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The University of Southampton
Turing @ Southampton

Turing Fellow receives major philanthropic gift from WoodNext Foundation

Published: 25 May 2023
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A significant donation of £1.9 million will fund research that promises to reveal how Earth’s climate has behaved over the past billion years, during times when the planet experienced severe ice ages. This knowledge could prove to be crucial in understanding future climate response and the potential impact of mitigation strategies.

The study aims to develop a data-driven understanding of Earth’s ice ages, investigating how multiple factors—like the Earth’s orbit and surface environmental changes—have combined through time to influence the intensity of climate change.

Turing Fellow and Associate Professor Tom Gernon, from the University’s School of Ocean and Earth Science, will lead the research. Dr Gernon’s team will develop next-generation modelling approaches, utilising machine learning and deep time ice records, to decipher the inherently complex climate system and the natural cycles at play. They will also collect new observations from around the world to gain fundamental insights into the factors that have driven climate change at different times in Earth’s history.

The team will address the limitations of previous studies that have tended to explore individual Earth processes in isolation. Instead, the team will analyse the impact and interaction between multiple potential drivers of ice ages simultaneously, evaluating huge swathes of dynamic data. This approach will allow Dr Gernon and his multidisciplinary team to evaluate how Earth’s internal and external rhythms, together with major environmental changes, have shaped the planet’s surface and impacted the evolution of life over time.

Professor Mark E. Smith, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, expressed his gratitude to the WoodNext Foundation for this generous gift. “Philanthropy makes remarkable things possible at our University and the Foundation’s support is a significant vote of confidence in Tom’s ground-breaking research, which can now be advanced at an even greater pace, and in the University of Southampton.”

Dr Gernon, who will use the funding to supercharge his interdisciplinary research, said: “I am hugely appreciative to the WoodNext Foundation for awarding this generous grant, which represents a significant milestone in my career. The donation will enable my group to achieve transformative impacts that we hope will reverberate across the fields of Earth and planetary science in the years to come.”

The donation will be used to drive innovative research and make a meaningful impact on our understanding of the Earth’s climate and how it is affected by different factors, including variations in Earth’s orbital cycles. The University of Southampton is committed to furthering its research in this field and is hugely grateful for the support of the WoodNext Foundation in advancing this important work.

The WoodNext Foundation, administered by Greater Houston Community Foundation, manages the philanthropy of tech innovator and Roku CEO/Founder, Anthony Wood, and his wife Susan. Their philanthropic efforts are guided by their overall mission to advance human progress and remove obstacles to a fulfilling life.

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