Jacky Austermann is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and works on better understanding how sea level and ice sheets have changed over the past hundreds, thousands, and millions of years. The aim of this work is to better understand the stability of ice sheets and magnitude of sea level rise in response to warming temperatures.
To reconstruct past local sea level, Austermann performs fieldwork to extract and interpret ancient sea level in the field, and works with collaborators to analyze and date sea level samples such as for example fossil corals. However, reconstructing sea level at any given location isn’t necessarily indicative of how much sea level globally has changed – and therefore how much ice has melted – since individual shorelines may have risen or subsided due to the deformation of the solid Earth. Austermann’s specialty lies in performing large scale numerical simulations of various processes that can cause uplift or subsidence and combining them with new and existing sea level data to learn about past sea level, ice sheets, and climate as well as solid Earth properties and dynamics.
Austermann is currently working on projects with field sites in the Bahamas and Barbados to better understand sea level changes during past warm periods. She’s further an investigator on the NSF funded Greenland Rising project, which aims at better constraining past, current, and future sea level and topography around Greenland. Other active projects include constraining changes in global groundwater over ice age cycles, imaging mantle viscosity, understanding the dynamics and properties of mantle plumes, and modeling the dynamics and formation of cratonic basins with a focus on the Centralian superbasin.
Austermann earned her B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Darmstadt and M.Sc. in Geophysics from LMU Munich. She received her Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from Harvard University in 2016 and conducted a postdoc at Cambridge University before joining Columbia in 2018.