The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Photo by Ellen Thomas)
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a paper titled “Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in Paleoceanography, May 2014.
In this paper Thomas and her colleagues document that ocean acidification of the surface ocean not only occurred during past times of global warming and high CO2 levels, but also by how much — about 0.3 pH units. The group studied planktic foraminifers from a drill site in the North Pacific.
Thomas’ study has been highlighted in a press release from Columbia University and also on Phys.org.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of a paper titled “Carbon Sequestration during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum by an Efficient Biological Pump,” published in the April 2014 edition of Nature Geoscience.
In the paper, Thomas explains how ocean-dwelling bacteria may have vacuumed up carbon and halted a period of extreme warmth some 56 million years ago. The finding suggests how Earth might once have rapidly reversed a runaway greenhouse effect.
Its effect on global oceanic productivity is controversial. In the paper, Thomas and her colleagues present records of marine barite accumulation rates that show distinct peaks during this time interval, suggesting a general increase in export productivity. The authors propose that changes in marine ecosystems, resulting from high atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 and ocean acidification, led to enhanced carbon export from the photic zone to depth, thereby increasing the efficiency of the biological pump. Higher seawater temperatures at that time increased bacterial activity and organic matter regeneration.
Gabriel Popkin ’03 wrote about Thomas’s research in a April 2014 article titled “Ocean Bacteria May Have Shut Off Ancient Global Warming” in Science News.
Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas co-authored chapters in this new book on the Long Island Sound.
Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas are the authors of three chapters included in a reference volume for Long Island Sound. The book, Long Island Sound: Prospects for the Urban Sea, is published by Springer in 2013. Varekamp is the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences, professor of environmental studies. Thomas is research professor of earth and environmental sciences.
Varekamp co-authored a chapter titled “Metals, Organic Compounds and Nutrients in Long Island Sound: Sources, Magnitudes, Trends and Impacts,” and another chapter titled “The Physical Oceanography of Long Island Sound.” Thomas co-authored a chapter titled “Biology and Ecology of the Long Island Sound.”
Varekamp and Thomas worked on the book for about six years. The last comprehensive Long Island Sound book was published in the early 1970s.
“We hope that it will be the reference volume for Long Island Sound for some decades to come,” Varekamp said.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, was named the winner of the 2013 Association for Women Geoscientists Professional Excellence Award in the Academia category. This award recognizes exceptional women who have made distinguished contributions in their professions throughout their careers.
“The Award Committee was especially impressed with the breadth and depth of your professional accomplishments, your commitment to mentoring, and the emphasis you have placed on outreach and other service activities during your career,” wrote Aimee Scheffer, president of the AWG in Thomas’ award letter. “Congratulations and thank you for being a positive role model to current and future generations of women geoscientists.”
Thomas will receive the award during the Geological Society of America 2013-14 meeting in Denver, Colo.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented a keynote address at the 11th International Conference on Paleoceanography, Sept. 1-6 in Barcelona-Sitges, Spain. The theme of this conference was “Long-term perspectives on ocean and climate dynamics” and Thomas spoke on “Dynamics of the ancient non-analogue oceans.” See her CV online here.
Book co-authored by Ellen Thomas.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of “Surviving rapid climate change in the deep-sea during the Paleogene hyperthemals,” published in the June 4 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 110, No. 23. Read the paper’s abstract online here.
Thomas also is the co-author of “Paleoenvironmental changes during the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) and its aftermath: the benthic foraminiferal record from the Alano section (NE Italy),” published in the May 15 issue of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 378, 22-35. Read the paper’s abstract online here.
She also co-authored a book titled, The Last Global Extinction (Mid-Pleistocene) of Deep-Sea Benthic Foraminifera (Chrysalogoniidae, Ellipsoidinidae, Glandulonodosariidae, Plectofrondiculariidae, Pleurostomellidae, Stilostomellidae), Their Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic History and Taxonomy, published by the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research. Read the book’s abstract online here.
