The Schlanger Ocean Drilling Fellowship Program offers merit-based awards for outstanding graduate students to conduct research related to the International Ocean Discovery Program. The Fellowship year begins in either June or August (summer or fall semester). During the following summer, at the conclusion of the fellowship, Schlanger Fellows may attend a meeting of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Scientific Ocean Drilling (USAC) to present the initial results of their research and take part in U.S. Science Support Program-related activities.



Congratulations to the 2017-2018 Schlanger Fellowship winners!:

Assessing Deep Pacific Carbon Storage Across the Mid-Pleistocene Transition


A significant reorganization of the global thermohaline ocean circulation occurred approximately 900 thousand years ago (ka) during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT). At this time, glacial atmospheric CO2 decreased and ice age cycles transitioned from 41-kyr periodicity to the 100-kyr pacing characteristic for the late Pleistocene. The deep Pacific is the global ocean’s largest carbon reservoir and as such likely played a role in CO2 storage on glacial- interglacial timescales. I propose to use the B/Ca proxy for carbonate saturation in the benthic foraminifer Cibicidoides wuellerstorfi to investigate the evolution of the deep Pacific carbon reservoir across the MPT. I will test the hypothesis that the deep Pacific played a significant role in CO2 drawdown and storage across this interval.


When I started my undergraduate career at Pomona College, I was excited to study anthropogenic climate change and focused on a degree in Environmental Policy. After taking an introductory geology class on Earth History with Dr. Robert Gaines, however, I realized the power of putting modern climate change in a geologic context. Fascinated by interpreting records of earth’s climatic history, I set out on a career in paleoclimatology. This brought me to my current work with Dr. Bärbel Hönisch at Columbia University. In our lab, we use boron-based proxies in foraminifera to reconstruct the geologic history of ocean acidification and the oceanic carbon cycle. I began my PhD with series of culture calibration experiments in living planktic foraminifera aimed at interpreting the ocean acidification that occurred during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. My work has more recently shifted to reconstructing changes to deep Atlantic Ocean carbon storage across the Mid-Pleistocene Transition. The Schlanger Fellowship will allow me to investigate whether the Deep Pacific Ocean also played a major role in carbon storage across the MPT, possibly in response to the large circulation changes observed in the Atlantic.

Survivorship and recovery of calcareous nannoplankton following the K/Pg mass extinction at “ground zero”


Nannoplankton suffered a severe mass extinction at the K/Pg boundary. Although the subsequent recovery was hemispherically asynchronous, it is uncertain how it was impacted by distance to the crater. A new stratigraphically complete and expanded K/Pg section from the Chicxulub Crater presents a unique opportunity to examine survivorship and recovery patterns at “ground zero”. By comparing data from the impact site to a little-studied South Atlantic core, the proposed study will determine how severely nannoplankton recovery was delayed, where new species originated and dispersed to, and, possibly, where Cretaceous taxa survived.


My interest in microfossils began when I was an undergraduate at the University of Southampton (UK), where I learned how important they are to biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental studies. To explore this application further, I worked with Dr. Samantha Gibbs for my Master’s thesis to investigate whether the cell architecture of two coccolithophore species changed during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During this research project I became “addicted” to hunting for coccospheres. This motivated me to pursue a PhD so that I can better understand how these critical organisms respond to periods of environmental change. My current research focuses on calcareous nannoplankton recovery following the K/Pg mass extinction at El Kef, Tunisia. Nannoplankton recovery assemblages at this site are characterized by successions of “bloom” species, but we are uncertain about which environmental and/or ecological variables drove changes in dominant taxa. To answer this question, I am comparing my high-resolution nannofossil assemblage counts to other faunal data (i.e. foraminifera and dinoflagellate abundance counts) and geochemical proxies. I am excited about the opportunity to study nannoplankton recovery at “ground zero” during my Schlanger fellowship, and plan to compare assemblage counts from Chicxulub to those at El Kef. This will allow me to determine how environmental and ecological controls on nannoplankton recovery changed as a function of distance from the impact crater.

Uranium isotope ratios: a proxy to understand carbon burial in varying redox environments in Ocean Anoxic Event 2


Increases in carbon burial (productivity) or expansion of ocean anoxia can be predicted by the occurrence of organic-rich sediments. In the sediments, uranium (U) concentration is tightly linked to carbon burial rates; on the other hand, U isotope ratios are often interpreted as an environmental redox proxy, ignoring the sedimentary geochemistry. The use of U concentration and isotope ratios is therefore inconsistent. In order to clarify the application of the U isotope proxy, I plan to study cores from the proto-North Atlantic during the Ocean Anoxic Event 2, a period of widespread organic-rich sediment deposition and variable redox conditions.


