By Brian Cross
Bill Patterson has gone cave
diving, waded through
and trekked across the
seven continents—all in a
quest to better understand
global climate and
Bill Patterson’s travel log would make Indiana Jones, the swashbuckling fictional adventurer, green with envy.
The University of Saskatchewan geologist has gone cave diving, waded through crocodile-infested swamps, and trekked across the seven continents— all in a quest to better understand global climate and environmental changes.
To recreate an accurate historical record of global climate patterns, Patterson, his graduate students, and colleagues have visited more than 80 different countries, collecting and studying a variety of unusual materials.
They’ve examined bat droppings taken from caves in Mexico and Arizona, tree-ring samples gathered on South Pacific and Arctic islands, sediment samples found on remote lake bottoms in Central America, and clam shells collected along the shores of Iceland.
And last summer, Patterson strapped 350 bottles on the back of his motorbike and travelled 26,000 kilometres to collect samples in the Prairies, New York, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska and British Columbia.
The jaunt earned him a place on BMW’s 2008 top five list for most miles ridden on a motorcycle, but bragging rights weren’t the motivation for his endurance ride or any of his other sample-collecting adventures.
“What we’re trying to do is get a handle on how the world works through biology, geology, climate change research, or oceanography—everything that we can find the time and funding to investigate,” Patterson said. “The only way to do that is to develop good quality, high-resolution records of the past.” He thinks his research will add a new layer of understanding to the ongoing debate surrounding the role of human activity in global climate change. “We’re often surprised in this business,” said Patterson. “We have an idea of what we think might be happening but the data suggest something else.”
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