Dr Eugene Bergh

Eugene Bergh is an Invertebrate Palaeontologist and Geologist at Iziko Museums of South Africa, a position he has held since 2011. His main focus is academic research and publications on the use of microfossils (foraminifera and ostracods) as proxies to determine changes in marine palaeoenvironments, palaeoclimate and palaeoceanography in the southeast Atlantic during the late Cenozoic (16 million years ago to present-day). His research is also driven to understand how climates, oceans and environments have changed over recent geologic time and how this relates to modern environmental change. His research is also applicable in understanding anthropogenic influences on the environment through the use of fossil faunal analyses, sedimentology and geochemical analyses. At Iziko Eugene also aids in creating and managing exhibitions.

Educational development in the palaeosciences is incredibly important to Eugene and this has seen him lecturing geography and geology at undergraduate and Honours levels as well as supervising post-graduate students at the University of Cape Town since 2012.

 

Research Areas

His broad research interests are focussed on using geological and palaeontological tools or proxies in determining environmental and oceanographic change in the southern oceans and within the context of southern Africa. He has worked on areas along the southwestern margin of southern Africa (South Africa and Nambia) and is currently expanding his research areas to include the rest of the South African margin. His work on environments and palaeoenvironments along the southwestern margin and his research on the Benguela Upwelling System (BUS) have been published in international peer reviewed science journals. Work on the BUS was his focus for many years as the system plays a major role in the marine geology, oceanography and socio-economic aspects of the region. The system is one of the most productive in the world and has been driven by climate and oceanographic changes during the late Cenozoic period. The sediments and microfossils from the ocean floor can give us information as to how this system initiated and developed over geologic time.

This research was aimed at understanding how the southern African margin has been influenced during the initiation and intensification of the BUS by analysing the occurrences and geochemistry of a group of marine invertebrate microfossils called foraminifera. These organisms are unicellular, and while alive they produce a multi-chambered shell, called a test. It is the test that remains preserved as the fossil after they have died. Most foraminifera are very small (less than 1 mm in size) and can only be identified under the microscope. Some extinct forms are larger and could grow to more than 10 cm in diameter. These microfossils are extremely useful and can aid in determining the age of marine sediments and rock strata, the environments in which they lived and ocean processes associated with the time when they were alive. Foraminifera can incorporate seawater elements into their tests as they grow, and as such, reflect the ocean conditions at that particular point in time. Through isotopic analyses this information can be unlocked to enhance palaeoclimate, palaeoceanographic and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Through understanding past geologic processes related to climate and sea level changes, scientists are moving towards developing future climate models which can be used in informed decision making.

 

Through his research he is aiming:

  • To document foraminifera and other related components from the Namibian and South African margins dating from the middle Miocene (ca. 16 million years ago) to present-day.
  • To determine the ocean processes and past environments associated with the occurrences of marine fossil assemblages
  •  To determine the influence of climate and ocean processes on sea levels and assemblages along the coast
  • To determine and understand the driving forces behind the initiation and intensification of the BUS
  • To determine the changes in the oceans between glacial and interglacial stages along the margin
  • To determine the influence of anthropogenic influences on the environment along the margin of southern Africa

 

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Bergh, E.W. and Compton, J.S. 2015. A one-year post-fire record of macronutrient cycling in a mountain sandstone fynbos ecosystem. South African Journal of Botany, 97: 48-58.
  • Compton, J.S. and Bergh, E.W. 2016. Phosphorite deposits on the Namibian shelf. Marine Geology, 280: 290-314.
  • Bergh, E.W., Compton, J.S. and Frenzel, P. 2018. Late Neogene foraminifera from the northern Namibian continental shelf and the transition to the Benguela Upwelling System. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 141: 33-48.
Research Areas

His broad research interests are focussed on using geological and palaeontological tools or proxies in determining environmental and oceanographic change in the southern oceans and within the context of southern Africa. He has worked on areas along the southwestern margin of southern Africa (South Africa and Nambia) and is currently expanding his research areas to include the rest of the South African margin. His work on environments and palaeoenvironments along the southwestern margin and his research on the Benguela Upwelling System (BUS) have been published in international peer reviewed science journals. Work on the BUS was his focus for many years as the system plays a major role in the marine geology, oceanography and socio-economic aspects of the region. The system is one of the most productive in the world and has been driven by climate and oceanographic changes during the late Cenozoic period. The sediments and microfossils from the ocean floor can give us information as to how this system initiated and developed over geologic time.

This research was aimed at understanding how the southern African margin has been influenced during the initiation and intensification of the BUS by analysing the occurrences and geochemistry of a group of marine invertebrate microfossils called foraminifera. These organisms are unicellular, and while alive they produce a multi-chambered shell, called a test. It is the test that remains preserved as the fossil after they have died. Most foraminifera are very small (less than 1 mm in size) and can only be identified under the microscope. Some extinct forms are larger and could grow to more than 10 cm in diameter. These microfossils are extremely useful and can aid in determining the age of marine sediments and rock strata, the environments in which they lived and ocean processes associated with the time when they were alive. Foraminifera can incorporate seawater elements into their tests as they grow, and as such, reflect the ocean conditions at that particular point in time. Through isotopic analyses this information can be unlocked to enhance palaeoclimate, palaeoceanographic and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Through understanding past geologic processes related to climate and sea level changes, scientists are moving towards developing future climate models which can be used in informed decision making.

 

Through his research he is aiming:

  • To document foraminifera and other related components from the Namibian and South African margins dating from the middle Miocene (ca. 16 million years ago) to present-day.
  • To determine the ocean processes and past environments associated with the occurrences of marine fossil assemblages
  •  To determine the influence of climate and ocean processes on sea levels and assemblages along the coast
  • To determine and understand the driving forces behind the initiation and intensification of the BUS
  • To determine the changes in the oceans between glacial and interglacial stages along the margin
  • To determine the influence of anthropogenic influences on the environment along the margin of southern Africa

 

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Bergh, E.W. and Compton, J.S. 2015. A one-year post-fire record of macronutrient cycling in a mountain sandstone fynbos ecosystem. South African Journal of Botany, 97: 48-58.
  • Compton, J.S. and Bergh, E.W. 2016. Phosphorite deposits on the Namibian shelf. Marine Geology, 280: 290-314.
  • Bergh, E.W., Compton, J.S. and Frenzel, P. 2018. Late Neogene foraminifera from the northern Namibian continental shelf and the transition to the Benguela Upwelling System. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 141: 33-48.