Department / group: School of Geographical and Earth Sciences / BECS (Biomarkers for Environmental and Climate Science) Research Group
Google Scholar URL: Not available

Research interests:

General Research Interests:

I use organic geochemistry as a tool to understand how the Earth system responds to climate change. Molecular fossils, or biomarkers, are ubiquitous in sedimentary deposits and can often be applied in both marine and terrestrial environments, making them useful proxies for reconstructing environmental change. As an organic geochemist I collaborate with researchers in a number of different fields to generate multiproxy climate records. I also work with bioscientists to understand how/why organisms produce biomarkers and how those biomarkers relate to modern environmental parameters.

Selected Projects: <abridged from institution url>

Alkenones as a Proxy for Lake Temperature

Alkenones are globally abundant hydrocarbon lipids produced by haptophyte algae. My research focuses on proxy development for using alkenones in lakes, including bettering our understanding of how the organism relates to the lipids that it produces.

Hydrologic and Ecosystem Change in the Sierra Nevada of Southern Spain

BECS members have taken multiple expeditions to high elevation lakes in the Sierra Nevada of Southern Spain with colleagues from the University of Granada, Spain and Northern Arizona University, U.S. to collect and analyse samples from lakes located at >3,000m elevation. Preliminary radiocarbon dates suggest that the record extends back just over 8,200 years of climate history. The core from Borreguil de Caldera is 56-centimeters long and covers the last 4,000 years of climate history. Initial biomarker and pollen analyses are underway from these cores to determine how hydrology has changed in the past and how the ecosystem responded.

Astrobiology: Molecular Signatures of Life in Mars Analogue Environments

BECS is pleased to collaborate with Dr. Vernon Phoenix, University of Glasgow, and use molecular fossils to detect signatures of life in a unique Mars analogue – the Chilean Altiplano! The Chilean Altiplano offers the key elements that are essential to the search for evidence of life on Mars. Like the Martian surface, water in the surface soils of the Chilean Altiplano is trapped in solid form due to subzero temperatures, however, can become liquid due to intense solar radiation during the day. This combined mix of cold, high insolation flux and liquid-water-unstable conditions offers an excellent analogue to explore the preservation of molecular signs of life.

Career history:

Present: Senior Lecturer in Organic Geochemistry (Geography), University of Glasgow

Lecturer in Organic Geochemistry

2013-2015 Leader of BECS Research Group Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK

Postdoctoral Research Associate, NERC Funded

2011-2013 Glasgow Molecular Organic geochemistry Laboratory (GMOL) Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK

PhD Research

2006-2011 Dissertation: “Development and Application of Organic Biomarkers to Continental Paleoclimate Problems in the Interior of N. America”, Supervisor: Professor Yongsong Huang Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, USA

Active research projects:

Toney, J.L. (2015) ERC Starting Grant, ALKENoNE – Algal Lipids: the Key to Earth Now and aNcient Earth.

Toney, J.L. (2014) (Scientist-in-Charge) for Garcia-Alix, A. Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow, "Natural responses to past North Atlantic Oscillations: Southern Iberian Peninsula vs. United Kingdom, Analogues for future environmental changes (NAOSIPUK)"

Phoenix, V., Toney, J.L., and Quince, C. (2013) UK Space Agency – Aurora Programme, "Preservation and detection of molecular signatures of life under cold, high-solar flux, liquid-water-unstable conditions".

Recent publications:

Cisneros-Dozal, L. M. et al. (2014) Assessing the strength of the monsoon during the late Pleistocene in southwestern United States. Quaternary Science Reviews, 103, pp. 81-90. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.08.022)

Theroux, S., Toney, J., Amaral-Zettler, L., and Huang, Y. (2013) Production and temperature sensitivity of long chain alkenones in the cultured haptophyte Pseudoisochrysis paradoxa. Organic Geochemistry, 62, pp. 68-73. (doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.07.006)

Denis, E.H., Toney, J.L., Tarozo, R., and Scott Anderson, R. (2012) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in lake sediments record historic fire events: validation using HPLC-fluorescence detection. Organic Geochemistry, 45, pp. 7-17. (doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2012.01.005)

Toney, J.L., Theroux, S., Andersen, R.A., Coleman, A., Amaral-Zettler, L., and Huang, Y. (2012) Culturing of the first 37:4 predominant lacustrine haptophyte: geochemical, biochemical, and genetic implications. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 78, pp. 51-64. (doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.11.024)

Fawcett, P.J. et al. (2011) Extended megadroughts in the southwestern United States during Pleistocene interglacials. Nature, 470(7335), pp. 518-521. (doi:10.1038/nature09839)