RR1313SummaryMapWelcome to the Stratigraphy & Earth History group at Rutgers EPS!  We have a diverse group working on various stratigraphic, paleooceanographic, and paleoclimatic problems.  Click below on Stratigraphy & Earth History to enter our page.  We also have links to two seismic stratigraphy projects, 3D study of sea level off New Jersey, and a Revelle cruise in the Western equatorial Pacific

 Stratigraphy and Earth History – Enter

 Sea Level Rise in 3D






Beginning in 1990 and continuing to the present the Sequence Stratigraphy group has been studying the rise and fall of sea level and its effects on sedimentation patterns on the Atlantic Margin. During this time we have drilled and analyzed coreholes on the New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia coastal plains (ODP Legs 150X, and 174AX; ICDP-USGS Eyreville, Va corehole). We have also drilled coreholes on the modern middle continental shelf (IODP Expedition 313) and the modern outer continental shelf and slope (ODP Legs 150 and 174A). Our studies encompass unique views of major climate transitions in Earth history, specifically the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction (K/Pg), the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), Eocene hyperthermals, the Eocene/Oligocene transition (EOT), the Miocene Climate Optimum (MCO), the Pliocene peak warmth, and Ocean Anoxic events. 

 strat group 2018 min

January 2018

Left to right: Sophie Benaroya, Jim Browning, Mariya Galochkina, Chris Johnson, Mark Yu, John Schmelz, Alex Adams, JN Stanley, Leslie Jordan, Greg Mountain, Ken Miller, Oliver McLellan, Kim Baldwin, Masha Makarova, Luca Podrecca, Pete Sugarman


Policy of Mutual Respect.

We expect all faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates will treat each other with respect and consideration.  Every member of the lab is valued for their contributions, opinions, and voices independent of race, ethnicity, gender/sexual orientation, national origin, religion, social background, or physical abilities.  We will not tolerate disrespect, belittlement, inappropriate jokes, or any negative comments about racial, ethnic, religious, gender/sexual preferences, or national group.  We acknowledge and appreciate our different backgrounds and perspectives and encourage free and open scientific discourse among lab participants, with all opinions respected. 

  1. Each member of our lab group contributes to the overall success of the lab’s mission and every effort will be made to ensure that opportunity is not hindered.
  2. Our mission is best carried out in an atmosphere where members at all levels value each other and treat each other with respect even in urgent and high-pressure situations.
  3. Leadership should be role models in promoting this atmosphere of mutual respect, while continuing to hold all lab members accountable for effective performance.
  4. All employees should be able to discuss issues of concern without fear those discussions will cause retaliation from any other lab member.

We encourage individuals who believe they are not being treated in accordance with the terms of this policy to bring their concerns to our attention or to the attention of the Chair, GPD, Student services, or the Office of Employment equity


Lab Research Assistant

We are always looking for motivated, responsible, and curious students who would like to be involved in our lab. No experience is required, but you must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and be interested in Earth history, stratigraphic, or paleoceanographic research and willing to commit a consistent number of hours each week for at least one academic semester. Research assistants can become involved in all phases of the research process, including study design, data collection, data entry, and interpretation of the results. Our regular lab meeting, usually held every Friday, gives research assistants the chance to interact with the PI and graduate students in the lab, learn more about empirical research and emerging findings in stratigraphy, paleoceanography and Earth history.


strat miller2  

Ken Miller

The research interests of our Stratigraphy-Earth history group are focused on sea-level and paleoceanographic changes of the past 200 million years. As co-leader of the group, I am a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University who received an A.B. from Rutgers College (1978) and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography (1982). I worked at Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory from 1983-1988 (with current Rutgers scientists Greg Mountain, Jim Wright, Dennis Kent, and Rick Faibrbanks) and am a veteran of 8 scientific cruises and numerous drilling campaigns, including the New Jersey Coastal Plain Drilling Project (ODP onshore Legs 150X and 174AX), the Chesapeake Bay Impact Structure, DSDP/ODP Legs 95, 150, and Expedition 313. I grew up in Medford, NJ in the heart of the Pine Barrens and live in Pennington, NJ. I enjoy skiing and running in my spare time.

