Research Groups

Below is a selection of the various research groups within the UCSC Earth & Planetary Sciences Department.

  • Biogeochemistry
    Our research, in the fields of biogeochemistry, chemical oceanography, and paleoceanography, use the chemical and isotopic records enclosed in wide range of earth materials to study present and past biogeochemical processes. This research spans a wide range of temporal (seasons to millions of years) and spatial (molecular to global) scales. An over-arching aspiration of this research is to understand the processes and feedbacks operating in the Earth System and how they relate to global changes in climate and tectonics.
  • Cenozoic Paleoceanography, Geochemistry
    Our research largely focuses on the evolution of climate and ocean chemistry over the last 65 m.y. of Earth history. We are particularly interested in the short-lived climatic extremes such as the Eocene transient thermal maxima or hyperthermals (i.e., the PETM and Elmo), as well as the Eocene-Oligocene appearance of Antarctic ice-sheets.
  • Climate Dymanics
    Our research of the global physical climate focuses on the coupled system comprised of the atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere. We seek to understand the fundamental mechanisms underlying large-scale climate changes, such as Arctic-amplified warming. We investigate how uncertainty in model representations of radiative feedbacks translates into uncertainty in regional and global climate predictions. We explore how changes in energy transport by atmospheric circulations manifest variously from the tropics to poles. We trace the atmospheric moisture carried by circulations, and evaporated from a warmer surface, to elucidate the changing hydrological cycle and patterns of precipitation.
  • Earth Systems Biogeochemistry
    Our research explores how the major element cycles of life have changed over the course of Earth history. We use computational methods to simulate carbon and nutrient cycling and to match these simulations to available reconstructions. One main focus of this work addresses the role of the global carbon cycle in climate change of the geologic past. The second focus is on tracing the processes that sustain the ocean’s biological productivity by supplying essential nutrients. Better understanding the natural processes that have shaped global nutrient and carbon cycling informs how the environment may change in the future.
  • Geochronology
    Our research aims to develop the use of subglacial precipitates as an archive the past Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) response to climate over Pleistocene interglacial-glacial cycles.These chemical precipitates formed in the past subglacial aquatic environments beneath the AIS as a byproduct of subglacial chemical weathering. These water-lain accumulations of calcite or opal can be dated by 234U-230Th geochronologic methods and their compositions characterized, constraining both the timescale of formation and the compositional history of past subglacial waters.
  • Geomorphology
    Our research on the evolution pf physical features of the surface of the earth include: slow landslide processes, gravel rivers and coarse sediment transport, and bedrock river channels.
  • Hydrogeology
    Our research focuses on physical and chemical hydrogeology on land and below the seafloor. Our research projects include: groundwater recharge, surface water - groundwater interactions, the upper oceanic crust at seafloor spreading centers and on ridge flanks, heat flow below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and numerous additional problems. We use mapping, seismic, borehole, and thermal data, measure seepage fluxes, collect and analyze water and soil samples, and simulate hydrologic processes using numerical and analytical models.
  • Paleobiology
    Our research is on the biotic effects of global change by studying the effects of ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation on marine organisms during ancient mass extinctions.
  • Reconstructing Past Ice Sheets
    Our research is understanding the response of ice sheets to a changing climate. As ice sheets grow and decay over a glacial cycle, loads of ice, water, and sediment are redistributed over the Earth's surface. The redistribution of mass perturbs the Earth’s rotation axis and gravitational field through solid Earth deformation, producing a spatially variable pattern of sea-level change.
  • Planetary Sciences
    Our research is on the origin and evolution of solar system objects, from gas giant planets to icy moons to asteroids. We use spacecraft and ground-based observations, laboratory measurements, and numerical models to investigate the processes affecting planetary interiors, surfaces and atmospheres. Much of our work is also relevant to the Early Earth and to exoplanets, and we form part of the Other Worlds Laboratory.
  • Seismology Laboratory
    Our researchers includes world experts on earthquakes, mantle structure, subduction zones, tsunamis and exploration imaging. Our research takes us to exotic locales like the ice streams of Antarctica, the shores of Costa Rica or the deserts of Namibia. However, some of the most exciting work happens right here at home. We use massive databanks of global data and state-of-the-art computing to develop new techniques to map the Earth's subsurface and unravel the workings of large earthquakes.
  • Watershed Hydrology
    Our Research Lab studies how rainfall becomes runoff, the pathways water takes through landscapes, and the biogeochemical implications of these pathways. We combine field and quantitative analyses to explore rainfall-runoff relationships and surface water- groundwater interactions across a broad range of spatial and temporal scales.