Ian J. Orland

Position title: Geoscience Program Coordinator

Email: orland@wisc.edu

Phone: (608) 890-3328

Ian Orland wearing a blue shirt outside with blurred trees in background

Research interests

Ian Orland surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites in Soreq Cave, Israel
Speleothems in Soreq Cave, Israel (Click to enlarge.)

My research explores records of past climate change that are preserved in the geochemistry of carbonate rocks and fossils, including speleothems (cave formations, like stalactites and stalagmites), foraminifera and pteropods (marine microfossils), otoliths (fish earstones), corals, and pedothems (carbonate rinds). Ultimately, these records help to calibrate our understanding of how and why climate changes occurred in the past so we can improve our predictions of future change.

Caves are fantastic natural laboratories that can preserve records of environmental change happening above the cave for thousands, even millions, of years.

My main focus has been on cave carbonates (speleothems). I’ve had the opportunity to work on cave samples from Israel, China, Malaysia (Borneo), Yemen (Socotra Island), and Mexico, as well as from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The research I’ve helped to lead in Wisconsin stems from a multi-year collaboration between UW–Madison and Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. Our team has dated a collection of speleothems from the cave and showed that permafrost stopped any water from dripping in the cave for 18,000 years during the height of the last ice age.

Yellowish polished cross-section of a stalagmite on a dark background with visible banding patterns
Polished cross-section of a stalagmite from Cave of the Mounds, Wisconsin, reveals striking growth banding. The shape, color, mineralogy, and chemistry of the growth bands combine to tell us about the environmental history in and above the cave. Ruler is 150 mm (~6 inches) in length. Image courtesy of Cameron Batchelor. (Click to enlarge.)

I’m interested in developing techniques for reconstructing past environmental changes on human time-scales. In many stalagmites, I have measured annual and even seasonal climate signals. While speleothems can grow continuously, it may take around 300 years to grow an inch. So while seasonal climate information can be recorded in the chemistry of the speleothem as it grows, these changes can only be measured over tiny distances. To make these measurements, I have used a combination of micro-imaging and micro-analytical techniques. But the cornerstone of this work has been the WiscSIMS ion microprobe at UW–Madison, a machine that makes precise geochemical measurements from 10-micron (1/2,500 inch) diameter spots (100 times better than drill-sampling techniques).

You can learn more about my research and education here:

Recent publications

  • Orland I.J., He F., Bar-Matthews M., Chen G., Ayalon A., and Kutzbach J.E., in press, Resolving seasonal rainfall changes in the Middle East during the last interglacial period: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Batchelor C.J., Orland I.J., Marcott S.A., Slaughter R., Edwards R.L., Zhang P., and Li X., in press, Distinct permafrost conditions across the last two glacial periods in mid-latitude North America: Geophysical Research Letters.
  • Denny A., Orland I.J., and Valley J.W., in press, Regionally correlated oxygen and carbon isotope zonation in diagenetic carbonates of the Bakken Formation: Chemical Geology.
  • Price T.D., Spicuzza M.J., Orland I.J., and Valley J.W., 2019, Instrumental investigation of oxygen isotopes in human dental enamel from the Bronze Age battlefield site at Tollense, Germany: Journal of Archaeological Science, v. 105, p. 70–80.
  • Wycech J.B., Kelly D.C., Kitajima K., Kozdon R., Orland I.J., and Valley J.W., 2018, Combined effects of gametogenic calcification and dissolution on δ18O measurements of the planktic foraminifer Trilobatus sacculiferGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, v. 19, p. 4487–4501.
  • Oye O.J., Aplin A.C., Jones S.J., Gluyas J.G., Bowen L., Orland I.J., and Valley J.W., 2018, Vertical effective stress as a control on quartz cementation in sandstones: Marine and Petroleum Geology, v. 98, p. 640–652.
  • Helser T., Kastelle C., McKay J., Orland I.J., Kozdon R., and Valley J.W., 2018, Evaluation of micromilling/conventional isotope ratio mass spectrometry and secondary ion mass spectrometry of δ18O in fish otoliths for sclerochronology: Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, v. 32, p. 1781–1790.
  • Oerter E.J., Sharp W.D., Oster J.L., Ebeling A., Valley J.W., Kozdon R., Orland I.J., Hellstrom J., Woodhead J.D., Hergt J.M., Chadwick O.A., and Amundson R., 2016, Pedothem carbonates reveal anomalous North American atmospheric circulation 70,000–55,000 years ago: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v. 113, p. 919–924.
  • Orland I.J., Edwards R.L., Cheng H., Kozdon R., Cross M., and Valley J.W., 2015, Direct measurements of deglacial monsoon strength in a Chinese stalagmite: Geology, v. 43, p. 555–558.
  • Orland I.J., Burstyn Y., Bar-Matthews M., Kozdon R., Ayalon A., Matthews A., and Valley J.W., 2014, Seasonal climate signals (1990–2008) in a modern Soreq Cave stalagmite as revealed by high-resolution geochemical analysis: Chemical Geology, v. 363, p. 322–333.