Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Vera Pospelova


Tate Hall, 370



PhD, 2003, McGill University

Research Group Website: UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Research Interests

My research is motivated by fundamental questions: how human activity affects estuarine ecosystems, how the changing climate impacts coastal environments, how past abrupt climatic changes impacted marine primary productivity, and how to reliably extract quantitative information on paleoenvironments from marine sediments. To fully answer these questions, and define the baseline and range for natural variability, we need to have long-term time series of biological and environmental change, obtained from proxy data and monitoring efforts.

I use organic-walled microfossils (palynomorphs: dinoflagellate cysts, foraminiferal organic linings, pollen and spores, etc.) and geochemical proxies as indicators of past and present environmental conditions. Marine palynomorphs can be well preserved in sediments, and their records contain information about environmental conditions at the time of deposition, which can be used to investigate sea-surface conditions, ocean circulation, climate, pollution and eutrophication, both now and in the geological past. In particular, I focus my research on the calibration of dinoflagellate cysts as biological indicators of environmental conditions and on high-resolution reconstructions of paleoenvironments in the late Quaternary.

Courses Taught:

  • Geological Oceanography
  • Paleobiology
  • Advanced Studies in Marine Palynology
  • Selected Topics in Paleoceanography
  • Proxies in Late Quaternary Paleoceanography
  • Selected Topics in Paleontology
  • Directed Studies in Earth and Ocean Sciences: Environmental Micropaleontology
  • The Dynamic Earth
  • Research Frontiers in Earth and Ocean Science
  • Environmental Micropaleontology
  • Advanced Paleobiology
  • The Evolution of Life Through Time
  • Directed Studies in Earth and Ocean Sciences: Quaternary Environmental Micropaleontology
  • Directed Studies in Earth and Ocean Sciences: Molluscs
  • Environmental Systems



Selected publications:

Bringué, M., Pospelova, V., Tappa, E.J. and Thunell, R.C. (2019). Dinoflagellate cyst production in the Cariaco Basin: a 12 year-long sediment trap study. Progress in Oceanography, 171, p. 175-211.

*García-Moreiras, I., Pospelova, V., García-Gil, S., Muñoz Sobrino, C. (2018). Climatic and anthropogenic impacts on the Ría de Vigo (NW Iberia) over the last two centuries: a high-resolution dinoflagellate cyst sedimentary record. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 504, p. 201-218.

*McLachlan, S.M.S., Pospelova, V., Hebda, R.J. (2018). Dinoflagellate cysts from the upper Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) of Hornby Island, British Columbia (Canada), with implications for Nanaimo Group biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Marine Micropaleontology, 145, p. 1-20.

*Gurdebeke, P.R., Pospelova, V., Mertens, K.N., Dallimore, A., *Chana, J., Louwye, S. (2018). Diversity and distribution of dinoflagellate cysts in surface sediments from fjords of western Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada). Marine Micropaleontology, 143, p. 12-29.

Pospelova, V., Zonneveld, K.A.F., ^Heikkilä, M., *Bringué, M., *Price, A., *Esenkulova, S., Matsuoka, K. (2018). Seasonal, annual, and inter-annual Spiniferites cyst production: a review of sediment trap studies. Palynology, 42(S1), p. 162-181.

*Li., Z., Pospelova, V., Liu, L., Zhou, R., Song. B. (2017). High-resolution palynological record of Holocene climatic and oceanographic changes in the northern South China Sea. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 483, p. 94-124.

*Price, A.M., Pospelova, V. *Coffin, M.R.S, Latimer, J.S., Chmura, G.L. (2016). Biogeography of dinoflagellate cysts in northwest Atlantic estuaries. Ecology and Evolution, 6, p. 5648–5662

*Heikkilä, M., Pospelova, V., Forest, A., Stern, G.A., Fortier, L., Macdonald, R.W. (2016). Dinoflagellate cyst production over an annual cycle in seasonally ice-covered Hudson Bay. Marine Micropaleontology, 125, p. 1-24.

*Bringué, M., Pospelova, V., Calvert, S.E., Enkin, R.J., Lacourse, T. and Ivanochko, T. (2016). High-resolution dinoflagellate cyst record of environmental change in Effingham Inlet (BC, Canada) over the last millennium. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 441(4), p. 787-810.

Pospelova, V., *Price, A. and Pedersen, T.F. (2015). Palynological evidence for late Quaternary climate and marine primary productivity changes along the California margin. Paleoceanography, 30(7), p. 877-894. DOI: 10.1002/2014PA002728.

