Natasha Barbolini's picture
Jan van Arkel

Natasha Barbolini

Researcher, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
  • E-mailnatasha.barbolini@uib.no
  • Visitor Address
    Thormølens gate 53 A/B
    5006 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7803
    5020 Bergen

I am a deep-time palaeoecologist who uses the fossil plant record to reconstruct ancient ecosystems. My research focuses on understanding how climatic and environmental changes impact biodiversity through the Phanerozoic.

As part of the PalaeoChem research group led by Alistair Seddon, I will broaden the use of pollen-chemical proxies for reconstructing UV-B radiation in the geological past. My project, DECRYPT (Drivers of Ecosystem Collapse and RecoverY across the Permo-Triassic) will provide a deep-time perspective on palaeoclimate that is pivotal in understanding the sensitivity of Earth systems and biodiversity to global change.

I completed my PhD in South Africa in 2014, followed by a 3-year fellowship working on Permo–Triassic palaeoecology. I moved to the University of Amsterdam in 2017 to join the ERC Horizon 2020 MAGIC project, exploring the origins of the Central Asian steppes. The time-extensive record of plant distributions in Asia, built up from my past fieldwork in Tibet and China, formed an ideal basis for a further project on the evolution of arid-adapted plant species at Stockholm University, where I remain a guest researcher.

I am also one of the Principal Investigators on the NamCore Drilling Project, to drill a one-million-year record from a high-altitude lake in Tibet. It was recently awarded funding by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) and drilling is expected to commence in 2023. The project aims to fill essential knowledge gaps in how Asian monsoon behaviour and ecosystems are affected by climate change.

2018       “Deep Time Palaeoecology” module of the Palaeoecology Undergraduate Course, Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam

2015–2016  “Introduction to Palynology” Course for Honours, Masters and PhD students at the Department of Geology, University of Cape Town

2015–2016  “Palaeoecology and Palaeoenvironments” Course, American International School of Johannesburg, South Africa

2011–2014  “Palaeoecology and Palaeoenvironments” and “Evolution of Plants” modules for the Geology I & II Undergraduate and Palaeontology BSc Honours (Postgraduate) courses, University of the Witwatersrand

2007–2014  “Stone Tools in Africa” module on the annual undergrad Geology I fieldtrip to the Cradle of Humankind, comprising theory and experimental archaeology

2008–2013  Undergrad Palaeontology modules in Geology I & II, APES (Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences) II & III, and the Palaeontology postgrad BSc Honours course; leading practicals on invertebrate/vertebrate palaeontology and palaeobotany, University of the Witwatersrand


  • Show author(s) (2022). Bringing science communication skills into the university classroom and back out again: What do palaeoscience educators think? Frontiers in Education.
  • Show author(s) (2021). The Miocene: The Future of the Past. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology. 71 pages.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

Journal Articles (17)

Steinthorsdottir, M., Coxall, H.K., de Boer, A.M., Huber, M., Barbolini, N., Bradshaw, C.D., Burls, N.J., Feakins, S.J., Gasson, E., Henderiks, J., Holbourn, A., Kiel, S., Kohn, M.J., Knorr, G., Kürschner, W.M., Lear, C.H., Liebrand, D., Lunt, D.J., Mörs, T., Pearson, P.N., Pound, M.J., Stoll, H., Strömberg, C.A.E., 2021. The Miocene: the Future of the Past. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology (in press), e2020PA004037.

Meijer, N., Dupont-Nivet, G., Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Rohrmann, A., Zhang, Y., Liu, X., Licht, A., Abels, H., Hoorn, C., Tjallingii, R., Andermann, C., Dietze, M., Nowaczyk, N. 2021. Loess-like dust appearance at 40 Ma in central China. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology 36(3), e2020PA003993.

*Jardine, P.E., *Hoorn, C., Beer, M., Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Bogota-Angel, G., Gosling, W.D., Fraser, W.T., Lomax, B.H., Huang. H., Sciumbata. M., He, H.J., Dupont-Nivet, G. 2021. Sporopollenin chemistry and its durability in the geological record: an integration of extant and fossil chemical data across the seed plants. Palaeontology 64(2), 285–305. *Shared first authorship.

#Yuan, Q., Barbolini, N., Rydin, C., Gao, D.L., Wei, H.C., Fan, Q.S., Qin, Z.J., Du, Y.S., Shan, J.J., Shan, F.S., Vajda, V., 2020. Aridification signatures from middle–late Eocene pollen indicate widespread drying across the Tibetan Plateau after 40 Ma. Climate of the Past 16, 2255–2273. #Supervised PhD student.

Ao, H., Dupont-Nivet, G., Rohling, E.J., Zhang, P., Ladant, J.B., Roberts, A.P., Licht, A., Liu, Q., Liu, Z., Dekkers, M.J., Coxall, H.K., Jin, Z., Huang, C., Xiao, G., Poulsen, C.J., Barbolini, N., Meijer, N., Sun, Q., Qiang, X., Yao, J., An, Z., 2020. Orbital climate variability on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau across the Eocene–Oligocene transition. Nature Communications 11(1), 1–11.

Licht, A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Meijer, N., Rugenstein, J.C., Schauer, A., Fiebig, J., Mulch, A., Hoorn, C., Barbolini, N., Guo, Z., 2020. Decline of soil respiration in northeastern Tibet through the transition into the Oligocene icehouse. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 560, 110016.

