two and two together, and after I completed my undergraduate training I pursued and received a Master of Science degree in geoscience from the Western Kentucky University. I decided to focus my thesis on reconstructing precipitation patterns in the eastern Caribbean using the chemistry of calcite cave deposits, and analyzing this information to reveal the atmospheric processes and atmospheric-oceanic teleconnections that had acted to change rainfall patterns in the region through the past. Reconstructing rains of the past is no easy feat, requiring months of preparation, several expeditions to the Caribbean, a few tight crawls deep underground, and some careful chemistry. Like most scientific inquiry, my master’s studies left me with more questions than answers. After successfully defending my thesis, I let my curiosity guide me to LSU, where I am currently pursuing a Ph.D.
My doctoral research at LSU, much like my earlier work, is focused on reconstructing and understanding changes in ocean and atmospheric dynamics through the past and applying insight gained from that paleo-perspective to contemporary climate and ocean processes.
My doctoral research is based on producing and analyzing coral reconstructions of oceanic conditions in the Caribbean and Gulf regions, and combining them with contemporary satellite based data and regional climate models to better understand how climate and ocean dynamics have both changed in the past, as well as how we might expect them to change in the future.
Our planet is an interesting place, and the harder I look the more exciting it becomes. This is true for both the underlying physical processes that shape the earth, as well as for the diversity of people that make their lives upon it. If we want to know where the climate of our remarkable little planet is headed, then the first place to look is to its past.

Photo Credit: Jason Polk

Gil Ouellette