School of Ocean Sciences

Dr Paul Butler

Photograph of Dr Paul Butler

Biography___________________________________

Paul Butler is currently Coordinator of the EU consortium project ARAMACC ("Annually Resolved Archives of MArine Climate Change") and Research Lecturer in Sclerochronology and Scleroclimatology, funded through the Climate Change Consortium for Wales (C3W).

After a 25-year career as an IT consultant in London, Paul Butler started an undergraduate degree in Ocean Science at SOS in 2001 and was awarded a First Class Honours degree in 2004. He began his PhD immediately afterwards, working on the use of the shell of the bivalve Arctica islandica as an environmental proxy for Irish Sea waters and building what was then the longest (at 487 years) absolutely-dated chronology based on molluscan growth increments.

He was awarded his doctorate in 2009, and went on to work on MILLENNIUM, an EU FP6 collaborative investigation of European climate of the past millennium. The SOS contribution was to develop the use of A. islandica as a proxy archive for the Polar frontal region on the North Icelandic Shelf; the group were able eventually to build a 1,357 year archive that included one remarkable specimen with a lifetime of 507 years (Butler et al 2012).
Research Interests_____________________________

The main focus of Paul Butler's research is the construction of precisely-dated high-resolution proxy archives for the marine environment. Some species of bivalve mollusc deposit distinct annual increments in their shells, so if the date of death of the animal is known, the whole of the shell can be dated by counting increments. Most of his research to date has concentrated on the very long-lived bivalve Arctica islandica. A. islandica has been found to live longer than five hundred years (Butler et al 2012), making it the longest lived non-colonial animal whose lifespan can be authenticated. The fact that they grow synchronously within populations allows subfossil shells to be dated by comparing their increment width patterns with the patterns in overlapping shells whose dates are already known, so that the length of precisley-dated archives can be extended back in time. The statistical methods used to build the archives, to compare them with environmental variables and to reconstruct the variables are similar to those used by tree-ring researchers.

Using these techniques, he was able to construct what was then the longest (at 487 years) shell-based archive using A. islandica from waters around the Isle of Man (Butler et al 2009, 2010). Subsequently (in collaboration with Dr Alan Wanamaker, a colleague on the MILLENNIUM project) a 1,357-year A. islandica archive has been built with shells from the North Icelandic Shelf. A recent paper (Wanamaker et al 2012), published in Nature Communications, builds on the Iceland archive, using radiocarbon analysis to show changes in the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during the past millennium. Stable isotope analyses of the Iceland shells is now being carried out, with the goal of reconstructing a 1,000-year record of seawater temperatures.

Esteem Indicators

Cemlyn Jones Studentship, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University 2004-2009

In 2010, awarded the Lewis Penny Medal by the Quaternary Research Association for 'a significant contribution to the Quaternary stratigraphy of the British Isles and its maritime environment'. Awarded for work on proxy development and the marine environment of the Irish and North Seas (Butler et al 2009a, 2009b, 2010)

In 2014, awarded the Lyell Fund by the Geological Society of London. The Lyell Fund is awarded for noteworthy published research. The citation reads in part: "Paul is the leading figure in the extraction of ultra-high resolution records of marine climate change from annual growth increments preserved in exceptionally long-lived and fossil bivalve mollusc shells"

Publications

Peer Reviewed Journal Papers

Brocas, W.M., Reynolds, D.J., Butler, P.G., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Ridgway, I.D. and Ramsay, K. (2013)
The dog cockle, Glycymeris glycymeris (L.), a new annually-resolved sclerochronological archive for the Irish Sea. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 373, 133-140.
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Butler, P. G., Wanamaker, A. D. Jr., Scourse, J. D., Richardson, C. A. and Reynolds, D. J. (2013)
Variability of marine climate on the North Icelandic Shelf in a 1357-year proxy archive based on growth increments in the bivalve Arctica islandica.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 373, 141-151.
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Cunningham, L.K., Austin, W.E.N., Knudsen, K.L., Eiríksson, J., Scourse, J.D., Wanamaker, A.D., Jr, Butler, P., Cage, A., Richter, T., Husum, K., Hald, M., Andersson, C., Zorita, E., Linderholm, H., Gunnarson, B.E., Sicre, M.A., Sejrup, H.P., Jiang, H. and Wilson, R.J.S. (2013)
Reconstructions of surface ocean conditions from the North East Atlantic and Nordic Seas during the last millennium. The Holocene 23, 921-935.