Barbolini, N., Woutersen, A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Silvestro, D., Tardif, D., Coster, P.M.C., Meijer, N., Chang, C., Zhang, H.X., Licht, A., Rydin, C., Koutsodendris, A., Han, F., Rohrmann, A., Liu, X-J., Zhang, Y., Donnadieu, Y., Fluteau, F., Ladant, J-B., Le Hir, G., Hoorn, C., 2020. Cenozoic evolution of the steppe-desert biome in Central Asia. Science Advances 6(41), eabb8227.

Page, M., Licht, A., Dupont-Nivet, G., Meijer, N., Barbolini, N., Hoorn, C., Schauer, A., Huntington, K., Bajnai, D., Fiebig, J., Mulch, A., Guo, Z., 2019. Synchronous cooling and decline in monsoonal rainfall in NE Tibet during the fall into the Oligocene Icehouse. Geology 47(3), 203–206.

Kaya, M., Dupont-Nivet, G., Proust, J-N., Roperch, P., Bougeois, L., Meijer, N., Frieling, J., Fioroni, C., Özkan-Altıner, S., Vardar, E., Barbolini, N., Stoica, M., Mamtimin, M., Guo, Z., 2019. Paleogene evolution of the proto-Paratethys Sea in Central Asia (Tarim and Tajik basins): paleoenvironmental consequences of far field tectonic driving mechanisms. Basin Research 31(3), 461-486.

Barbolini, N., Nxumalo, V., Kramers, J., Vorster, C., Cairncross, B., Bamford, M.K., 2019. Palynostratigraphic correlation of the Springbok Flats Coalfield to other coal-bearing successions in the Karoo basins of southern Africa. South African Journal of Geology doi:10.25131/sajg.122.0001.

Cole, D., Barbolini, N., 2019. Marine flooding surfaces recorded in Permian black shales and coal deposits of the Main Karoo Basin (South Africa): implications for basin dynamics and cross-basin correlation: Discussion. International Journal of Coal Geology 209, 130–131.

Haberzettl, T., Daut, G., Schulze, N., ...Barbolini, N. et al., 2019. ICDP workshop on scientific drilling of Nam Co on the Tibetan Plateau: 1 million years of paleoenvironmental history, geomicrobiology, tectonics and paleomagnetism derived from sediments of a high-altitude lake. Scientific Drilling 25, 63–70.        

Barbolini, N., Rubidge, B.S., Bamford, M.K., 2018. A new approach to biostratigraphy in the Karoo foreland system: utilising restricted-range palynomorphs and their first appearance datums for correlation. Journal of African Earth Sciences 140, 114–133.                                   

Barbolini, N., Rubidge, B.S., Bamford, M.K., 2016c. Radiometric dating demonstrates that Permian spore-pollen zones of Australia and South Africa are diachronous. Gondwana Research 37, 241–251.

Barbolini, N., Smith, R.M.H., Tabor, N., Sidor, C.A., Angielcyzk, K., 2016b. Resolving the age of Madumabisa vertebrates: Palynological evidence from the mid-Zambezi Basin of Zambia. Palaeoecology, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeogeography 457, 117–128.                   

Barbolini, N., Bamford, M.K., Tolan, S.C., 2016a. Permo-Triassic palynology and palaeobotany of Zambia: a review. Palaeontologia africana 50, 18–30.                   

Barbolini, N., Bamford, M.K., 2014. Palynology of an Early Permian coal seam from the Karoo Supergroup of Botswana. Journal of African Earth Sciences 100, 136–144.

Book Chapters (1)

Rubidge, B.S., Day, M.O., Barbolini, N., Hancox, P.J., Choiniere, J., Bamford, M.K., McPhee, B., Viglietti, P., Jirah, S., 2016. Advances in nonmarine Karoo biostratigraphy: Significance for understanding basin development. In: Linol, B. and de Wit, M. (Eds.), Origin and Evolution of the Cape Mountains and Karoo Basin, Springer International Publishing, p. 141–149.               

Other Publications (2)

Barbolini, N., 2014. Palynostratigraphy of the South African Karoo Supergroup and correlations with coeval Gondwanan successions. PhD Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Barbolini, N., 2010. Palynology of a coal seam in Karoo deposits of Botswana and correlation with southern African coal-bearing strata. MSc Dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Larissa Lopes Cavalcante (MSc, 2021): Ancient plant cuticle chemistry: preservation and characterization of organic matter as biomarker of past UV-B radiation

Qin Yuan (PhD, 2018–2021): Sedimentary age and palaeoenvironmental changes of salt-bearing strata in Nangqian Basin in Qinghai Province

Boris Holtman (BSc, 2018): A new way to look at pollen: Chemical analysis of Pinus pollen grains using FTIR spectroscopy

Meriska Singh (BSc Hons, 2016): Palynology of the Late Permian Madumabisa Mudstone, Lusitu, Zambia

Penester Tjale (BSc Hons, 2015): Palynology of the Springbok Flats Basin, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Kierra Mahabeer (BSc Hons, 2015): Palynology of the Permian Ecca Moatize coal basin, Tete Province, Mozambique

Kierra Mahabeer (MSc, 2016–2017): Palynology of the Permian Ecca Sanângoè-Mefídézi Basin, Mozambique

Bheki Cindi (BSc Hons, 2014): Detailed petrographic and palynological study of Soutpansberg coal, Limpopo Province