Researchers from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), University of California Irvine, University of Texas Austin, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working together to study past climate changes in northeast Mexico. Our focus is on San Luis Potosí and southern Tamaulipas, a region with very few paleoclimate records.
We named our project Climate Investigations with Mexican Archives (CIMA) after the Spanish word cima, which means summit or peak. The name was inspired by one of our field sites, Cueva Bonita. The cave can only be reached by driving uphill for an hour on a dirt road, followed by a strenuous 45-minute hike.
Stalagmites are extremely valuable for reconstructing past climate change because they hold records spanning tens of thousands of years. But in order to understand how the stalagmites respond to climate changes, we need to know what the modern cave environment is doing. That's where cave monitoring comes in.
We are collecting drip water samples and cave microclimate measurements (like temperature and humidity) from all the caves involved in our study. Information from the modern environment will put the stalagmite data into context.
We also collect precipitation samples so that we can study how the cave drip water composition responds to different rain conditions. Because most of the researchers live far away from the cave sites, residents who spend time near the caves collect the water samples. We have established rain water collection partnerships in four locations so far.
In addition to cave deposits, trees can also hold records of climate change. Researchers at UNAM are using tree rings to learn about rainfall changes in the recent past. More to come soon on this topic!
This project is a collaboration between an international team of geoscientists, people who live near the field sites, and recreational cavers. Each member of the team brings different expertise and experience, but we all work together to ensure that we have great results.
Collaborators: Dr. Jay Banner (UT Austin), Dr. Tripti Bhattacharya (Syracuse University)
Students and Postdocs: Kevin Wright (PhD Candidate, UCI), Gabriela Serrato Marks (PhD Candidate, MIT), Gabriela Cazares (Undergraduate, MIT), Sarah Weidman (Undergraduate, MIT), Dr. Genaro Gutierrez-Garcia (UNAM)