Dr Cesca McInerney

Francesca McInerney
ARC Future Fellow
School of Physical Sciences
Faculty of Sciences

Dr. McInerney examines how climate change influenced terrestrial ecosystems in the geologic past by analyzing the chemical signatures of fossilized plants.

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Dr Cesca McInerney

Dr. McInerney examines how climate change influenced terrestrial ecosystems in the geologic past by analyzing the chemical signatures of fossilized plants.

Dr. McInerney’s research focuses on reading isotopic signatures from the rock record to understand the influence of past climate change on ancient ecosystems. She is interested in how plant communities and terrestrial biogeochemical cycles reacted to periods of global warming in the geologic past as a potential analogue to future climate change impacts.

Specifically, she analyzes the stable isotopic composition of fossilized plants and their preserved leaf waxes to reconstruct past climates and ecosystems. These leaf waxes are essentially molecular fossils that can retain information for millions of years about the plants that made them and the environments they lived in. In order to interpret these ancient chemical signatures, McInerney also studies modern plants and soils as a means of calibrating the isotopic tools she applies to the geologic record.

Current projects include:

• Palaeohydrology of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming

• Palaeoecology of the Miocene of Ethiopia

• Isotopic and chemical signature of leaves as rainfall proxies

• Climatic influences on chemical and isotopic signatures of leaf wax n-alkanes in soils and plants across Australia

• Soil degradation of n-alkanes

• Palaeohydrology of the Holocene of Southeast Queensland

• Within species variation in leaf wax n-alkane abundance in relation to climate and leaf traits

• Isotopic signatures of canopy structure across the Cenozoic of Australia

• Isotopic tools for provenancing timber

• Palaeoclimate during Megafauna extinction in Australia

Students interested in using geochemical tools to explore past climate-ecosystem interactions in an Honours or PhD project should contact Dr. McInerney directly. 

Appointments

Date Position Institution name
2012 - 2017 ARC Future Fellow University of Adelaide
2012 - 2016 Adjunct Assistant Professor Northwestern University
2006 - 2012 Assistant Professor Northwestern University

Awards and Achievements

Date Type Title Institution Name Amount
2016 Keynote address, Australian Organic Geochemistry Conference, 2016
2015 - 2015 Invited Keynote Speaker at international Plant Waxes Conference ETH Zurich

Language Competencies

Language Competency
French Can read, write, speak and understand spoken

Education

Date Institution name Country Title
1996 - 2002 University of Chicago United States PhD
1993 - 1996 University of Chicago United States Master of Science
1987 - 1992 Yale University United States Bachelors

Postgraduate Training

Date Title Institution Country
2004 - 2006 Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow Smithsonian Institution United States
2002 - 2004 BRIE Postdoctoral Fellow Pennsylvania State University United States

