Meet the team

ISOPERM is a collaboration between the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Northumbria University and the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, with partners at the Speleoclub Arabika Irkutsk, the Technical University Irkutsk, Oxford University, and the LARA Laboratory at the University of Bern.

ISOPERM is supported by the Leverhulme Trust

Sebastian Breitenbach

Principle Investigator, Northumbria University

Seb is a palaeoclimatologist with strong affinity to caves and carbonates. He completed his PhD in 2009 at the University of Potsdam and the GFZ Potsdam, focusing on the Indian summer monsoon. He continued his work on speleothems during his post-doc at ETH Zurich where he began working in Siberian caves in earnest (together with a team at the University of Oxford). A that time he also joined Stefano Benasconi’s clumped isotope team, eventually moving to Cambridge to oversee the clumped isotope setup in the Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research. Seb joined Northumbria University in January 2020 to setup the Northumbria Isotope and Clumped Geothermometry for Environmental Studies (NICEST) Laboratory.


Stuart Umbo

Post-doctoral researcher, Northumbria University

Stuart completed his PhD at the University of East Anglia in 2020, specialising in clumped isotope analysis of foraminifera. He established laboratory protocols for preparation and analysis of small sample fossil carbonates, applying it to establish a foraminifera clumped isotope temperature calibration. Alongside his work in clumped isotopes, he produced high resolution multiproxy records of the North Atlantic over the last glacial cycle. Stuart joined Northumbria in May 2021.

Jade Robinson

Postgraduate researcher, Northumbria University

Jade undertook her BSc and MSc at University College London, specialising in Climate Change. She completed her MSc thesis in September 2021, which utilised stalagmite stable isotope and monitoring data to characterise mid-late Holocene climate variability in northwest England. She started a PhD at Northumbria in October 2021, which aims to analyse and interpret past permafrost dynamics in continental Siberia, and the effect of this on local and regional climate and environment.

Ola Kwiecien

VC Senior Fellow, Northumbria University

Ola is a sedimentologist and paleoclimatologist by training, carbonate geochemist by choice, and a natural scientist by passion. After completing her PhD at the GFZ Potsdam, Ola moved to the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology looking at the Quaternary palaeo-environments of Eastern Europe. She has specialised in a range of archives and proxies including inorganic and biogenic carbonates. After being appointed junior professor at Ruhr-University, she moved to Northumbria and now joins the ISOPERM team.

Sevi Modestou

NICEST Lab Manager

Sevi undertook her PhD at the University of Glasgow, looking at the application of radiogenic and cosmogenic isotopes of Sr, Nd, Pb, and Be to infer information about the state of the Mediterranean climate and its connections to the Atlantic throughout the Miocene. After a post-doc in Glasgow looking at clumped isotopes in fossil carbonates, she moved to Bergen where she continued this line of research, generating temperature records on long time scales. She joined Northumbria in December 2021 where she oversees the NICEST Lab

Becca Cole

Summer Intern, Northumbria University

Becca is an undergraduate geography student from Portsmouth university joining the ISOPERM team to assist in lab work over the Summer of 2022 as intern where she will be assisting with preparation and identification of ostracods for clumped isotope analysis. Becca will complete her undergraduate degree in 2023, finishing a dissertation studying the paleoenvironment of Liffey Head Bog, Ireland through a peat core, and intends to follow it up with a masters focusing on paleoclimate and environment. 

Becca is specifically interested in studying past climates and environments to predict the effects that anthropogenic induced climate change will have on future human populations and flora and fauna, working beside her volunteer work with environmental and human rights charities.

Hanno Meyer

Co-Principle Investigator, Alfred Wegener Institute

Hanno is manager of the Stable Isotope Laboratory at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam. After completing his PhD on the Quaternary history of northern Siberia, Hanno completed a post-doc at Potsdam, before his promotion to senior scientist. He has completed 18 expeditions to the Arctic, 5 to the Antarctic, and published extensively on Quaternary polar environments.


Thomas Opel

Post-doctoral researcher, Alfred Wegener Institute Potsdam

Thomas is a geographer by training and focuses on palaeoclimate reconstruction using continental ice as climate archive, i.e. permafrost ground ice and glacier ice from Siberia. After completing his PhD and a post-doc at Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam he was a visiting research fellow at the University of Sussex and started to work at the Batagay megaslump, one of the study sites of the ISOPERM project.


Aleksandr M. Kononov

Vice rector for science, Irkutsk National Research Technical University

Alexander is our primary scientific partner in Siberia. He studies palaeohydrological reconstructions and permafrost dynamics of Siberia throughout the Holocene and Pleistocene. Aleksandr has been a long term collaborator with many of the team, providing expertise on water and ground ice geochemistry and sample dating.


Franziska Lechleitner

Senior scientist, University of Bern

Franziska is a geochemist interested in the interconnection between our planet’s climate and carbon cycle over different timescales. She is specialized in the use of stable carbon isotopes and radiocarbon as tracers for environmental processes. Currently a senior scientist at the University of Bern (Switzerland), Franziska completed her PhD at ETH Zurich, followed by a postdoc at the University of Oxford, where she started working on speleothems from Siberian caves. She has extensive experience working in cave environments and has joined an expedition to Siberia in 2018.


Julia Homann

Postgraduate researcher, University of Mainz

Julia is an analytical chemist by training and undertook her MSc at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. She completed her MSc thesis in September 2019, which focused on the development of an analytical method for the analysis of levoglucosan in speleothems. She started a PhD at JGU Mainz in October 2019, which aims to analyse and interpret different biochemical proxies in speleothems, soils and water samples.


Alexander Osinzev

Director, Speleoclub Arabica

Alexander is director of Speleoclub Arabika, our caving partners in Siberia. With over two decades of caving experience Sasha oversees our expeditions, ensuring we get to the field safely, and return in one piece. The Speleoclub are responsible for mapping 70km of tunnels at our primary study site, Botovskaya Cave, and organise regular expeditions to caves throughout Siberia and the Caucasia.


Anton Vaks

Researcher, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

After completing his PhD in Quaternary palaeoclimate reconstructions from Saharan speleothems at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Anton spent eight years at the University of Oxford where he pushed forward study of permafrost history in Siberia using the timing of speleothem growth. After moving back to the Hebrew University in 2015, Anton continues to work closely with the ISOPERM team, providing expertise and consultation.

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