Zonneveld, K.A.F. and Pospelova, V. (2015). A determination key for modern dinoflagellate cysts. Palynology, 39, p. 387-409.

*Price, A. and Pospelova, V. (2014). Spiniferites multisphaerus sp. nov. (Dinophyceae), a dinoflagellate cyst from the Late Pleistocene in Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California, Mexico. Palynology, 38(1), p. 101-116.

*Bringué, M., Pospelova, V. and Field, D.B. (2014). High-resolution dinoflagellate cyst record of decadal variability and 20th-century warming in the Santa Barbara Basin, California. Quaternary Science Reviews, 105, p. 86-101.

^Heikkilä, M., Pospelova, V., Hochheim, K.P., Kuzyk, Z.Z.A., Stern, G.A., Macdonald, R.W. and Barber, D.G. (2014). Surface sediment dinoflagellate cysts from the Hudson Bay system and their relation to freshwater and nutrient cycling. Marine Micropaleontology, 106, p. 79-109.

*Price, A., ^Mertens, K.N., Pospelova, V., Pedersen, T.F. and Ganeshram, R. (2013). Late Quaternary climatic and oceanographic changes in the Eastern North Pacific as recorded by dinoflagellate cysts from Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California (Mexico). Paleoceanography, 28(1), p. 200-212. doi:10.1002/palo.20019

^Mertens, K.N., *Price, A. and Pospelova, V. (2012). Determining the absolute abundance of dinoflagellate cysts in recent marine sediments II: further tests of the Lycopodium marker-grain method. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 184, p. 74-81.

*Price, A. and Pospelova, V. (2011). High-resolution sediment trap study of organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst production and biogenic silica flux in Saanich Inlet (BC, Canada). Marine Micropaleontology, 80(1-2), p. 18-43.

*Krepakevich, A. and Pospelova, V. (2010) Anthropogenic impact on coastal bays of Southern Vancouver Island (BC, Canada) as reflected in phytoplankton sedimentary records. Continental Shelf Research, 30(18), p. 1924-1940.

Pospelova, V., and Kim, S.J. (2010). Dinoflagellate cysts in Recent sediments from the aquaculture sites of southern South Korea. Marine Micropaleontology, 76, p. 37-51.

Pospelova, V., *Esenkulova., S., Johannessen, S.C., O’Brien, M.C. and Macdonald, R.W. (2010). Organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst production, composition and flux from 1996 to 1998 in the central Strait of Georgia (BC, Canada): a sediment trap study. Marine Micropaleontology, 75(1-4), p. 17-37.

Pospelova, V., de Vernal, A., and Pedersen, T.F. (2008). Distribution of dinoflagellate cysts in surface sediments from the northeastern Pacific Ocean (43-25°N) in relation to sea-surface temperature, productivity and coastal upwelling. Marine Micropaleontology, 68(1-2), p. 21-48.

Pospelova, V., Pedersen, T.F., and de Vernal, A. (2006). Dinoflagellate cysts as indicators of climatic and oceanographic changes during the past 40 kyr in the Santa Barbara Basin, southern California. Paleoceanography, 21(2), p. 1-16, PA2010, doi:10.1029/2005PA001251 This paper was selected by the editors of Paleoceanography Journal as an "American Geophysical Union (AGU) Journal Highlight."

Pospelova, V., Chmura, G.L., Boothman, W. and Latimer, J.S. (2005). Spatial distribution of modern dinoflagellate cysts in polluted estuarine sediments from Buzzards Bay (Massachusetts, USA) embayments. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 292, p. 23-40.

Pospelova, V., Chmura, G.L. and Walker, H.A. (2004). Environmental factors influencing spatial distribution of dinoflagellate cyst assemblages in shallow lagoons of southern New England (USA). Review of Paleobotany and Palynology, 128(1-2), p. 7-34.

Pospelova, V., Chmura, G.L. Boothman, W.S., and Latimer, J.S. (2002). Dinoflagellate cyst records and human disturbance in two neighboring estuaries, New Bedford Harbor and Apponagansett Bay, Massachusetts (USA). The Science of the Total Environment, 298(1-3), p. 81-102.

Pospelova, V. and Head, M.J. (2002). Islandinium brevispinosum sp. nov. (Dinoflagellata), a new organic-walled dinoflagellate cyst from modern estuarine sediments of New England (USA). Journal of Phycology, 38(3), p. 593-601.