ANU Research School of Earth Sciences
When rainwater seeps into a cave, it drips onto the surfaces of stalagmites where it slowly transforms into rock layers and safely stores chemical evidence of rainfall and environmental changes. Alena takes these stalagmites and measures oxygen isotopes and other elements from these growth layers. She can determine nearly 400,000 years of rainfall history. This research helps us to understand past climate, which is essential to predict how climate and rainfall patterns might change in the future.
The design is bound by an outline of Indonesia’s coastline during the ice ages (when the see level was 120m lower than today). Sulawesi, were Alena focuses on is marked by a butterfly (which they are famous for). Inside the cave, you see the stalagmite deposition process: as rains drip from the cave roof, each drop slowly turn into stalagmites. Alena’s oxygen isotope data was used to create the shape of the stalagmites, while the red and blue colour scheme highlights that stalagmites can tell you about both wet and dry periods.