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PD Dr. Miriam Pfeiffer

Office Location

Building: Miner Building
Room: 517c
Wüllnerstr. 2
52056 Aachen


Institute of Geology & Palaeontology


Phone: +49-241-80-95719
Email: miriam.pfeiffer[at]emr.rwth-aachen.de

curriculum vitae

12/2009-present : Post Doctoral Researcher (‘Eigene Stelle'), RWTH Aachen University, Germany


  • 12/2002: Ph.D. in Geology, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany Thesis title: Spatial and temporal variations in the hydrological balance recorded in Porites corals from the western and central Indian Ocean. Ph.D. supervisor: Prof. Wolf-Christian Dullo.
  • 7/1999: Diplom-Geologe (Master of Science degree), Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt (Main), Germany. Thesis title: Microfacies and sequence stratigraphy of Middle Miocene periplatform carbonates of Great Bahama Bank (Bahamas, ODP Leg 166). Supervisor: Prof. Christian Betzler.
  • 1995-1996: Visiting student, 4th year honours course in Geology and Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen, UK.
  • 1992-1999: Studies of Geology/Paleontology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt (Main), Germany.


Previous research fellowships

  • 10/2007-9/2009: Post Doctoral Researcher (‘Eigene Stelle'), University of Cologne, Germany
  • 4/2007-9/2007: Lecturer, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
  • 4/2007Assistant Professor ‘Global and Climate Change', California State University at Fresno (declined)
  • 9/2006-1/2007Post Doctoral Researcher, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
  • 1/2003-8/2006: Post Doctoral Researcher, IFM-Geomar, Kiel, Germany
  • 8/1999-12/2002: Graduate Researcher, Geomar, Kiel, Germany
  • 2/1998-2/1999: Research Assistant, Senckenberg Institute, Frankfurt (Main), Germany



  • Travel Grant (BBC), Field work, Zanzibar Island, Tanzania
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS): Post Doctoral Fellowship, ‘Micro-growth structures and proxy incorporation in corals and sclerosponges - new chances or limitations for climate reconstructions?', host: Dr. Tsuyoshi Watanabe, Hokkaido University, Japan, August 2006-January 2007


Teaching Experience

  • Lecturer: Statistics and Programming in Geosciences (MS Excel, Matlab; BSc-students), RWTH Aachen, SS 2007.
  • Tutor (senior high school students): NaTworking program ‘Meeresforschung' funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation, 2005-2006.
  • Guest Lecturer: PROPER course 2, Preservation Potential of climate signals and ultra high-resolution climate archives, Barcelona, 2004.
  • Guest Lecturer: Helmholtz Summerschool, Natural climate variability from 10,000 years to the present day, Potsdam, 2002.
  • Guest Lecturer: KIHZ Summerschool, Holozäne Klimavariabilität: Synthese von Proxydaten und Klimamodellen, Wilhelmshaven, 2001.



Ph.D. students: Sri Yudawati Cahyarini (co-supervised with W.-Chr. Dullo, Ph. D. 2006), Steffen Hetzinger (co-supervised with W.-Chr. Dullo, Ph. D. 2007).


Other academic activities


  • Journals: Science, Nature Geoscience, Geology, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems (G3), Global and Planetary Change, International Journal of Earth Sciences, Coral Reefs, Marine Pollution Bulletin.
  • Grants: IODP, NERC
  • Conference Co-Chair
  • AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting (20-24 Feb 2006), Hawaii. ‘Assessing the ocean's role in climate on decadal to centennial timescales --- a paleo perspective (OS 079)'. With Bernd R. Schöne and Jens Zinke.
  • Public presentation of research
  • Aspects of paleoclimate/coral research covered in various international film, radio, print and electronic media sources, including BBC two, Der Spiegel online, Nature Geosciences, Radio Österreich 1, Science.ORF.at.



  • 11/2007: Zanzibar Island, Tanzania. Chief scientist; Chief scientist; drilling of modern and fossil corals Cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Jens Zinke) and the Institute of Marine Sciences, Tanzania (Ophery O. Ilomo).
  • 12/2004: Venezuela. Chief scientist; drilling of modern corals and collection of mollusc shells. The material formed the basis for the Ph. D. dissertation of Steffen Hetzinger. Cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (José Estevez, Jens Zinke) and the Universidad Central de Venezuela (Olga Rey).
  • 06/2004: Indonesia. Chief Scientist; drilling of modern corals (1) West-Sumatra. (2) Timor. The material formed the basis for the Ph. D. dissertation of Sri Yudawati Cahyarini. Cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Technology (LIPI).
  • 12/2003: Seychelles, Mayotte (Comores) and La Réunion. (1) Drilling of modern corals for calibration with seawater data. (2) Collection of fossil corals (Holocene, Last Interglacial). Cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Jens Zinke, Gareth Davis).
  • 11/2001:  La Réunion and Seychelles: Water sampling in cooperation with RGS-IBG London and the Université de la Réunion (Pascale Cuet, Pascal Chabanet).


Invited Talks

  • Universität Bern, Bern, Switzerland (2003)
  • Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Bandung, Indonesia (2004)
  • Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt (Main), Germany (2004)
  • IPRC/SOEST, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA (2006)
  • Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan (2007)




Current Research Project

Principal Investigator, ‘Assessing the role of the INDian Ocean in global climate change: a PALeo-perspective (INDOPAL)' The project forms the basis for an innovative and multi-disciplinary approach aimed at a better understanding of the role of the Indian Ocean/Monsoon system in global climate change. The project will bring together paleoclimatologists from a range of disciplines (coral paleoclimatology, dendrochronology, meteorology) and will undertake novel research in East Africa and Indonesia. The project is supported by the DFG (10/2007-09/2009), 161.000 €.

Research Interests

High-resolution reconstructions of past climate variability using geochemical proxies (d18O, d13C, Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca, Ba/Ca) in biogenic archives (corals, sclerosponges):

  • Sea surface temperature and salinity reconstructions from paired d18O and Sr/Ca measurements (with S. Y. Cahyarini, Ph.D. 2006).
  • Tropical Atlantic variability and hurricane intensity (with S. Hetzinger, Ph.D. 2007).
  • Seasonal changes in Holocene and Last Interglacial Monsoon climate (with J. Zinke, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).
  • Ultra-high resolution analysis of corals and sclerosponges (SIMS, NanoSIMS) - ‘vital effects' and geochemical proxies (with T. Watanabe, Hokkaido University and K. Shirai, University of Tokyo)
  • Coral proxy records and tropical trees in the Indian Ocean - rising sea surface temperatures and rainfall variability over land (with G. Helle, FZ Jülich).



Peer-reviewed journal publications:

