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.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-author of several new articles including:
“High-resolution deep-sea carbon and oxygen isotope records of Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 and H2 and implications for the origin of early Paleogene hyperthermal events,” published in Geology, 2010;
“Export Productivity and Carbonate Accumulation in the Pacific Basin at the Transition from Greenhouse to Icehouse Climate (Late Eocene to Early Oligocene),” published in Paleoceanography, 2010;
“Cenozoic record of elongate, cylindrical deep-sea benthic Foraminifera in the North Atlantic and equatorial Pacific Oceans,” published in Marine Micropaleontology, 74: 75-95, 2010;
And “Cenozoic Record of Elongate, Cylindrical, Deep-Sea Benthic Foraminifera in the Indian Ocean (ODP Sites 722, 738, 744, 758 and 763),” published in the Journal of Foraminiferal Research, 40: 113-133, 2010.
Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, and Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, presented papers at the Estuaries and Coasts in a Changing World conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation in Portland, Ore. Nov. 1-5.
Their talks were titled “Proxies for Eutrophication in Long Island Sound” and ” Hypoxia in Long Island Sound – Since When and Why.”
A paper co-authored by Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2009.
In the article, “Surviving mass extinction by bridging the benthic/planktic divide,” Thomas and her colleagues show a very unexpected observations, i.e. that a species of foraminifera, which lives floating in the surface waters of the Indian Ocean, is genetically the same as a species living on the bottom of the ocean in shallow waters (between tide levels, coast of Kenya) – using DNA analysis.
“We then show, using a sophisticated way of chemical analysis, that it was not just blown there by storms, but formed its shell there in the surface waters,” Thomas explains. “We then interpret these data, and argument that such species that live both on the bottom and floating in surface waters (until now unknown for foraminifera) are much better able to survive the adverse environmental effects at such times as the meteorite impact that resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.”
The story is written up by the UK counterpart of the National Science Foundation (NERC), which funded the first author of the paper, Kate Darling.
Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-author of an article on the “long record of the Ca-isotope composition of seawater,” published in Science Magazine Dec. 15.