As global temperatures rise, scientists are still discovering the impact that changes in climate will have on the world around us. These questions are particularly urgent in the Arctic, which is warming about three times faster than the rest of the planet.


To help predict the consequences of warming, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at UF are studying landscapes in Greenland that were exposed by retreating ice sheets. The streams found there, the researchers believe, have something to tell us about how the Earth changes as it cycles between glacial and non-glacial climates and how it may respond to future warming.


In August, their inquiry was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs. Led by principal investigator Jonathan Martin, Professor of Geological Sciences, the team also includes co-PIs Professor of Geological Sciences Ellen Martin, Associate Professor Brent Christner of IFAS’s Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, and Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Journalist-in-Residence for the College of Journalism and Communications and the Bob Graham Center.  Senior Personnel includes Associate Professor of Biology Stuart McDaniel and Professor of Soil and Water Sciences James Jawitz and Professor of Forest Resources and Conservation Matthew Cohen in IFAS.


The research originated with a trip to Greenland in 2011 that Jonathan Martin says “failed miserably.” He and two graduate students had traveled to landscapes next to the edge of the Greenland ice sheet to sample water flowing from beneath the ice — which proved more difficult than expected.


“We were dropped by helicopter at our study site with the intent to sample springs for three weeks.  When we realized there were no accessible springs, we decided to switch the sampling plan to collecting water from two unique kinds of streams we found in the region”


Some were fed by meltwater draining off the glaciers, while others were separated from the glacier meltwater and only drained snow and rainfall. Those initial samples showed the two types of stream had distinct compositions — as a result of how they reacted with their environment — and they realized those differences might offer insights into feedbacks between climate change and the waning and waxing of glaciers.


Two primary differences in the stream waters have to do with the amount of nutrients they deliver to the ocean and the greenhouse gases they contain and exchange with the atmosphere.  Understanding what processes control these differences and how the differences affect the surrounding environment and climate will help predict how global warming and the linked increased melting will impact Arctic ecosystems and societies.


Over the course of two “melt seasons,” roughly from mid-May to mid-September, the researchers will sample stream water and monitor compositions of these streams while collecting other data including weather observations, stream flow rates, and the distribution and vitality of plants and microbes.


The group isn’t only interested in discovering the impact — they also want to convey the information in an accessible way to those most affected by it. To do so, they are collaborating with colleagues in Greenland to develop an “environmental civics” plan that will create environmental science curricula for Greenlandic high school students and educational programs for tourists visiting their field sites.


The NSF grant adds to nearly a decade’s worth of funding totaling more than $3.5 million for research into these questions. The inquiry began in 2011 with a Faculty Enhancement Opportunity to Jonathan Martin, followed by one for Ellen Martin in 2012. The project has received three NSF grants, a National Geographic Society grant, and funding from INTERACT, a European Union-backed agency supporting Arctic research.

Professor Amy Williams Discusses Next Mars Rover Mission in NASA Video

Professor Amy Williams from the Department of Geological Sciences was interviewed by NASA Astrobiology for its “Countdown to Mars” video series.

Throughout this month the series has been counting down the days until the launch of the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance, by highlighting why researchers involved with the project are excited about this important mission back to the red planet.

The rover is scheduled to launch on July 30 and is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021. Once on the planet, the rover will seek for signs of ancient life along with collecting rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.

To view more videos in the series, click here. 

Unusual movements beneath the Earth’s surface in Chile raise questions about a future earthquake
By Cindy Spence

In 1960, the largest earthquake ever recorded hit southern Chile. The 9.5 magnitude quake sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean, swamping Hawaii, coastal northern California, and Japan. More than 1,700 people died and about 2 million were left homeless.

With some luck on timing and a blanket of instruments, a University of Florida geophysicist and his colleagues have detected some unusual seismic and geodetic changes in a long-term study in the rupture zone of the 1960 quake, which occurred along a fault that extends 1,100 kilometers along Chile’s coast.

“The fault that ruptured in 1960 has recently undergone a rapid and completely unexpected increase in locking,” says Ray Russo, an associate professor of geophysics who researches tectonics and the Earth’s mantle.

That’s not enough to make a prediction of another earthquake, says Russo, because even the latest geophysical technology doesn’t allow for a true forecast. But the combination of two types of data the team has gathered since 2005 has sparked concern, and Russo notes that once an earthquake occurs in a region, it’s inevitable that another will occur.

“The conditions we detected have some serious implications for how long we have until the next big quake in this area,” says Russo, who reported the findings in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

To read more about this please follow the following link

Geology Student Broadens Horizons Aboard Research Vessel

By Peyton McElaney

In the summer of 2019, CLAUDIA BANKS was in the American Southwest, mapping formations of sedimentary and metamorphic rock for her capstone geology class. A few weeks later, the 2020 geology graduate found herself in a slightly different position — on-board a research vessel in the Pacific Ocean.