A geology book featuring a chapter co-authored by Ellen Thomas received a PROSE Award from The American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in 2013.
Thomas is a research professor of earth and environmental sciences. She co-authored a chapter titled, “Carbon Isotope Stratigraphy,” in the book, The Geologic Time Scale 2012, published by Elsevier in July 2012.
The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories. Judged by peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals since 1976, the PROSE Awards are extraordinary for their breadth and depth.
The book received honorable mention in the Multivolume Reference/Science category. See the full list of winners online here.
Research Professor Ellen Thomas, pictured here in her lab on July 25, received the 2012 Maurice Ewing Medal for her contributions to the scientific understanding of the processes in the ocean. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, has been awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The medal is one of the AGU’s most prestigious awards and will be presented to Thomas during the organization’s annual meeting later this year.
According to AGU, “Jointly sponsored with the United States Navy, the Ewing Medal is named in honor of Maurice Ewing, who made significant contributions to deep-sea exploration.” It is presented each year for significant original contributions to the scientific understanding of the processes in the ocean; for the advancement of oceanographic engineering, technology, and instrumentation; and for outstanding service to the marine sciences.
Among Thomas’ research areas is paleoceanography. She studies microscopic fossils in ocean beds and sediments that can provide clues to life and climate as it appeared on earth tens and often hundreds of millions of years ago. She is the recipient of several National Science Foundation and Keck grants. Her research has been published in Science, Geology, Oceanography, and the International Journal of Earth Sciences, among others.
“I study microscopic fossils of organisms living on the deep-sea floor to recognize the importance of the event now called the ‘Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum’ as a geological counterpart of human-induced global warming through CO2 emissions, and the recognition that there have been multiple events of that type in the geological past,” she says. “These events are now used widely to study the long-term, ecosystem wide effects of rapid emission of carbon-compounds into the atmosphere. I also used these organisms, in combination with stable isotope and trace element analysis of their shells, to gain insight on the effects of other episodes of global change on oceanic life forms, including the asteroid impact which killed the dinosaurs, and to study the effect of human actions on our environment.”
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Ellen Thomas examines a core of sediment from some 56 million years ago, when the oceans underwent acidification that could be an analog to ocean changes today. (Photo by Steve Schellenberg)
Dana Royer and Ellen Thomas are among the 21 authors of a review paper, “The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification,” published in Science, March 2012: Vol. 335, no. 6072, pages 1058-1063.
In the paper, the authors review events exhibiting evidence for elevated atmospheric CO2, global warming, and ocean acidification over the past 300 million years of Earth’s history, some with contemporaneous extinction or evolutionary turnover among marine calcifiers.
Ocean acidification may have severe consequences for marine ecosystems; however, assessing its future impact is difficult because laboratory experiments and field observations are limited by their reduced ecologic complexity and sample period, respectively.
Royer is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Thomas is a research professor of earth and environmental sciences.
Science News and The Earth Institute at Columbia University published press releases on the study.
In addition, Thomas’s study titled, “Ocean Acidification – How will ongoing ocean acidification affect marine life?” appeared in a 2011 edition of PAGES, in a special volume with the title Paired Perspectives on Global Change.
The ocean acidification study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Ellen Thomas, research professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has accepted an offer to become one of four science editors for the journal Geology, a prestigious journal in Earth Sciences. She starts her four-year term in January 2012 as the editor for paleoceanography, paleoclimate, stratigraphy, paleontology and related topics.
The journal is published by the Geological Society of America, online at http://geology.gsapubs.org/.
During the upcoming 2011 GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition, held Oct. 9-12 in Minneapolis, Minn., Thomas will meet the other editors and GSA personnel in order to get organized for the commitment.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in December.
Thomas joins 502 other fellows from across the country. These individuals will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology at the Fellows Forum to be held Feb. 19 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Thomas will receive a certificate and a blue and gold rosette as a symbol of her distinguished accomplishments.