Reynolds, D.J., Butler, P.G., Williams, S.M., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Wanamaker, A.D. Jr., Austin, W.E.N., Cage, A. and Sayer, M. (2013)
A multiproxy reconstruction of Hebridean (NW Scotland) spring sea surface temperatures between AD 1805 and 2010. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 386, 275-285.
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Reynolds, D.J., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Butler, P.G., Wanamaker, A.D. Jr., Ridgway, I., Sayer, M.D.J., and Gulliver, P. (2013)
The potential of the marine bivalve mollusc Glossus humanus (L.) as a sclerochronological archive The Holocene 23(12), 1711-1720.
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Karney, G.B., Butler, P.G., Speller, S., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Schröder, M., Hughes, G., Czernuska, J.T. and Grovenor, C.R.M. (2012).
Characterising the microstructure of Arctica islandica shells using NanoSIMS and EBSD. Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geosystems 13(4), Q04002 doi: 10.1029/201.
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Scourse, J.D., Wanamaker, A.D. Jr., Weidman, C., Heinemeier, J., Reimer, P.J., Butler, P.G. and Richardson, C.A. (2012)
The marine radiocarbon bomb-pulse across the temperate North Atlantic: a compilation of Δ14C time histories from Arctica islandica growth increments. Radiocarbon 54, 165-186. [1]

Wanamaker, A.D. Jr,, Butler, P.G., Scourse, J.D., Heinemeier, J., Eiríksson, J., Knudsen, K.L. and Richardson, C.A. (2012).
Surface changes in the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation during the last millennium. Nature Communications 3:899 doi: 10.1038/ncomms1901 (including Nature Communications featured cover image).

Butler, P.G., Wanamaker, A.D. Jr., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A. and Reynolds, D.J. (2011)
Long-term stability of δ13C with respect to biological age in the aragonite shell of mature specimens of the bivalve mollusk Arctica islandica. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 302 21-30 doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.03.038.

Karney, G.B., Butler, P.G., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Lau, K.H., Czernuska, J.T. and Grovenor, C.R.M. (2011).
Identification of growth increments in the shell of the bivalve mollusc Arctica islandica using backscattered electron imaging. Journal of Microscopy, 24(1), 29-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2010.03403.x

Ridgway, I.D., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Butler, P.G. and Reynolds, D.J., 2011.
The population structure and biology of the ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, in Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. doi:10.1017/S0025315411000154

Butler, P.G., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Wanamaker, A.D., Jr., Shammon, T.M., Bennell, J.D. (2010).
Marine climate in the Irish Sea: analysis of a 489-year marine master chronology derived from growth increments in the shell of the clam Arctica islandica. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29, 1614-1632.

Butler, P.G., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Witbaard, R., Schöne, B.R., Fraser, N.M., Wanamaker, A.D., Jr., Bryant, C.L., Harris, I., and Robertson, I. (2009)
Accurate increment identification and the spatial extent of the common signal in five Arctica islandica chronologies from the Fladen Ground, northern North Sea, Paleoceanography, 24, PA2210, doi:10.1029/2008PA001715.

Wanamaker, A.D. Jr., Baker, A., Butler, P.G., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Ridgway, I. and Reynolds, D.J. (2009).
A novel method for imaging internal growth patterns in marine mollusks: A fluorescence case study on the aragonitic shell of the marine bivalve Arctica islandica (Linnaeus.). Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 7, 673-681.

Butler, P.G., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Wanamaker, A.D., Jr., Bryant, C.L., and Bennell, J.D. (2009)
Continuous marine radiocarbon reservoir calibration and the 13C Suess effect in the Irish Sea: results from the first absolutely dated multi-centennial shell-based marine master chronology, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 279, 230-241

Wanamaker, A.D., Jr., Heinemeier, J., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Butler, P.G., Eiríksson, J., and Knudsen, K.L. (2008)
Very-long lived molluscs confirm 17th century AD tephra-based radiocarbon reservoir ages for north Icelandic shelf waters, Radiocarbon, 50, No. 3.

Additional Publications

Butler, P.G. (2012).
Clam shells, climate change and ageing: The mollusc that had 500 birthdays. Catalyst Secondary School Review, 23(1), 6-8
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Butler, P.G. (2011).
Arctica islandica, the longest-lived animal on earth. Mollusc World, 25, March 2011, 3-5
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Ridgway, I., Richardson, C.A., Scourse, J.D., Wanamaker, A.D. and Butler, P.G. (2008).
The long-lived clam Arctica islandica, a new model species for ageing research. British Society for Research on Ageing. Published online.

Wanamaker, A.D., Jr., Scourse, J.D., Richardson, C.A., Butler, P.G., Reynolds, D.J., and Ridgway, I. (2008)
Absolute chronologies from the ocean: Records from the longest-lived, non-colonial animals on Earth. PAGES News, 16(3), 4-6.

PDF copies of some of these publications are available (as indicated by hyperlinks in the list) for non-commercial research and educational purposes only. You may not use the material for commercial purposes or make multiple copies without requesting permission from the copyright holder (usually the book or journal publisher).

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