Dr Eugene Bergh

Eugene Bergh is an Invertebrate Palaeontologist and Geologist at Iziko Museums of South Africa. His main focus is academic research and publications on the use of microfossils, geological components and environmental elements to determine changes in environments, climate and marine systems in and around southern Africa over different time periods. His research is also driven to understand how these changes are related to modern environmental changes and their applications in understanding anthropogenic influences on the environment through the use of fossil faunal analyses, sedimentology and geochemical analyses.

Eugene is also active in knowledge sharing and education through exhibitions, public engagement, lecturing and postgraduate supervision. Educational development is very important to him. He has lectured Geography and Geology at undergraduate and Honours levels as well as supervised post-graduate students at the University of Cape Town since 2012.

Analytical Methods and Instrumentation
Earth Sciences rely on many analytical methods. The instrumentation used in these sciences can be very complicated. The Mineral Gallery Exhibition at the Iziko South African Museum contains a summary of some of the equipment used in the earth sciences. Currently, this exhibition is restricted and interactive components cannot be accessed under Health and Safety regulations as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here you can find some of the information on the analytical methods within the earth sciences that is currently not available within the exhibition. 

This booklet outlines just a few instruments and techniques used by scientists to analyse and classify minerals



Research Areas

Eugene Bergh studies environmental, marine and oceanographic changes through time using geological, environmental and palaeontological analyses. His work on past systems can inform on modern systems and the techniques he uses are also applicable to understanding modern environmental changes. 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.


His research follows these broad themes:

  • Past environmental changes
  • How past environmental changes are related to modern environmental change
  • Anthropogenic influences on environmental change
  • Impact of environmental change on humans


The use of microfossils to determine environmental change and human impacts

Geological and environmental components can be assessed to determine how systems change over time. One of these components is foraminifera. These organisms are unicellular, and while alive, they produce a multi-chambered shell, called a test. 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. It is the test that remains preserved as the fossil after they have died. 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. Recent preserved tests of this protist group can also be used to determine the state of environments and the extent to which these environments are changing under anthropogenic (related to human activities) influences and climate change.

These techniques are also increasingly being used to determine modern environmental change and the impact that humans have on the environment. Changing climates, oceans and environments can also have an impact on human development and sustainability. This research is therefore also used to expand on our understanding between the interrelationships between the environment and anthropogenic influences and their impact on humans. 


Through his research he is aiming:

  • To understand past and modern environmental and climate change
  • To document foraminifera and other related components from the Namibian and South African margins during the late Cenozoic 
  • 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 anthropogenic influences on the environment along the margin of southern Africa and how these environmental and climate changes impact on human activities and development


Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Bergh, E.W. and Compton, J.S. 2020. Quaternary foraminifera and mollusc assemblages on the southwestern African shelf. Palaeontologia Electronica, 23(2):a27
  • 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.
  • Compton, J.S. and Bergh, E.W. 2016. Phosphorite deposits on the Namibian shelf. Marine Geology, 280: 290-314.
  • 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.