Journals

Date Citation
2017 Caddy-Retalic,S, Andersen,A, Aspinwall,M, Breed,M, Byrne,M, Christmas,M, Dong,N, Evans,B, Fordham,D, Guerin,G et al, 2017, Bioclimatic transect networks: powerful observatories of ecological change, Ecology and Evolution, OnlinePubl, 1-13 10.1002/ece3.2995
2017 Baczynski,A, McInerney,F, Wing,S, Kraus,M, Bloch,J, Secord,R, 2017, Constraining paleohydrologic change during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the continental interior of North America, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 465, 237-246 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.10.030
2016 Baczynski,AA, McInerney,FA, Wing,SL, Kraus,MJ, Morse,PE, Bloch,JI, Chung,AH, Freeman,KH, 2016, Distortion of carbon isotope excursion in bulk soil organic matter during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, Geological Society of America Bulletin, 128, 9, 1352-1366 10.1130/B31389.1
2016 Cernusak,L, Barbour,M, Arndt,S, Cheesman,A, English,N, Feild,T, Helliker,B, Holloway-Phillips,M, Holtum,J, Kahmen,A et al, 2016, Stable isotopes in leaf water of terrestrial plants, Plant, Cell & Environment, 39, 5, 1087-1102 10.1111/pce.12703
2016 Tibby,J, Barr,C, McInerney,F, Henderson,A, Leng,M, Greenway,M, Marshall,J, McGregor,G, Tyler,J, McNeil,V et al, 2016, Carbon isotope discrimination in leaves of the broad-leaved paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia, as a tool for quantifying past tropical and subtropical rainfall, Global Change Biology, 22, 10, 3474-3486 10.1111/gcb.13277
2015 Bush,RT, McInerney,FA, 2015, Influence of temperature and C₄ abundance on n-alkane chain length
distributions across the central USA
, Organic Geochemistry, 79, 65-73 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2014.12.003
2014 Baczynski,AA, McInerney,FA, Wing,SL, 2014, n-Alkane PETM records from the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming: A core-outcrop comparison, Rendiconti Online Societa Geologica Italiana, 31, 19-20 10.3301/ROL.2014.24
2013 Bush,R, McInerney,F, 2013, Leaf wax n-alkane distributions in and across modern plants: implications for paleoecology and chemotaxonomy, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 117, 161-179 10.1016/j.gca.2013.04.016
2013 Clyde,W, Gingerich,P, Wing,S, Rohl,U, Westerhold,T, Bowen,G, Johnson,K, Baczynski,A, Diefendorf,A, McInerney,F et al, 2013, Bighorn Basin Coring Project (BBCP): A continental perspective on early Paleogene hyperthermals, Scientific Drilling, 16, 16, 21-31 10.5194/sd-16-21-2013
2013 Baczynski,A, McInerney,F, Wing,S, Kraus,M, Bloch,J, Boyer,D, Secord,R, Morse,P, Fricke,H, 2013, Chemostratigraphic implications of spatial variation in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum carbon isotope excursion, SE Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 14, 10, 4133-4152 10.1002/ggge.20265
2013 Kraus,M, McInerney,F, Wing,S, Secord,R, Baczynski,A, Bloch,J, 2013, Paleohydrologic response to continental warming during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 370, 196-208 10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.12.008
2012 Sachse,D, Billault,I, Bowen,G, Chikaraishi,Y, Dawson,T, Feakins,S, Freeman,K, Magill,C, McInerney,F, van der Meer,M et al, 2012, Molecular paleohydrology: interpreting the hydrogen-isotopic composition of lipid biomarkers from photosynthesizing organisms, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 40, 1, 221-249 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105535
2012 Secord,R, Bloch,J, Chester,S, Boyer,D, Wood,A, Wing,S, Kraus,M, McInerney,F, Krigbaum,J, 2012, Evolution of the earliest horses driven by climate change in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Science, 335, 6071, 959-962 10.1126/science.1213859
2012 Lynch,D, McInerney,F, Kouwenberg,L, Gonzalez-Meler,M, 2012, Plasticity in bundle sheath extensions of heterobaric leaves, American Journal of Botany, 99, 7, 1197-1206 10.3732/ajb.1100525
2011 McInerney,F, Wing,S, 2011, The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum: a perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 39, 1, 489-516 10.1146/annurev-earth-040610-133431
2011 McInerney,F, Stromberg,C, 2011, The Neogene transition from C₃ to C₄ grasslands in North America: assemblage analysis of fossil phytoliths, Paleobiology, 37, 1, 50-71 10.1666/09067.1
2011 McInerney,F, Stromberg,C, White,J, 2011, The Neogene transition from C₃ to C₄ grasslands in North America: stable carbon isotope ratios of fossil phytoliths, Paleobiology, 37, 1, 23-49 10.1666/09068.1
2011 McInerney,F, Helliker,B, Freeman,K, 2011, Hydrogen isotope ratios of leaf wax n-alkanes in grasses are insensitive to transpiration, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 75, 2, 541-554 10.1016/j.gca.2010.10.022
2009 Polissar,P, Freeman,K, Rowley,D, McInerney,F, Currie,B, 2009, Paleoaltimetry of the Tibetan Plateau from D/H ratios of lipid biomarkers, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 287, 1-2, 64-76 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.07.037
2007 Smith,FA, Freeman,KH, Helliker,BR, 2007, GEOC 2-Hydrologic and taxonomic controls on leaf wax lipid hydrogen isotope ratios, ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 234, -
2007 McInerney,F, Freeman,K, Wing,S, 2007, Magnitude of the carbon isotope excursion at the paleocene-eocene thermal maximum: the role of plant community change, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 262, 1-2, 50-65 10.1016/j.epsl.2007.07.021
2006 Smith,F, Freeman,K, 2006, Influence of physiology and climate on δD of leaf wax n-alkanes from C3 and C4 grasses, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 70, 5, 1172-1187 10.1016/j.gca.2005.11.006
2005 Wing,S, Harrington,G, Smith,F, Bloch,J, Boyer,D, Freeman,K, 2005, Paleontology: Transient floral change and rapid global warming at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, Science, 310, 5750, 993-996 10.1126/science.1116913
2004 Smith,F, White,J, 2004, Modern calibration of phytolith carbon isotope signatures for C 3/C4 paleograssland reconstruction, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 207, 3-4, 277-304 10.1016/S0031-0182(04)00044-6
2004 Smith,F, White,J, 2004, Modem calibration of phytolith carbon isotope signatures for C-3/C-4 paleograssland reconstruction, PALAEOGEOGRAPHY PALAEOCLIMATOLOGY PALAEOECOLOGY, 207, 3-4, 277-304 10.1016/j.palaeo.2003.09.029
2002 Smith,F, White,J, 2002, The development of Neogene grasslands in relation to climate and atmospheric CO2: The carbon isotope ratios of fossil phytoliths, GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA, 66, 15A, A722-A722

