Department News

Students study Rodinia

Professor Jill VanTongeren led her field methods course to the Adirondacks to look at the formation of  the ancient supercontinent Rodinia. Pictured is the group sitting on top of 1.1 Ga Massif Anorthosites in the High Peaks region and enjoying the view towards Mount Marcy (NY State’s tallest peak) after a nice climb. (photo by Silke Severmann)

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

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

Professor Nathan Yee explores the possibility of life on Mars and beyond

Nathan Yee, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick professor of geomicrobiology and geochemistry and a co-investigator at Rutgers ENIGMA, a NASA-funded research team focused on discovering how proteins evolved to become the catalysts of life on Earth. Yee co-created and teaches Rutgers’ first course on astrobiology, an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand whether life arose elsewhere and whether we can detect it. read more here

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.

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

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: 

Professor Gross to become NASA Deputy Curator of Apollo Moon samples and reflects to USA Today and National Geographic on the significance of the 50-year anniversary of the Moon landing

nasa positionNASA has offered Professor Juliane Gross an 18 month IPA (Intergovernmental Personnel Act) position to help open the Apollo Moon samples that were sealed 50 years ago. She will be the new "Deputy Apollo Sample Curator" at NASA JSC in Houston and will work in curation next to Dr. Ryan Zeigler (Apollo Sample Curator and the Branch Chief of the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office) to oversee the preparations to open the samples and assist in the preliminarily examination, as well as assist in the curation of all other Apollo samples. As well as working in the Apollo lab, Professor Gross will be conducting experiments at NASA JSC, which also will allow Rutgers students a prestigious opportunity to help conduct research a NASA facility. Additionally, Professor Gross recently was interviewed for the special "50 years ago - One Giant Leap" magazine, jointly published by National Geographic and USA Today. In the article "Rocks unlocked", she is quoted together with NASA civil servant Sarah Noble about the importance of the samples collected during the Apollo mission and how study of lunar basalt rocks can help understand the origins of Earth. For further reading, check out his link: