Organic Biomarkers

  • By looking at organic remains in sediments, we can identify envrionmental variations that have occurred in the past.
  • We also study modern environments to determine how these system are functioning now so that we can use this information together with the information from past environments we found in the sediments to try to understand local and global climate change in the past. 
  • Current projects include sulfur isotope biogeochemistry in sulfidic lakes in the USA and Canada, development of Pleistocene paleoclimate reconstructions and their link with human societies in southwestern North America (New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico), western South America (Chile, Peru) and East Africa (Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia), and the development of molecular isotopic proxies for past temperature and hydrology.

Lead: Dr. Josef Werne


  • The emphasis of our paleolimnological research is to identify and recover core samples from lakes that archive climate other environmental information.
  • Lake deposits can also be used to investigate the impact of people on the landscape including land use change and the history of pollution going back thousands of years.
  • This approach couples extensive fieldwork in remote locations with detailed laboratory analyses of sediment cores and modern samples to constrain down-core interpretations.

Lead: Dr. Mark Abbott

Nitrogen Cycling 

  • The nitrogen research program examines  the tight coupling between human activities and reactive nitrogen  distributions in atmospheric, terrestrial and hydrologic systems at multiple spatial scales.
  • Understanding the fluxes of reactive nitrogen (i.e., any form available for biotic uptake) across Earth systems is key to mitigating the harmful effects this element has on natural systems.
  • One of the fundamental questions to be answered is: How do ecosystems respond to anthropogenic alterations to the nitrogen cycle?

Lead: Dr. Emily Elliott

Managing Risks in the Shale Industry 

  • The US shale boom and efforts by other countries to exploit their shale resources could reshape energy and environmental landscapes across the world. But how might those landscapes change? Will countries with significant physical reserves try to exploit them? Will they protect or harm local communities and the global climate? Will the benefits be shared or retained by powerful interests? And how will these decisions be made?

Lead: Dr. Shanti Gamper-Rabindran

Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change

  • Research focuses on how changes in climate and habitat shape population and community processes in a way that explicitly considers their evolutionary implications.
  • Questions address: (1) how climate and host/pathogen evolution shape the dynamics of wildlife diseases, and (2) the effects of changes in climate and landscape on species distributions and diversity.

Lead: Dr. Corinne Richards-Zawacki

Energy Policy and Climate Change 

  • More than 1 billion people around the world have no access to electricity. Providing them with off-grid solar power could possibly reduce energy poverty. 
  • Research attempts to quantify the societal benefits of clean, renewable energy in impoverished areas. 
  • Field studies in Uttar Pradesh, India have demonstrated that connection to a solar minigrid brought some advantages, such as cleaner energy and reduced power consumption.

Lead: Dr. Michaël Aklin