Department News

Ashley receives GSA awards

Ashley rock slideThe Geological Society of America has announced that our Emeritus Professor Gail Ashley is the 2020 recipient of the Rip Rapp Geoarchaeology Division Award as well as the Limnogeology Division Israel C. Russell Award. These awards are given annually for excellence in research, teaching, and service. In addition to Gail's numerous scientific achievements, the announcements recognized her commitment to integrity and ethical standards.
Read more about each award.

Undergraduate Joyce Franco awarded scholarship

 Joyce Franco, graduating senior in the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was one of nine awardees of the Angelo Tagliacozzo Memorial Geological Scholarship ( awarded by the Northeastern Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists. The region includes NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, VT, NH and ME. Worth $1500, the scholarship is designed to "offer financial support to current junior and senior undergraduate geology students and to encourage serious and deserving students to continue their studies in the geological sciences". Accompanying image shows Joyce during fieldwork in Costa Rica where she worked on precise earthquake location in the framework of the GREAT project (

Joyce Franco

new in PNAS: Dr. Falkowski's team discover clues to celluar metabolism and the origins of life

Dr. Paul Falkowski and his Rutgers colleagues have discovered two protein folds important for understanding the evolution of cellular metabolism. Evidence suggests that the processes responsible for facilitating the biological redox reactions shared by members of the "tree of life" may have first appeared billions of years ago during the Archean Eon. Falkowski's team provide clues to not only the ways these ancients cells may have operated, but also the origins of life itself. click here for paper

Dr. Bermingham opines about Earth's formation in NATURE

ImageWriting in Nature's News and Views, Assistant Professor Dr. Katherine Bermingham—an authority on cosmo- and geo-chemistry—comments on how the isotopic composition of very ancient rocks from Greenland help understand the building blocks of Earth. Particularly interesting is the origin of volatile compounds like water and organics, which could have arrived by carbonaceous chondrite (meteorite) collisions during the final stages of our planet's growth billions of years ago. click here for paper

Books by Professor McGhee

Distinguished Professor George R. McGhee's books about his research on macro-evolutionary processes, including a new title from The Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology on convergent evolution:

"Convergent Evolution on Earth, Lessons for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life"
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press)

"Carboniferous Giants and Mass Extinctions, The Late Paleozoic Ice Age World"
(Columbia University Press)

"When the Invasion of the Land Failed, The Legacy of the Devonian Extinctions"
(Columbia University Press)

Mcgee titles copy

Caio Mattos awarded the CUAHSI Pathfinder Fellowship

IMG 1993

Our PhD student Caio Mattos has just been awarded the CUAHSI Pathfinder Fellowship ( of $5000 to support his continued field work in the Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems in eastern Brazil. Caio’s research focus on understanding how water in the soil and rocks affect the distribution and functioning of vegetation in different biomes. Caio received this news while doing fieldwork in the Cerrado savannas, so he can already plan for the follow-up field season that should happen next March, in the Amazon rainforest!

Verhagen receives AGU's Outstanding Student Presentation Award (OSPA)

VerhagenChristina Verhagen has received an OPSA for her poster at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting. Her presentation, entitled "Linking paleomagnetism and petrographic observations to long-lived hydrothermal activity at the Chicxulub crater" was rated among the top ~5% of student presentations in the Geomagnetism, Paleomagnetism, and Electromagnetism Section. Paleomagnetic analysis of impact breccia from the Chicxulub impact crater showed evidence of long-lived hydrothermalism within the crater. Using electron microprobe analysis, Christina and colleagues were able to identify the main magnetic remanence carriers as hydrothermal Fe-sulfides and Ti-magnetites. These secondary minerals reveal changing temperatures and chemical conditions within hydrothermal fluids through time.

Distinguished Professor Yair Rosenthal announced as AGU Fellow

IMG 0987 1200x400V2We are proud to share the news that Dr. Yair Rosenthal has been announced as a 2019 fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an honor given to individual AGU members who have made exceptional scientific contributions and gained prominence in their respective fields of Earth and space sciences. With over two decades at Rutgers, Dr. Rosenthal has been a leader in the fields of Paleoceanography, Paleoclimatology and Biogeochemistry, and has enjoyed joint faculty membership in the departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Marine and Coastal Sciences. Founded in 1919, AGU is a not-for-profit scientific society dedicated to advancing Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. Since the Fellows program was established in 1962, and according to the organization’s bylaws, no more than 0.1 percent of the total membership of AGU is recognized annually. AGU has 60,000 members in 137 countries, which places Yair in very distinguished company. Congratulations! He, along with the entire 2019 class of Fellows, will be recognized during 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, USA. More information at

EPS Welcomes Our New Faculty Member Lujendra Ojha

Central peak of Hale crater on Mars (Inset: New Faculty Member Lujendra Ojha)Welcome Lujendra (Luju)! Luju holds a B.S. in Geophysics from University of Arizona (2012) and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from Georgia Institute of Technology (2016). He spent the following 3 years as a prestigious Balustein Postdoctoral Fellow and a Research Scientist, in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, before he joined us as an EPS faculty this month. An overarching focus of Luju’s research is the evolution of terrestrial planets and its effect on geological processes and habitability. Luju uses a diverse set of tools to understand these processes, including remote sensing, laboratory simulations, numerical modeling, and terrestrial field work. He is a Co-Investigator in the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) mission to Mars which is the most powerful camera that humanity has ever sent to another planet (see 3D rendering that Luju made below). Luju is always looking for talented students to work on planetary science projects. Visit him at

Rutgers geologists return from successful expedition to the southern Argentine margin

crew ThomasThompsonProfessor Jim Wright and four graduate students sailed on a research cruise aboard the RV Thomas Thompson, leaving from Montevideo, Uruguay on September 11th and returning on October 31st. Aaron Watters (Ph.D.), Mark Yu (Ph.D.), Tim Shamus (M.S.), and alumnus Alex Adams (MS, 2019) joined researchers and students from Texas A&M and the College of Charleston to explore the southern Argentine margin. On this 51-day cruise, the research team collected high-resolution seismic lines, multibeam bathymetry data, and a suite of cores from the southern Argentine margin. Over 4000 km (2135 nM) of high-resolution seismic data allowed the team to see the margin’s geologic architecture. One of the aims of the investigation was to image locations where sediments and deep ocean currents interact, forming large sediment drifts. Sediments are swept to the deepest parts of the continental margin (>4000 m) through a series of canyons where strong bottom water currents have sculpted the sediments producing sedimentary deposits over 2 km thick over the past 14 million years. A second sediment drift is developing in water depths between 2200 and 2800 m and appears to be a younger drift deposit. The research team also collected sixty-two cores from water depths spanning 750 to 4500 m, recovering >380 m of sediments. Eighteen jumbo piston cores (up to 14 m) recovered sediments that encompass the most recent glacial to interglacial cycles. Older sediments exposed on the margin were also recovered using a gravity core within a 20 ft steel core barrel known as Big Bertha. Shore-based biostratigraphic analysis will be conducted on these sediments. The research team will work on the data and cores collected over the next 4 to 5 years and will support a variety of graduate and undergraduate research projects.