Book Chapters

Date Citation
2001 Smith,F, Anderson,K, 2001, Characterization of organic compounds in phytoliths: Improving the resolving power of phytolith delta C-13 as a tool for paleoecological reconstruction of C3 and C4 grasses, A A BALKEMA PUBLISHERS, pp. 317-327

Conference Papers

Date Citation
2009 McInerney,FA, Wing,SL, Bloch,JI, Bowen,GJ, Boyer,DM, Chester,S, Diefendorf,AF, Harrington,GJ, Kraus,MJ, Secord,R et al, 2009, Coordinated sedimentary and biotic change during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA, Climatic and Biotic Events of the Paleogene, Wellington, New Zealand
2005 Smith,F, Wing,S, Freeman,K, 2005, Using carbon and hydrogen isotope ratios of terrestrial organic matter to understand climate change at the PETM, 15th Annual V M Goldschmidt Conference, Moscow, ID

Francesca McInerney (Lead CI), Jonathan Tyler, Jake Andrae.  Ecosystem change through the Neogene in Australia: documenting the rise of C4 vegetation. ANZIC special post-cruise analytical funding 9/2016-8/2017. AU $20,000.

Andrew Henderson (Lead CI), Francesca McInerney, John Tibby.  Tracking hydrological changes during Marine Isotope Stage 3 in the tropics using leaf wax isotopes. NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Facility Grant 2016. AU $41,162.

Stefan Caddy-Retalic & Francesca McInerney. Foliar isotope ratios along bioclimatic gradients. TERN Australian Transect Network.  2016-2017. AU $25,000.

Stefan Caddy-Retalic & Francesca McInerney. Leaf carbon isotope ratios along TREND. TERN eMast. 2015. $4,700.

Cameron Barr (Lead CI), John Tibby and Francesca McInerney. A high-resolution quantitative rainfall record over the last 1000 years from the Australian sub-tropics. AINSE Research Award. 1/7/2015-30/6/2016. AU $9,895. 

Juraj Farkas (Lead CI), Francesca McInerney, David Bruce, Jonathan Tyler and Robert Frei. Development of New Method for Chromium Isotope Analysis.  6/2015 – 12/2015. AU$14,610.

Elizabeth Reed (Lead CI), Lee Arnold, Francesca McInerney, John Tibby, Jonathan Tyler, Juraj Farkas. Refining the timing and palaeoenvironmental context for megafauna extinction records at Naracoorte, South Australia. Marjor Collaborative Project, Environment Institute. 6/2015-12/2015.  AU$50,000.

Francesca McInerney (Lead CI). Compound-Specific Isotope Analysis in Australia: Existing Strengths and Emerging Opportunities. Environment Institute Workshop. 21/10/2014-31/12/2014. AU $10,050. 

Francesca McInerney (Lead CI) and John Tibby.  High-resolution multi-isotope palaeoclimate proxy leaves. Environment Institute Small Research Grants Scheme. 25/6/2014-31/12/2014. AU $12,000.

Francesca McInerney (Lead CI), John Tibby, Seth Westra, Cameron Barr, Jonathan Tyler, Mark Thyer. Leaves as rain gauges: Ancient hydrology from the isotopic signature of leaves. University of Adelaide DVCR Interdisciplinary Research Fund. 14/11/2013- 13/11/2014.  AU $29,476.

