Bronwen Konecky

Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
PhD, Brown University
research interests:
  • Climate
  • Paleoclimate
  • Organic & Stable Isotope Geochemistry

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1169
  • One Brookings Dr.
  • St. Louis, MO 63130

Bronwen Konecky’s research investigates climate, water, and ecosystem variations in the Earth’s tropical regions, from the past ~150,000 years to the 21st century. 

Konecky's dual focus on ancient and modern systems provides a geologic perspective on present-day climate change, while using present-day climate processes to better understand the geologic past. Her lab's research investigates tropical climate variability and climate change using tools of stable isotope hydrology, paleolimnology, organic geochemistry, and modeling. Her group's work is guided by one overarching question: How does a changing climate affect rainfall and ecosystems in the Earth’s tropical regions?

Konecky received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from Barnard College, Columbia University. In her graduate work at Brown University, she studied tropical climate and paleoclimate, focusing on reconstructing past environments using the geochemistry of lake sediments. Her dissertation title was “Decadal to Orbital Scale Climate Change in the Indian Ocean Region: Precipitation Isotopic Perspectives from East Africa and Indonesia.”

After finishing her doctorate, Konecky undertook postdoctoral training in paleoclimate modeling at Georgia Tech and the University of Colorado Boulder, working closely with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. From 2014-17, she held postdoctoral fellow and research scientist positions at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. She joined the Washington University faculty in January 2018.

research areas

Stable Isotope Hydroclimatology

Stable O and H isotope ratios of environmental waters (e.g. precipitation, lake water, seawater) are powerful tracers of the global water cycle. The Konecky group collects precipitation and surface waters from locations such as Indonesia, Botswana, and Uganda (and, soon, Missouri!). The δ18O and δD of these waters help us to decode the physical processes that drive the tropical water cycle, such as monsoonal moisture sources, transport paths, and recycling between the land surface and the atmosphere.

    Paleolimnology and Organic Geochemistry

    Lake sediments contain valuable information about climatic and environmental conditions around the watershed when the sediment was deposited. These natural climate archives allow us to examine climate variability and climate change over the span of decades to hundreds of thousands of years. The Konecky group uses a range of paleolimnological tools, particularly the H and C isotopic composition of leaf wax biomarkers, to reconstruct long-term changes in African, Indonesian, and (soon) South American climate.

      Paleoclimate Modeling and Data Synthesis

      Synthesis of paleoclimate records allows regional to global patterns to become clear. Earth system models afford the opportunity to examine why these patterns may have occurred. The Konecky group uses “big data” approaches to synthesize paleoclimate data from a range of archives (e.g., speleothems, sediments, ice cores) and compares these data with water isotope-equipped earth system models. Current time periods of interest include the past 1000 years, the Holocene, and the Last Glacial Maximum.