strat mountain  

Greg Mountain

My research is based on applying reflection seismology to understanding Earth history recorded in marine sediments. Topics of most interest include the record of Cenozoic sea-level change, the transport of sediments across shelves and slopes, and the control of deep-sea sedimentation by abyssal currents. Each of these illuminates the impact of global climate change on the Earth system at a range of scales in both time and space. I teach courses on these topics from the introductory level for non-majors to hands-on, data-driven seminars for graduate students. I received my Ph.D. in 1981 at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory where I pursued an active sea-going research career until joining the EPS faculty in 2002. I continue going to sea to conduct my research and to help train the next generation of marine-based Earth scientists. Meanwhile, I live far enough inland to have realistic hopes of mastering a killer knuckleball before rising sea level forces me to move and quit 40-and-over baseball.

strat browning  

Jim Browning

My scientific interests include microfossils (foraminifera) and sedimentology, as well as their application to sequence stratigraphy. I received a B.S. from the Ohio Wesleyan University (1980), a M.S. in Paleontology from the University of Southern California (1983), and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University (1996) and am currently a Research Scientist and Core Curator in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University. 

strat monteverde  

Don Monteverde

My scientific interests include sedimentology and using sequence stratigraphy to better understand the 3 dimensionality of sedimentary bodies. I received my B.S. (1977) and M.S. (1984) from Lehigh University and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2008. I am a Research Scientist at the New Jersey Geological and Water Survey (NJGWS) and an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University. My work at the NJGWS and Rutgers involves geologic mapping using outcrops, downhole geophysical logs, and seismic data from the Middle Proterozoic to Pleistocene.

Pete S  

Peter Sugarman

I am a Research Scientist at the New Jersey Geological and Water Survey (NJGWS) and an Adjunct Member of the graduate faculty at Rutgers after receiving my Ph.D. from Rutgers (1994) specializing in sequence and strontium isotope stratigraphy. My main responsibilities at the NJGWS involve geologic mapping, including subsurface stratigraphic and hydrostratigraphic investigations. I have been a Chief Scientist on many of the New Jersey Coastal Plain boreholes, and participated as a sedimentologist on IODP Leg 313 – the New Jersey Shallow Shelf. I also teach as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers where I developed and teach a course in Environmental Geology.


Pete McLaughlin [University of Delaware]

Peter P. McLaughlin, Jr. is a Senior Scientist at the Delaware Geological Survey at the University of Delaware with a secondary appointment as Professor in the UD Department of Geological Sciences. He is a frequent collaborator with Rutgers Stratigraphy-Earth History team geoscientists on Coastal Plain drilling projects and, more recently, CO2 sequestration. He received a B.S. from the University of Delaware (1984) and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University (1982). Pete's scientific interests include sequence stratigraphy, microfossils (palynology and foraminifera), and sedimentology, as well as their application to hydrogeology and petroleum geology. He worked in a variety of scientific and leadership positions at research and exploration divisions of Exxon between 1989 and 1999 before returning to his alma mater at Delaware in 1999.

masha 2018  

Masha Makarova [Lafayette College]

I conduct preliminary work for the IODP cruise that is scheduled in 2022 to acquire seismic and core data in the North Atlantic. This prohect is designed to improve our understanding of surface ocean circulation and help to characterize the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and its influence on the Miocene climate. It aims to reconstruct meridional thermal gradients from the North Atlantic (33-57°N) throughout the middle Miocene climatic optimum (ca. 17-14.7 Ma) and the following cooling (14.7-8 Ma) using the organic paleothermometer TEX86 and stable isotopic and Mg/Ca records of foraminifera from legacy DSDP and ODP sites.




strat hess  

Anya Hess

Advisor: Ken Miller

Thesis title: pending

I have always been fascinated by what the sedimentologic record of marine systems can tell us about Earth history and vice versa. As an undergraduate at Bucknell University, I combined detailed stratigraphy of a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic system with stable carbon isotope geochemistry to better understand the Silurian-Devonian boundary interval in the central Appalachian Basin. For my Master’s at the University of Kansas, I studied the controls on cool-water carbonate facies trends and reconstructed the Pliocene relative sea-level history for a mini-basin in southeastern Spain. After spending 4 years as a geologist in the petroleum industry and 1.5 years as an editor at the USGS, I am thrilled to be working towards a PhD at Rutgers. My research focuses on paleoclimatology using a combination of sedimentology and geochemical proxies to better understand oxygen-limited marine systems. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for potential collaborations!