Claudia Banks (Image: Scott Harper)

While trading the arid terrain of the Southwest for the salty breeze of the Pacific may seem like a complete U-turn, for Banks this was just another opportunity to broaden her horizons.

Banks boarded the vessel as a participant in STEMSEAS, a program sponsored by Columbia University with aid from The National Science Foundation that allows undergraduate students to conduct scientific research at sea.

This was unknown territory for Banks, whose previous geology field trips had all been on land. Luckily, STEAMSEAS didn’t require any past research experience on the water.

“The point of the program is to get students interested in oceanography and science overall,” Banks said.

For one week (July 27 to August 3), Banks and her peers sailed from Newport, Oregon, to San Diego, California, aboard the R/V Atlantis, a research vessel capable of advanced investigation and exploration. The participants assisted in graduate student research and attended lectures twice a day discussing their academic futures, with topics that included preparation for internships along with scientific subjects such as hydrothermal vents.

While participating in the program, Banks became familiar with sophisticated technology – most notably the ALVIN submersible. One of the world’s few deep-sea research submersibles, ALVIN is famous for exploring the wreckage of the Titanic, among many other underwater research opportunities.

“It was such a unique experience that we students were very eagerly awaiting due to the prestigious reputation of this submersible among the scientific community,” she said. The 45,000-pound data-collecting vehicle, in operation since 1964, can reach depths up to 2.8 miles underwater.

Banks isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Shortly after her STEMSEAS experience, she presented research at the 2019 Geological Society of America conference in September. With plans to study sedimentary and structural geology in the Amazon Basin and pursue her Ph.D. in Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, she has her eye out for more unique research opportunities.

Banks is back on dry land for now — but could her ambitions take her back on the open water?

“Since I did not throw up and enjoyed life on the ship,” she said, “I discovered that I would love to potentially do a research project on a research vessel.”

Story originally from



Response to Black Lives Matter Protests by the Department of Geological Sciences at UF


In the past few weeks, we have witnessed another painful chapter in the long history of systemic racism and violence that has plagued our country since its birth. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others before them is a stark and horrifying reminder of the reality that Americans of color, and especially Black Americans, face in their daily lives. We share in the broken-heartedness and outrage that our community and country are experiencing.


The Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Florida affirms that we stand with all those in our department community, at UF, in Gainesville, in the state of Florida, throughout the United States and the world who continue to be tormented by the scourge of racism and injustice. We affirm our support for non-violent protests in our community. We affirm that black lives matter. We affirm that your stories, experiences, and emotions are real, and that they matter. We affirm that white privilege is real and that we live in an inequitable society, and that these facts must be confronted and faced head on. We affirm that we, as educators, scientists, and role models in the privileged halls of academia must use our positions to do more to combat the effects of systemic racism that pervade our institutions. We affirm that we as geoscientists, in one of the least diverse fields in STEM, must fundamentally change how we approach solutions to the lack of diversity in Earth and Planetary Sciences and the damage that it causes. And we affirm that at this moment in time, we must listen. We must listen to the voices of our friends, colleagues, and community members who have for too long been denied a seat at the table, who have been screaming into the void about the oppression that they have suffered, and how our actions or lack of actions perpetuate that suffering. We as educators must do the hard work to examine our own biases and actively fight racism. A good place to start is the Paleontological Society of America’s list of resources that explore racism, bias, and allyship in academia.


At the University of Florida, our motto is Civium in Moribus rei Publicae Salus, meaning The Welfare of the State Depends on the Morals of its Citizens. This statement calls all of us at UF to action in no uncertain terms. The Department of Geological Sciences is not only committed to supporting our students, staff, and faculty through this difficult time, but also to using our voices as geoscientists to educate others about the connections between climate change and social justice, and how they can be addressed. We support and endorse the statements by UF President Ken Fuchs and CLAS Dean David Richardson, and the personal testimony from UF Dean of the College of Arts Onye Ozuzu, and we recognize that affirmations such as those above are meaningless unless they are followed by real action. Diversity in all its forms provides strength, and only with that strength will we be able to tackle the many challenges that lie ahead.


For UF Students in Need of Support

UF Counseling and Wellness Center

(352) 392-1575


For Faculty, Staff, and Their Families in Need of Support

UF Employee Assistance Program

(833) 306-0103


Alachua County Crisis Center

(352) 264-6789



In Solidarity,

The Faculty of the Department of Geological Sciences

University of Florida