Motivated by a desire to understand and
prevent the catastrophic near-term impacts of modern carbon emissions, Preston Cosslett Kemeny
studies the coevolution of life and climate throughout Earth’s history.
Preston’s research measuring the isotope ratios preserved in natural archives
has the potential to generate novel theories of climate change that will
improve model predictions. He is particularly interested in the rise of
atmospheric oxygen, oscillations between glacial and interglacial climates, and
the physical chemistry underlying isotopic variation. Preston intends to lead a
stable and radiogenic isotope laboratory in order to better interpret the
planet’s biogeochemical biography.
Preston is currently pursuing a PhD in geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. He graduated summa cum laude
from Princeton University in June 2015 with an AB in geosciences and
certificates in environmental studies and planets & life (astrobiology).
Preston has traveled widely, having studied hydrology in Kenya, renewable
energy in Sierra Leone, and connections between volcanism and mass extinction
in India. He has also completed two field campaigns in Antarctica collecting
seawater and drilling ice cores for geochemical analysis. His research using
nitrogen isotope ratios to understand the onset of ice ages has been published
and presented internationally.
One of Preston’s favorite accomplishments
is the ongoing success of “Lobster Club,” a no-audition improvisational comedy
troupe he cofounded as a college freshman. He believes that reconstructing paleoclimate,
like unscripted theater, is an intensely collaborative endeavor in which
forming a credible narrative requires detailed observations and coherent
storytelling. Performing improvisational comedy has fueled Preston’s scientific
creativity by teaching him that discovery, like humor, only arises through the
fearless exploration of new ideas.
Outside the lab, Preston enjoys
participating in science outreach with local schools, backpacking, and
traveling. He attributes his passion for geoscience and environmental
stewardship to growing up in the woods of Garrison, New York.