john schmelz  

John Schmelz

Advisors: Greg Mountain, Ken Miller

Thesis title: "New insights on the Mesozoic evolution of the Mid-Atlantic Continental Margin from Integrated Sequence Stratigraphy and Forward Stratigraphic Modelling"

I am generally fascinated by shallow marine sedimentary processes and the depositional architectures they create, and the implications of these records for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. My research has focused on the spatial and temporal transitions between fluvial, estuarine, deltaic, and marine paleoenvironments through the climatic fluctuations of the mid-Cretaceous to assess the potential to store supercritical CO2 in porous sandstones capped by impermeable shales offshore southern New Jersey and Maryland. I have made primary interpretations through an integrated sequence stratigraphic analysis and am numerically modelling the stratigraphy to extricate the implied, interconnected tectonostratigraphic history of the Baltimore Canyon Trough and global mean sea level record. I earned a B.A. in Environmental Science from Connecticut College and my recent experience includes contributing to research projects examining geomorphological change within coastal National Parks.



strat pincay

Victor Pincay Pacheco

Advisor: Ken Miller

Thesis Title: pending

My research interests lie within the realm of sedimentology, sequence stratigraphy and paleoceanography.  I received my B.S. degree in Geology from Queens College, NY on the summer of 2016. There, I worked with Dr. Stephen Pekar, who got his M.S. and PhD at Rutgers, and presented evidence for a heavily glaciated Antarctica during the Early Oligocene recovery (33-30 Ma) at the 2016 GSA Northeastern section meeting. My masters thesis project will consist on mapping the onshore NJ Cohansey-Kirkwood formation using a sequence stratigraphy framework.

strat spector  

Ashlyn Spector

Advisor: Ken Miller

Thesis Title: pending

strat stanley  

JN Stanley

Advisor: Ken Miller

Thesis Title: Evaluating the effectiveness of Near Surface Geophysics to interpret varying geological environments

I am interested in stratigraphy and seismics and their applications to sequence stratigraphy. For my current research project I am looking at the sequence stratigraphy of the Pliocene Chowan and Yorktown Formations from the Eyreville, Va core. I plan to improve the chronology of the sequences using strontium isotopic stratigraphy and determine water depth variations using benthic foraminiferal biostratigraphy.



Sophie Benaroya [B.S. 2020, Senior Honors Thesis, Advisor K. Miller] – MS student, Rutgers
Mariya Galochkina [B.S. 2020, Senior Honors Thesis, Advisor K. Miller] – PhD student, MIT/WHOI
Oliver McLellan [M.S. 2020, Advisor K. Miller] – PhD student, The Ohio State University
Chris Johnson [Ph.D. 2019, Advisor K. Miller] – Chevron Energy Technology Corporation
Alexandra Adams [M.S. 2019, Advisor K. Miller] – USGS
Leslie Jordan [M.S. 2019, Advisor K. Miller] – SIA Solutions, Environmental Consulting 
Luca Podrecca [M.S. 2019, Advisor K. Miller] – PhD student, Northwestern
Stephen Graham [M.S. 2019, Advisor K. Miller] – Teacher
Masha Makarova [Ph.D. 2018, Advisor K. Miller] – Visiting Assistant Professor, Lafayette College
Gabe Gallegos [M.S. 2017, Advisor K. Miller] – Halliburton
Jesse Thornburg [Ph.D. 2017, Advisor K. Miller] – Assistant Professor, Temple University
Chris Lombardi [Ph.D. 2017, Advisor K. Miller] – Deceased
Kim Baldwin [M.S. 2015, Advisor G. Mountain] – BOEM
Lindsey Lugrin [M.S. 2015, Advisor G. Mountain] – Community Manager
Selen Esmeray-Senlet [Ph.D. 2015, Advisor K. Miller] – Chevron Energy Technology Corporation
Tuçe Değirmenci [M.S. 2014, Advisor G. Mountain] – Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)
Turan Işçimen [M.S. 2013, Advisor K. Miller] – Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)
Roni Dell Baluyot [M.S. 2013, Advisors J. Wright, K. Miller] – Brown and Caldwell
Svetlana Misintseva [Ph.D. 2013, Advisor K. Miller] – Marymount Manhattan College
Sarp Karakaya [M.S. 2012, Advisors G. Mountain, K. Miller] – Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)
Zuhal Şeker [M.S. 2012, Advisors K. Miller, G. Mountain] – Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO)
Ashley Harris [Ph.D. 2010, Advisor K. Miller] – Chevron Energy Technology Corporation
Aimee Pusz [M.S. 2009, Advisor K. Miller] – Hess Corporation


Since 1993 to the present the Sequence Stratigraphy group has been studying the rise and fall of sea level and its effects on sedimentation patterns on the Atlantic Margin. During this time we have drilled and analyzed coreholes on the New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia coastal plains (ODP Legs 150X, and 174AX; ICDP-USGS Eyreville, Va corehole). We have also drilled coreholes on the modern middle continental shelf (IODP Expedition 313) and the modern outer continental shelf and slope (ODP Legs 150 and 174A).





Sea-level variations and sedimentary response

Cenozoic stable isotopes and sea level

[Ken Miller, Jim Wright, Jim Browning]

We compiled a splice of benthic foraminiferal δ18O records over the past 66 Myr and scaled to sea level using a smoothed record (>2 Myr) of Cenozoic Mg/Ca variations to account for long-term effects of temperature changes. We assume that shorter term (Milankovitch scale, 104-105 year) temperature changes comprise ~20% of the benthic foraminiferal δ18O changes, as in the Quaternary, and a calibration of 0.13±0.02‰ δ18Oseawater/10m. Our record provides an estimate of ice-volume and attendant Global Mean Sea Level changes due to ice (GMSL-I) with errors of approximately ±10 m, but is not a complete estimate of GMSL because it does not account for changes in the volume of the ocean basin, other tectonic effects, or changes due to sediment input. We compare our GMSL-I records with independent estimates of Myr-scale sea-level changes derived from passive margin (New Jersey, USA, and Marion Plateau, Australia) by backstripping, progressively accounting for the effects of compaction, loading, and thermal subsidence. Both GMSL-I and backstripped records show synchronous 20-60 m variations on the Myr scale during the Icehouse World of the Oligocene-Miocene, suggesting that we have constrained changes in ice volume on this scale.

WHAT’S NEXT: We plan to submit a proposal to analyze an early Paleogene (48-66 Ma) record from Site 1209 for Mg/Ca building on the oxygen isotopic record of Westerhold et al. (2019). We will be seeking a student or post-doc for this project.

Influence of Mantle Dynamic Topography on Sequences

[John Schmelz, Ken Miller, Greg Mountain, Jim Browning]

We show that Cenozoic sea-level estimates derived from “backstripping” of Mid-Atlantic margin cores differ by 10-50 m on the 2-10 Myr scale from Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) estimates using benthic foraminiferal δ18O and accounting for ice-volume variations with Mg/Ca records.  Spatial analysis reveals coherent differences in these discrepancies among backstripping sites located onshore New Jersey (NJ), offshore NJ, and onshore south of NJ.  These spatial differences have a wavelength that fits mantle dynamic topography, which has influenced the Mid-Atlantic margin over the past 66 Myr.  We estimate topographical effects of up to 40 meters in the Eocene onshore NJ, and of up to 25 m in the Miocene offshore NJ.

WHATS NEXT: Schmelz will continue to develop a forward model for evaluating the effects of global mean sea level and tectonics including Mantle Dynamic Topography on the deposition record of the Mid-Atlantic margins as part of his PhD studies (2020) and post-doc studies (2021).  Student opportunities include working on comparing model output to 3-D seismic data for the Miocene or the long-term (Jurassic to Holocene) record of the margin.

Coastal Plain Depositional Models

[Pete Sugarman, Ken Miller, Jim Browning]

Magothy (Coniacian) sequences.  Recent drilling at Sandy Hook and Sea Girt in Monmouth County, New Jersey has provided continuously cored, thick delta-plain and delta-front facies of the Magothy Formation (upper Turonian-Coniacian) that comprise important aquifers in this region. The Magothy Formation is informally divided into 5 members and 4 to 5 sequences in NJ. Pollen is critical in correlating these units. These members/sequences can be mapped along strike and downdip throughout the NJ coastal plain, but are best expressed at Sandy Hook, where the Old Bridge and Sayreville Sand Members are thick and show evidence of high rates of deposition. We are evaluating the facies and environmental significance of the members that include a complex mix of fluvial, estuarine, tidally influenced interdistributary bays and swamps, delta front, and prodelta environments. The widespread distribution of Magothy sequences hints at the stability of deltaic depositional systems despite known variations in eustasy during the Turonian-Coniacian.

WHAT'S NEXT: Campanian: Maastrichtian sequences.  We are revisiting classic outcrops of Campanian-Maastrichtian at Big Brook, Hop Brook, and other localities. 


IODP Expedition 313

[Greg Mountain, Ken Miller, Jim Browning, Don Monteverde, Pete Sugarman]

Expedition 313 (Mountain et al., 2010) drilled and logged three sites on the New Jersey shallow shelf (~30 m present depth) to investigate the history of sea-level change and the response of continental margin sedimentation to such changes. Numerous papers have being published on the chronology (Browning et al., 2013), paleobathymetric changes (Katz et al., 2013; McCarthy et al., 2013), seismic-core-log correlations (Miller et al., 2013a), testing sequence stratigraphic models on foresets (Miller et al., 2013) and bottomsets (Hodgson et al., 2018) and 1-D backstripping (Kominz et al., 2016).

3-D seismic survey of NJ continental shelf

[Greg Mountain]

The New Jersey margin is among the best continental margins for learning the timing and amplitude of global mean sea level change over millions of years, for establishing quantitative links between sea-level change and the stratigraphic record, and for assessing the impact of sea-level rise on the world's coastlines. Although IODP Exp313 continuously cored/logged boreholes within shallow-water facies where prior studies revealed Miocene clinothem morphologies, ultra-high resolution 3D seismic images were collected aboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in July, 2015 that will put that sampled record into a spatially accurate, stratigraphically meaningful context. 3D images will yield maps of sequences surrounding the Exp313 sites showing shoreline positions, fluvial incisions, estuary complexes, point bars and other nearshore features. The long-term objectives of this research are to: 1) determine the amplitude and timing of global sea-level changes during the “Ice House” 2) establish the impact of base-level changes on the preserved stratigraphic record; and 3) improve understand­ing of the response of shorelines/nearshore environments to changes in global sea level, a societally relevant topic today.

Onshore-offshore correlations

[Ken Miller, Jim Browning, Pete Sugarman]

We correlated onshore New Jersey coastal plain sequences Kw2 and Kw1 with offshore shallow shelf sequences m5.4 (ca. 18.0-17.7 Ma) and m5.8 (20.1-19.6 Ma), respectively, using multichannel seismic profiles (MCS), stratal stacking patterns in cores, well logs, and chronostratigraphy. Seismic-core-log correlations at offshore Expedition 313 Sites M27 and M28 allow extension of lithologic and chronostratigraphic data into the time domain of seismically well imaged sequence. Sequences were traced shoreward using R/V Cape Hatteras 0698 MCS data to onshore Atlantic City, Cape May, Ocean View, Cape May Zoo, and adjoining boreholes. Depositional environments of the sequences were evaluated by analyzing lithology, well logs, and benthic foraminifera-derived paleobathymetric estimates to constrain environmental changes in the sequences. Age resolution of the sequences was determined by Sr analyses onshore and Sr and biostratigraphy at offshore locations. The onshore sequences Kw2 (ca. 17.5-15.1 Ma) and Kw1 (ca. 20.4-19 Ma) are thick (>50 m) and contain an upper (Kw2b and Kw1b) and lower (Kw2a and Kw1a) Myr-scale sequence. Both onshore upper sequences Kw2b and Kw1b were found to be single sequences. However, the Kw2a sequence was determined to be a composite sequence containing 3 higher order (100/400 kyr) sequences (Kw2a1, Kw2a2, and Kw2a3) thatcorrespond to 3 sequences within offshore composite sequence m5.4 (m5.4-1, m5.34, and m5.33). We note that the lower Kw1 sequence (Kw1a) also contains three higher order sequences (Kw1a1, Kw1a2, and Kw1a3), prompting us to reexamine offshore sequence m5.8. We conclude that as resolution increases, the nearshore stratigraphic record can be shown to be a stacking together of sequences on various scales that is remarkably incomplete.

What’s Next 2-D backstripping

[Schmelz, Steckler (LDEO), Mountain, Miller, Browning]

We intend to reconstruct New Jersey Miocene stratal geometries using both: 1) a numerical model that only varies in sea level and sediment supply; and 2) a model that incorporates variations in sea level and sediment supply in addition to imposed non-thermal subsidence effects.  One of the experimental configurations should better explain the data, including the constraints provided by a database of onshore and offshore core data coupled with a dense grid of offshore seismic data. Reconstructing of the Miocene stratigraphy of this margin will facilitate a quantitative evaluation of non-thermal subsidence on stratigraphic development and will contribute to reducing uncertainties associated with Miocene global mean sea-level (GMSL) records derived from the New Jersey margin.

Student opportunities include working on comparing model output to 3-D seismic data for the Miocene or the long-term (Jurassic to Holocene) record of the margin.



Cretaceous/Paleogene Boundary

Ir, stable isotopes, and recovery

[Ken Miller, Rob Sherrell]

Recent studies have focused on the Iridium anomaly in several New Jersey coastal plain outcrops and coreholes (Miller et al., 2010; Esmeray-Senlet, Ph.D. thesis) and the recovery of planktonic foraminifera and carbon cycle from mass extinction (Esmeray-Senlet et al., 2015). Our data from New Jersey and the deep sea indicate reduced export productivity consistent with the Living Oceans hypothesis, though other studies indicate zones of continued export productivity, prompting us to coin the term Heterogeneous Oceans (Esmeray-Senlet et al., 2015). Ir is associated with the mass extinction event in most sections, though it appears to have migrated downsection at Bass River, and Tighe Park. We continue to explore the relationship between Deccan Trap volcanism, impact, and the mass extinction. 



Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) was an abrupt warming event characterized by a 5-8°C temperature increase. It is globally recognized by a negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) across the Paleocene/Eocene boundary in both marine and terrestrial sections. Despite numerous records of this major Cenozoic hyperthermal, there is still considerable debate on timing, triggers, and impacts of the PETM on the Earth’s system. The New Jersey coastal plain is a unique place to study this event because it provides one the most stratigraphically complete marine records (~ 15 m thick).

Depositional models

[Podrecca, Miller, Browning, Wright]

We built a cross-shelf Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) depositional model for input of muds from the “Appalachian Amazon” where large amounts of fluid mud creating expanded PETM records. New cores from Medford, NJ preserve the carbon isotope excursion (CIE) onset overlain by the lower portion of the CIE “body/core.” We use δ13Cbulk, percent CaCO3, and percent coarse fraction (>63 µm) to correlate Medford with records along a paleoslope dip transect, showing that updip locations preserve expanded sections of the earliest portion of the CIE (the onset) in contrast with downdip locations where the final section of the CIE (the recovery) is preferentially preserved. This pattern implies that the fluid mud was deposited in prograding clinoform foresets. Our subaqueous-clinoform delta model explains the variability of the CIE records and provides a framework for future PETM studies in the region.

Integration of stable isotopes, TEX86, and Mg/Ca proxies

[Masha Makarova, Ken Miller, Jim Wright, Yair Rosenthal]

We have studied paleoenvironmental changes across the Paleocene/Eocene boundary in the Millville New Jersey coastal plain core (ODP Leg 174AX). Using two independent temperature proxies (the organic paleothermometer TEX86 and Mg/Ca ratio of planktonic foraminifera) and δ18O of planktonic foraminifera, we evaluated temperature and salinity changes at Millville (Makarova et al., in prep.). Paleotemperature estimates show warming of 5-7°C across the PETM, though different temperature calibrations provide a broad range of absolute temperatures. The TEXL86 temperature calibration (Kim et al., 2010) is the only one that yields realistic salinities and thus arguably provides the best temperature estimate (warming from 23°C to 30°C). We are currently integrating isotopic records of planktonic (surface and deep dwelling) and benthic foraminifera at Millville and other New Jersey coastal plain cores to reconstruct the water column structure along the New Jersey paleoshelf during the PETM (i.e. changes in surface to deep water temperature gradient, carbon cycle, and oceanic productivity).

WHAT'S NEXT: we will convene an international workshop at Rutgers in January 2021.  We propose to drill three transects of coreholes in the mid-Atlantic U.S. Coastal Plain targeting thick (>10 m) sections of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), building on drilling in New Jersey by IODP Leg 174AX and Maryland-Virginia by the USGS. Previous drilling has sampled across the paleoshelf from inner neritic to deep neritic (>100 m) paleodepths and has provided important constraints on this major event, but existing cores are either depleted or contain stratigraphic gaps due to the patchwork distribution of the successions, updip dissolution, diagenesis, and the discontinuous nature of coastal zone sedimentation, which can be addressed with new cores. We plan to triple core the sections of interest at ten sites sampling the PETM, targeting the underlying normal shelf deposit of the Vincentown/Aquia Formations, a transitional interval that is expanded in updip sections and contains the Carbon Isotopic Excursion (CIE) onset, and the rapidly deposited Marlboro Clay that records a very thick CIE “core/body”. Though truncated at the top of the Marlboro Clay, very much expanded PETM sections (>10 m versus 1 m in the thickest deep-sea section) are available in this region. We will also core and sample other Eocene hyperthermals and the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary at these sites. This project will be an international collaboration with the cores archived by IODP, publication by IODP within two years, and with local logistical and support-in-kind provided by USGS and U.S. state surveys. Coring of three transects will provide new material needed to evaluate CIE initiation and subsequent CIE core/body that provides the clearest geological example of a massive release of carbon analogous to anthropogenic release.



Miocene paleoceanography

Evaluation of stable isotopes, TEX86, and Mg/Ca proxies of western North Atlantic

[Masha Makarova, Ken Miller, Jim Wright, Yair Rosenthal]

The North Atlantic plays a critical role in heat transport in the ocean-atmosphere system because it is an area of deep water formation where surface waters sink to produce the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). Surface water temperature and salinity define the strength of the NADW in the conveyor circulation and consequently the strength of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). For this project, we are studying thermal history of the western North Atlantic during the critical climate transition of 17-12.8 Ma and the role of the North Atlantic in the global climate change during the middle Miocene. Previous work in the North Atlantic has focused on benthic foraminiferal δ18O and δ13C tracers to study deep water and isolate temperature vs. ice volume signal for the Oligocene-upper Miocene (e.g., Miller et al., 1985; Wright et al., 1992). We are enhancing existing records of benthic foraminifera by performing stable isotopes and trace metals (Mg/Ca) analyses on planktonic foraminifera and obtaining sea surface temperatures from organic paleothermometers TEX86 and UK'37. Integration of these multiple proxies is essential in deciphering paleotemperature signals from those of ice volume and salinity.

IODP Western North Atlantic

Mitch Lyle (OSU) Greg Mountain, Ken Miller, have a pending International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition in the Western North Atlantic. Proposal 851-Pre is designed to drill to monitor the evolution of northern deep waters (Northern Component Water, NCW), changes in sea surface temperature (SST), thermocline structure, and meridional thermal gradients in the North Atlantic subtropical and subarctic gyres, and changes in biogeochemical cycling and biogenic production through the Miocene and into the Paleogene.  The proposal is up for scheduling by the IODP JOIDES Resolution Facilities Board in Aug. 2020 for drilling in 2022 or 2022.

WHAT'S NEXT: Undergraduate honors theses by Mariya Galochkina and Sophie Benaroya are being prepared for publication.  Ongoing research by L. Bellino at Site 563 is ongoing.  Studies of Site 982 are being completed.  The next step is to do high resolution (10 cm, 10 kyr) sampling of a Miocene time slice for stable isotopes and correlating with XRF core scans. We plan to submit this as a proposal to NSF



Carbon Capture and Sequestration

We completed projects for the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) and the Mid-Atlantic Offshore Carbon Storage Resource Assessment Project (MAOCSRAP) with Battelle and DOE with publications by Miller et al. (2017, 2018), Schmelz et al. (2020), Baldwin et al. (in prep.), and Adams et al. (in prep.) and PhD theses by master’s theses by Leslie Jordan, Stephen Graham, and Alexandra Adams.  Our renewal project for 2020-2023 “Regional Initiative to Accelerate CCUS Development” will look toward implementation of carbon storage projects in the region