  • Lee, J.-M., Boyle, E.A., Nurhati, I.S., Pfeiffer, M., Meltzner, A.J., Suwargadi, D.W., 2014, Coral-based history of lead and lead isotopes of the surface Indian Ocean since the mid-20th century. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 398, 37-47.
  • Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Park. W., Schneider, B., Reuning., L., Dullo. W.-Chr., Camoin, G.F., Mangini, A., Schroeder-Ritzrau, A., 2014, Seychelles coral record of changes in sea surface temperature bimodality in the western Indian Ocean from the Mid-Holocene to the present. Climate Dynamics, online first, doi: 10.1007/s00382-014-2082-z.
  • Grove, C.A., Kasper, S., Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Garbe-Schönberg, D., Brummer, G.-J., 2013, Confounding effects of coral growth and high SST variability on skeletal Sr/Ca: implications for coral paleothermometry, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, doi: 10.1002/ggge.20095 (Editors Highlight).
  • Felis, T., Merkel, U., Asami, R., Deschamps, P., Hathorne, E.C., Kölling, M., Bard, E., Cabioch, G., Durand, N., Prange, M., Schulz, M., Cahyarini, S.Y., Pfeiffer, M., 2012, Pronounced interannual variability in tropical South Pacific temperatures during Heinrich Stadial 1, Nature Communications, 3, 965, doi: 10.1038/ncomms1973.
  • Sheppard, C.R.C. and 39 co-authors including M. Pfeiffer, 2012, Reefs and islands of the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean: why it is the world’s largest no-take marine protected area, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 22, 232–261, doi: 10.1002/aqc.1248.
  • Cahyarini, S.Y., Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., Zinke, J., Hetzinger, S., Kasper, S., Grove, C., Garbe-Schönberg, D., 2011, Comment on ’A snapshot of climate variability at Tahiti at 9.5 ka using a fossil coral from IODP Expedition 310,’ by K. L. Delong, T.M. Quinn, Chuan-Chou Shen and Ke Lin (2010), Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 12, Q03012, doi:10.1029/2010GC003377.
  • Hetzinger, S, Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W-Chr., Garbe-Schönberg, D., Halfar, J., 2010, Rapid 20th century warming in the Caribbean and impact of remote forcing on climate in the northern tropical Atlantic as recorded in a Guadeloupe coral, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 296, 111-124, doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.06.019.
  • Weber, M. E., Reichelt, L., Kuhn, G., Pfeiffer, M., Korff, B., Thurow, J., and Ricken, W. 2010, The BMPix and PEAK tools: new methods for automated laminae recognition and counting – application to glacial varves from Antarctic marine sediment, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 11, Q0AA05, doi:10.1029/2009GC002611.
  • Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., Zinke, J., Garbe-Schönberg, D., 2009, Three monthly coral Sr/Ca records from the Chagos Archipelago covering the period of 1950 to 1995 A.D.: Reproducibility and implications for quantitative reconstructions of sea surface temperature variations, International Journal of Earth Sciences, 98, 53-66, doi: 10.1007/s00531-008-0326- z.
  • Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Timm, O., Dullo, W.-Chr., 2009, Western Indian Ocean marine and terrestrial records of climate variability: a review and new concepts on land–ocean interactions since AD 1660, International Journal of Earth Sciences, 98, 115-133, doi: 10.1007/s00531- 008-0365-5.
  • Cahyarini, S. Y., Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., 2009, Improving SST reconstructions from coral Sr/Ca records: multiple corals from Tahiti (French Polynesia), International Journal of Earth Sciences, 98, 31-40, doi: 10.1007/s00531-008-0323-2.
  • Crueger, T., Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., 2009, Patterns of Pacific Decadal variability recorded in Indian Ocean corals, International Journal of Earth Sciences, 98, 41-52, doi: 10.1007/s00531- 008-0324-1.
  • Hetzinger, S., Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., Keenlyside, N., Latif, M., Zinke, J., 2008, Caribbean coral tracks Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and past hurricane activity, Geology, 36, 11-14, doi: 10.113/G24321A.1 (see also ‘a coral tells all’, 2008, Nature Geoscience, 1, 83).
  • Cahyarini, S. Y., Pfeiffer, M., Timm. O., Dullo, W.-Chr., Garbe-Schönberg, D., 2008, Reconstructing seawater δ18O from paired coral δ18O and Sr/Ca ratios: Methods, Error Analysis and Problems, with examples from Tahiti (French Polynesia) and Timor (Indonesia), Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72, 2841–2853, doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2008.04.005.
  • Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Timm, O, Dullo, W.-Chr., Kroon, D., Thomassin, B.A., 2008, Mayotte coral reveals hydrological changes in the western Indian Ocean between 1881 and 1994, Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L23707, doi:10.1029/2008GL035634.
  • Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., 2006, Monsoon-induced cooling of the western equatorial Indian Ocean as recorded in coral oxygen isotope records from the Seychelles covering the period of 1840 to 1994 A.D., Quaternary Science Reviews, 25, 993-1009, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.11.005.
  • Pfeiffer, M., Timm, O., Dullo, W.-Chr., Garbe-Schönberg, D., 2006, Paired Sr/Ca and δ18O records from the Chagos Archipelago: Late 20th century warming affects rainfall variability in the tropical Indian Ocean, Geology, 34, 1069-1072, doi: 10.1130/G23162A.1.
  • Hetzinger, S., Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., Ruprecht, E., Garbe-Schönberg, D., 2006, Sr/Ca and δ18O in a fast-growing Diploria strigosa coral – evaluation of a new climate archive for the tropical Atlantic, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 7, Q10002, doi:10.1029/2006GC001347.
  • Timm, O., Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., 2005, Nonstationary ENSO-precipitation teleconnection over the equatorial Indian Ocean documented in a coral from the Chagos Archipelago, Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L02701, doi: 10.1029/2004GL021738 (Editors Highlight).
  • Zinke, J., Pfeiffer, M., Timm, O., Dullo, W.-Chr., Davies, G.R., 2005, Atmosphere-ocean dynamics in the Western Indian Ocean recorded in corals, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London, Series A, 363, 121-142, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2004.1482.
  • Schöne, B. R., Pfeiffer, M., Pohlmann, T., Siegismund, F., 2005, A seasonally resolved bottom water temperature record for the period of AD 1866-2002 based on shells of Arctica islandica (Mollusca, North Sea). International Journal of Climatology, 25, 947-962, doi: 10.1002/joc.1174.
  • Schöne, B. R., Fiebig, J., Pfeiffer, M., Gleß, R., Hickson, J., Johnson, A. L. A., Dreyer, W., Oschmann, W., 2005, Climate records from a bivalved Methuselah (Arctica islandica, Mollusca; Iceland). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 228, 130-148, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2005.03.049.
  • Schöne, B. R., Dunca, E., Fiebig, J., Pfeiffer, M., 2005, Mutvei’s solution: an ideal agent for resolving microgrowth structures of biogenic carbonates. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 228, 149-166, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2005.03.054.
  • Pfeiffer, M., Dullo, W.-Chr., Eisenhauer, A., 2004, Variability of the Intertropical Convergence Zone recorded in coral isotopic records from the central Indian Ocean (Chagos Archipelago), Quaternary Research, 61, 245-255, doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2004.02.009.
  • Pfeiffer, M., Timm, O., Dullo, W.-Chr., Podlech, S., 2004, Oceanic forcing of interannual and multidecadal climate variability in the southwestern Indian Ocean: Evidence from a 160 year coral isotopic record (La Réunion, 55°E, 21°S), Paleoceanography, 19, PA4006, doi: 10.1029/2003PA000964.
  • Betzler, C., Pfeiffer, M., Saxena, S., 2000, Carbonate shedding and sedimentary cyclicities of a distally steepened carbonate ramp (Miocene, Great Bahama Bank), International Journal of Earth Sciences, 89,140-153.


Book contributions:

  • Pfeiffer, M., Corals as archives of past climate. In: Sheppard, C.R.C., Davy, S.K., Pilling, G.M.: the Biology of Coral Reefs, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009.
  • Sheppard, C.R.C., and 19 co-authors including M. Pfeiffer, British Indian Ocean Territory (the Chagos Archipelago): Setting, Connections and the Marine Protected Area. In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (ed.), Coral Reefs of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Coral Reefs of the World 4, 223, doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-5965-7_17. Springer, 2013.