John Conran (Lead CI), Francesca McInerney, Robert Hill, Daphne Lee, Dallas Mildenhall. The Eocene high latitude Australasian ‘tropics’ in a changing climate – resolving conflicting evidence. ARC Discovery Grant.  1/2013-12/2015. AU$ 230,000.

Francesca McInerney (Sole CI). Palaeoclimate reconstructions from the isotopic signature of fossilized leaf waxes. Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. 1/9/2012-31/8/2016. AU $714,418.

Francesca McInerney (CI). CO2 levels during the greenhouse of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.  Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) Booster Grant. 1/12/2010-30/11/2011.  US $33,444.

Francesca McInerney (CI).  Ancient greenhouse worlds: Past climates as a roadmap for the future. Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) Booster Grant.  1/5/2009-30/11/2011.  US $28,206. 

Bonnie Jacobs (Lead CI), Ellen Currano, Francesca McInerney, Mulugeta Feseha, Aaron Pan. Collaborative Research: A multi-proxy approach to Early Miocene community, landscape, and climate reconstruction, Ethiopian Plateau. NSF-EAR: Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology. 1/8/2011-31/7/2014.  US $383,129.

William Clyde (Lead CI), Philip Gingerich, Scott Wing, Francesca McInerney, Anders Noren, Gabriel Bowen, Mary Kraus, Katherine Freeman, Kirk Johnson.  Collaborative Research: Bighorn Basin Coring Project (BBCP) - Targeted Continental Drilling of Paleogene Hyperthermals. NSF-EAR.  1/9/2010-31/8/2013. US $1,400,000.

Francesca Smith (Lead CI), Jonathan Bloch, Mary Kraus, Scott Wing.  Collaborative Research:  Paleohydrology of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A multiple proxy reconstruction. NSF-EAR: Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology.  1/10/2007-30/9/2011. US $303,001. 

University of Adelaide

Earth Systems History III- Geology 3505 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016): Third year major course. Team Taught.  My topics: palaeoclimate, Earth’s energy budget and the long- and short-term carbon cycles.

Stable Isotopes in Biospheric Systems Workshop

Intensive short course (1 week) for Honours, PhD and Postdocs; includes lecture and laboratory components.  Lectured on isotope signatures of leaf wax lipids at the University of Sydney workshop (2015) and Daintree Rainforest Observatory (2016).

Northwestern University

Paleoclimate Analogs to Future Climate Change- EARTH 451 (Winter 2012): Graduate seminar course. 

Stable Isotope Ecology and Paleoecology- EARTH 451 (Winter 2010): Graduate and advanced undergraduate seminar course with group laboratory project. 

Paleobiology- EARTH 340 (Winter 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2011):      Upper level Earth and Planetary Science course. 

Global Warming: The Scientific Evidence - EARTH 102-6 (Spring 2007, Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2012): Freshman Seminar, a required writing-intensive course.

 

PhD Supervision and Co-supervision

Jacinta Greer.  Enrolled January 2016. Earth Sciences, University of Adelaide

Jake Andrae.  Enrolled February 2016. Earth Sciences, University of Adelaide

Siân Howard. Enrolled February 2015. Earth Sciences, University of Adelaide

Myall Tarran.  Enrolled January 2014. Ecology and Environmental Science, University of Adelaide

Stefan Caddy-Retalic. Enrolled March 2014. Ecology and Environmental Science, University of Adelaide

Rosemary Bush.  Ph.D. Completed 2014. Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University.  Dissertation: Leaf Wax n-Alkanes as Paleoclimate Proxies: Calibrations in Modern Plants and Applications in Ancient Ecosystems

Allie Baczynski.  Ph.D. Completed 2014. Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University. Dissertation: Evaluating Carbon Cycle Dynamics and Hydrologic Change during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming

PhD Supervisory Committee

Richard Barclay.  Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University

Maya Gomes.  Earth and Planetary Sciences, Northwestern University

Justin VanDeVelde.  Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University

Masters Supervision

Rosemary Bush.  MS in Plant Biology and Conservation, December 2008.  Northwestern University. Thesis: Variations in leaf wax n-alkane chain length and carbon isotope fractionation: Applications for chemotaxonomy and paleoecology.

Douglas Lynch.  MS in Plant Biology and Conservation, June 2009.  Northwestern University. Thesis: Bundle sheath extension changes along light and precipitation gradients: implications for water use efficiency.

