Department News

new in PNAS: The first day of the Cenozoic

firstdayA new study published in PNAS on the K-Pg boundary event was contributed to by Rutgers graduate student Christina Verhagen and former EPS faculty Sonia Tikoo.  Christina's research includes identifying magnetic signatures recorded in magnetic minerals within rocks from the Chicxulub impact crater, formed 66 million years ago during the K/Pg mass extinction. She is studying how rocks are remagnetized by high velocity impacts and how impact-induced, long-lived hydrothermal systems alter crater rocks through time supplying nutrients for the recovery of life within the crater.  Very interesting work!

Anya Hess awarded dissertation development funding

Anya Hess sqAnya Hess has been awarded $2,000.00 in Off-Campus Dissertation Development funding by the School of Graduate Studies. This funding will go towards the cost of attending IsoCamp this summer, a 2-week intensive program on isotope geochemistry hosted at the University of Utah. Anya is currently studying sediments from the New Jersey continental shelf to better understand Oceanic Anoxia Event 2 in the Late Cretaceous (~100 million years ago)—the most widespread anoxic event in the geologic past. She will compare carbon isotope data for this event to I/Ca, a more direct proxy for anoxia, and test the hypothesis that upwelling waters along the continental margin created anoxic conditions at shallow water depths.

Professor Gail Ashley honored at retirement luncheon

Ashley in front of rockGail Ashley announced her retirement from Rutgers University after 42 years of service to the geological sciences and our campus communities. Gail’s early career work was on the NJ coast and glacial sedimentology of Alaska and Antarctica, subsequent to completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts and a PhD from the University of British Columbia studying sediment transport in tidal systems. However, her fascination with human origins prompted a long-term shift in research focus towards East Africa, with several notable studies from the famous fossil and archeological sites of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Gail has enjoyed both research and leadership roles throughout her career, serving as the president of the Society for Economic Paleontology and Mineralogy, Geological Society of America and American Geological Institute, and supervising 39 graduate students, teaching 800 undergraduates in her signature “Sedimentology 340” class, and has overseen ~50 certificates awarded by Quaternary Studies at Rutgers since 1989. In addition, she was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal - U.S. Navy (1991), Outstanding Educator Award (2002), Cozzarelli Prize (2012), Laurence L. Sloss Award (2012), Distinguished Career Award from the Geological Society of America (2013), and the Francis J. Pettijohn Medal (2020). There was a formal luncheon on September 11th at The Rutgers Club to celebrate these many achievements and contributions. The day was highlighted by talks from former students and a slideshow with warm greetings from colleagues. It is with great respect that we honor Gail and wish her luck in future endeavors.

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

EPS undergraduate studies Martian soil at NASA

Sophie Benaroya is an undergraduate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and a Rutgers Honors College senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  Her recent work at the Lunar and Planetary Institute of NASA can be found here

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

Yu wins Cushman Foundation, GSA awards

yu cushman foundationCongratulations to Mark Yu (third year Ph.D. student), who received two research awards this summer. The William V. Sliter Research Award is sponsored by the Cushman foundation for foraminiferal research. Mark also received a Geological Society of America Graduate Research award. Mark’s work focuses on understanding the dynamics in the tropical thermocline waters of the Indian Ocean during the late Pleistocene. At play is separating the relative influences to the central equatorial Indian Ocean from the subantarctic mode waters from the Arabian Sea unpwelling.

Read more: Yu wins Cushman Foundation, GSA awards

EPS at the forefront of astrobiology with ~$6M NASA grant

rutgers nanomachines sqHow did life commence on the early Earth, and where else might it have developed in our universe? These are the fundamental questions being addressed by a team of researchers spanning the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and others here at Rutgers University. The science team, entitled "ENIGMA" for Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors is exploring these questions with support from a highly competitive ~$6M grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

ENIGMA is led by Principal Investigator Professor Paul Falkowski, and EPS Professors Nathan Yee and Juliane Gross are Co-Investigators.

This NAI team will explore catalysis of electron transfer reactions by prebiotic peptides to microbial ancestral enzymes to modern nanomachines, integrated over four and a half billion years of Earth’s changing geosphere. Theme 1 focuses on the synthesis and function of the earliest peptides capable of moving electrons on Earth and other planetary bodies. Theme 2 focuses on the evolutionary history of “motifs” in extant protein structures. Theme 3 focuses on how proteins and the geosphere co-evolved through geologic time.

For more information and to learn about opportunities to get involved, check out the ENIGMA webpage at

Rutgers geologists and oceanographers return from Pacific Ocean coring expedition

threeopleReturning from JOIDES Resolution Expedition 379T, the science team has sought to study the oceanographic and hydrologic history of the northern margin of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the South American continent. The aim was to collect six 100 meters long sediment cores from ocean water depths of 829-3858 m near the Chilean margin (36-46°S) to understand variability of the Patagonian icefields. The next step in the research will be to evaluate rapid (100 to 1000 year) changes in ocean water chemistry, composition, and temperature that will not only help reconstruct climate over the last 200,000 years but also inform us about how Earth will respond to a warmer than present climate. Rutgers postdoc Samantha Bova and professor Yair Rosenthal served as co-chief scientists, and were joined by Hailey Riechelson (graduate student, Rutgers), Mark Yu (graduate student, Rutgers), Vincent Clementi (graduate student, Rutgers), Anya Hess (graduate student, Rutgers), Stanley Ko (graduate student, Rutgers), William Biggs (undergraduate student, Rutgers), and Jim Wright (professor, Rutgers). More info at: