Earth & Planetary Sciences Faculty

Lisa C Sloan
  • Title
    • Professor Emerita
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences
  • Department
    • Earth & Planetary Sciences Department
  • Affiliations Environmental Studies Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location A232 Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Mail Stop Earth and Planetary Sciences

Summary of Expertise

Paleoclimatology and Earth System Science

Research Interests

Lisa Sloan's research interests focus on understanding the processes which have controlled past climates, environments, and surficial processes in Earth history. Her research has concentrated primarily on Cenozoic events and processes, with primary emphasis on the warm and transitional intervals of that era of Earth history. Sloan's research involves examining marine and terrestrial geologic records of climatic and environmental change, and investigating the driving forces behind such changes. To deciper the past Earth systems and their causal factors, paleoclimate models are a powerful tool that are put to use in the earth sciences research of Sloan's work. She applies models which describe the surface of the Earth, including continental distributions and relief, atmospheric composition, surface vegetation and soil characteristics, to pose and investigate questions addressing past environments, climates and depositional settings. These state-of-the-art models have been used to investigate problems ranging from prediction of petroleum source rock distribution to understanding mid Cenozoic cooling and drying trends of western North America as recorded by floral, faunal, and sedimentological evidence, to investigating possible future climate change.

One theme of Sloan's research has dealt with the Paleogene world, a warm time interval which existed approximately 66-24 million years ago. Representative geologic evidence for the early Paleogene indicate global and regional climates with perplexing characteristics relative to the modern world, including forests in the Arctic Circle and crocodilian communities in what is now Wyoming. This research has led to renewed debate in the scientific community regarding the nature of continental interior climates during warm intervals, and also indicates that regional records of climatic and environmental conditions, intimately linked to geologic processes, have important implications for the record of global climate change.

A second theme of Sloan's research is the subject of warm and transitional intervals of climate in geologic history. As one example, Sloan has participated in a project investigating the globally warm climate of the middle Pliocene (~3.5 million years ago) led by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey. This work involved dozens of scientists from a range of disciplines. Pliocene climatic and environmental change is particularly relevant to future climate change because it was a geologically recent warming, with abundant evidence to help decipher important climate processes and responses at that time. More recently, Sloan has become involved in an exciting area of research focused upon the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum, an abrupt and extreme warming event that took place during the "greenhouse" climate of the latest Paleocene. The research into this extreme warming event is funded by the National Science Foundation, and there will be much to learn about the dynamics of warm climate worlds in this research in the coming years.

A third theme of research for Sloan and her graduate students is that of regional climate modelings. Regional climate models allow more detailed investigations of climate change than can be achieved with global climate models, and the models allow more detailed accounting for regional effects such as topography, vegetation types, and water bodies. Sloan and her graduate students have completed several studies of the modern Aral Sea basin and the environmental crises that have taken place there in the past several decades. More recently, Sloan is focusing upon regional climate change in the California region.

Biography, Education and Training

B.S., Allegheny College
M.S., Kent State University
Ph.D., The Pennyslvania State University

Teaching Interests

Earth History and Global Change, Stratigraphy-Sedimentation, Methods in Paleoclimatology, Topics in Climate Change