Honours Supervision

Ellyse Bunney. First Class Honours in Geology, 2015, University of Adelaide. Dodonaea leaf wax and isotope signatures across a bioclimatic gradient

Jacinta Greer. First Class and Tate Medal for Highest Mark for Honours in Geology, 2015, University of Adelaide. Recent and Holocene climate variability through carbon and oxygen isotope ratios of sub-fossil leaves.

Courtney Guy. Honours in Geology, 2015, University of Adelaide. Isotope ratios for detecting source of illegally harvested timber.

Benjamin Birch. Honours in Geology, 2015, University of Adelaide. Forest canopy closure through the Cenozoic of Australia using the carbon isotope ratio of fossil leaves.

Jake Andrae. Fist Class Honours in Geology, 2014, University of Adelaide. Leaves of Melaleuca quinquenervia as recorders of modern precipitation and applications to palaeoclimate in a Quaternary lake.

Sian Howard. First Class Honours in Geology, 2014, University of Adelaide. Response of leaf wax n-alkanes in plants and soils to climate over a N-S transect of Australia.

Undergraduates Research Supervision

Alex Otasevic.  Summer Scholarship Research UoA 2017.  Isotopic signatures of Dodonaea viscosa in a common garden.  

Jacinta Greer. Summer Resarch Scholarship UoA 2015. Testing methods of Cellulose Extraction.

Jake Andrae. Summer Scholarship Research UoA 2014.  Variation insotope signatures of plants form the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Ellyse Bunney, Summer Scholarship Research UoA 2014.  Variation insotope signatures of plants form the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Melissa Carrico, Summer Scholarship Research UoA 2014.  Variation insotope signatures of plants form the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Jacinta Greer. BSc Advanced III research project UoA, 2014.  Isotopic evidence for mid-Holocene ENSO conditions in subtropical Australia. Summer Resarch Scholarship 2015.

Courtney Guy. Research Volunteer at UoA. Isotopes for Timber Tracking, 2014.

Debra Chen.  Senior Honors Thesis in Biological Sciences, June 2012.  Northwestern University.  Effects of Climate on n-Alkane Chain Length Distribution in Plants.

Nora Richter. Independent research in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Spring 2012.  Northwestern University.  n-Alkane concentrations in Lake Haukadalsvatn during the period of Norse Settlement in Iceland.

Tess Monical.  Independent research in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Fall 2011.  Northwestern University. Ethiopian Fossil leaf waxes.

Alexa Socianu. Senior Honors Thesis in Earth and Planetary Sciences, June, 2011.  Northwestern University.  Reconstructing pCO2 values during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

Jospeph Walkowicz. Senior Thesis in Earth and Planetary Sciences, June, 2011.  Northwestern University.  An Ordovician Eurypterid from the Martinsburg Formation in Virginia.

Michael Philben. Senior Honors Thesis in Earth and Planetary Sciences, June 2010.  Northwestern University.  Application of compound-specific isotope geochemistry to constrain the location of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum in the Williston Basin.

John Kapnick. Senior Honors Thesis in Earth and Planetary Sciences, June 2010.  Northwestern University.  n-Alkanes as a Chemotaxonomic Indicators for Ferns.

Sara Bosshart. Senior Honors Thesis in Earth and Planetary Sciences, June 2009. Northwestern University.  The Eocene/Oligocene Boundary in Oregon: a Mysterious Even-over-Odd Predominance of n-alkanes.

Benjamin Farah. Senior Honors Thesis in Biological Sciences, June, 2009.  Northwestern University.  Chemotaxonomy and Population Genetics in Pseudotsuga Menzeisii

Kathleen Quigley. Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (NSF REU), Summer 2008.  Bundle sheath extension density in relation to light in modern plants at Chicago Botanic Garden.

 

 

Committee Memberships

Date Role Committee Institution Country
2016 Member Climate and Biotic Events of the Paleogene Conference 2017 (Snowbird, Utah, USA) Scientific Committee.
2014 - 2014 Chair Australian Compound Specific Isotope Analysis Workshop University of Adelaide Australia
2013 - 2014 Co-Chair Session Leader at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference Geochemical Society United States
2013 - 2014 Co-Chair Organic Geochemistry Theme of the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference Geochemical Society United States
2012 - 2014 Member Organising Committee for the 18th Australian Organic Geochemistry Conference University of Adelaide Australia
Position
ARC Future Fellow
Phone
83130228
Fax
8313 4347
Campus
North Terrace
Building
Mawson Laboratories
Room Number
1 19
Org Unit
Earth Sciences

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