In long cylinders kept behind a large metal door in an underground bunker, Samuel Muñoz stores the keys to the past.
The tubes contain layers of sediment compacted over several thousand years on the bottom of lakes, bays, and other calm bodies of water. Some of them have traveled with Muñoz, an assistant professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern, for the better part of a decade.
Using molecules left in the mud of an Illinois lakebed by long-dead bacteria, Muñoz and his colleagues have reconstructed ancient climate conditions in the midwestern United States. Their results, published earlier this year, could help us understand what’s in store for the region’s future as the planet continues to warm.
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