My Job Involves Time Travel, 800,000-Year-Old Ice, And Studying Climate Change

Liam Berry
My Job Involves Time Travel, 800,000-Year-Old Ice, And Studying Climate Change
Sponsored by, Thermo Fisher Scientific

How can scientific equipment help solve vexing problems?

Sorry, mystery writers, it turns out ice does leave a trail of evidence.

A pretty long one, too.

According to Dan Talbot of Thermo Fisher Scientific, some ice can even betray secrets from hundreds of thousands of years ago. This can be pretty useful when it comes to deciphering some of the Earth’s most daunting climate mysteries.

And that’s exactly where Thermo Fisher instruments come in.

Talbot is an Ion Chromatography Applications Specialist at Thermo Fisher. If you’re like most people and have no idea what that entails, have no fear! To the non-scientist, that means he works with instruments that facilitate the reading of, among other things, ancient ice cores. Thermo Fisher, the world leader in serving science, works on groundbreaking projects like this every day.


How old is old?    

Now, we’re not talking “Ancient Rome” or “Imperial China” ancient, either. We’re talking way, way older than that. Some of these ice cores can be dated back 800,000 years.

In case you were keeping track, that’s 266 times older than Ancient Rome. It is literally 64 times older than the concept of farming. It is even four times older than humankind itself.

That’s right, Thermo Fisher instruments are basically a time machine when it comes to ice cores. We’re talking about a legit time machine that transports you back before the first humans roamed the planet. And Thermo Fisher employees are the intrepid adventurers who get to experiment and explore every day.


Looking to the past to study the present.

This is pretty exciting for everyone, but especially for Talbot. He lives and breathes scientific discovery, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. “My job is to help us anticipate the future by going back as far as we can go,” he says.

So, how does it all work? Well, the Thermo Fisher instrument analyzes the chemicals, metals, dust, and radioactivity in cylinders carved out of the many layers of Antarctic ice. That, in turn, can help scientists learn about peculiar weather events, planetary history, and even cycles of climate change.

Coupled together, these sorts of insights can have some rather massive potential impacts. “That gives us crucial clues to what’s happened in the past,” Talbot says. “We can start to make a distinction between what’s natural climate change, and what are changes that we might be causing.”

In that way, humanity is able to travel back in time and take a look at what actually happened in terms of the weather. This can help answer important questions. Was it ever really this hot before? To what extent have human-driven factors exacerbated climate change? How can we think about stopping—and potentially reversing—these changes?

There’s a lot more on the line than you might think when it comes to ice cores. But don’t worry, Talbot is ready for it. (You can see his journey here.)

You can join Talbot in that pursuit of scientific discovery, too. Click here to learn more about Thermo Fisher and apply for open jobs!