Growing up in Northern Maine, I enjoyed being outside with nature, but when snowstorms hit I would reach out to history books. At Bowdoin College, I studied geology and art history, which allowed me to appreciate their overlap in learning the past of earth and people, and also how chemistry can be applied in both disciplines. At Rutgers, I enjoy working on a variety of projects that observe different geological times and contexts – from samples I collected recently in the Black Sea to samples from the Cretaceous that are part of this project. Working with Dr. Silke Severmann, I am utilizing uranium and uranium isotopes to understand the processes impacting their preservation in the sediments and testing my hypotheses in a variety of geological settings.

Constraining the effect of dissolution on Pliocene West Pacific Warm Pool SSTs and the “permanent El Nino-like state”


Pliocene tropical sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are hotly debated. Foraminiferal Mg/Ca records show no long-term trend in west Pacific warm pool (WPWP) SSTs, despite higher Pliocene pCO2, and a reduced east-west SST gradient. However, modeling results and TEX86 records disagree with these findings. These discrepancies may stem from changes in dissolution (driven by Δ[CO32-]), which biased the Mg/Ca records. I propose using benthic foraminiferal B/Ca, a proxy for Δ[CO32-], to constrain the effect of dissolution on Pliocene Mg/Ca temperatures. This study would be the first to correct Mg/Ca data for time-varying dissolution. Validating Pliocene SSTs has broad significance; the WPWP is crucial for calculating climate sensitivity, and the east-west SST gradient affects climate variability.


Living in California, I have observed firsthand the importance of interannual climate variability, particularly El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). During my undergraduate studies at UC Santa Barbara, I worked in Jim Kennett’s lab, and fell in love with the big-picture insights that paleoceanography can give into the climate system. My master’s research with Tessa Hill at UC Davis, which focused on millennial-scale climate oscillations along the California margin, focused my interest in high-frequency climate shifts, and drove me to seek out the largest source of interannual climate variability: the tropical Pacific. Under the guidance of Christina Ravelo at UC Santa Cruz, I have developed my PhD research on the response of tropical Pacific climate variability and mean state to varying boundary conditions over the past five million years. My Schlanger Fellowship project, on Plio-Pleistocene tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures, will help constrain climate sensitivity to pCO2, and inform my concurrent work on Pliocene ENSO. Data generated for my Schlanger project will also have implications for deep ocean circulation, which I’m looking forward to learning more about.

The current (2016-2017) Schlanger Fellows are:

Quantifying global rates of magnesium uptake into marine sediments



Magnesium uptake during authigenic mineral formation in marine sediments is a poorly- constrained sink in the global oceanic magnesium (Mg) budget. The uncertainties in the Mg budget propagate into other chemical budgets such as carbon and calcium, and into interpretations of reconstructions of seawater δ26Mg and Mg/Ca ratios. I propose to constrain the magnitude and distribution of global Mg uptake rates in marine sediments using a compilation of shipboard data from DSDP, ODP, and IODP expeditions, and to investigate the specific processes sequestering Mg using shore-based pore water δ26Mg measurements from representative continental margin locations. These quantitative estimates will produce a global map of Mg uptake rates, and constrain the contribution of this sink to the global oceanic Mg cycle.




Exploring the mountains, desert, and coastal areas of Southern California most of my life ignited a curiosity about how different environments are formed and led me into the geosciences. After being introduced to marine geology and the rich field of geochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, I decided to pursue a master’s in Earth Sciences, studying biogeochemical cycles in marine sediments. During this time, I developed an interest in how and why these processes vary across different environments, and came to realize how useful computer modeling techniques could be in quantifying and characterizing these processes. Now, with Dr. Evan Solomon’s guidance at the University of Washington, I am expanding on this approach by combining pore fluid chemistry and physical property measurements with computer modeling and machine learning techniques to investigate the role of sediment diagenesis on the global cycling of magnesium in the deep subseafloor and its potential effect on ocean chemistry.

Assessing millennial-scale variability in the densest limb of meridional overturning circulation during the PRISM timeslice




One of the most widely studied climatic intervals within the last several million years is the so-called “PRISM” (Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping) time interval between ~3.0 and 3.3 Ma. This interval is of particular interest because it was the most recent time that Earth’s climate was substantially warmer than present over a sustained period. Additionally, atmospheric CO2 levels were ~90ppm higher than preindustrial levels, similar to 21st century concentrations. Therefore, the PRISM time-slice of the mid-Pliocene provides an analogue to future anthropogenic climate conditions that we may experience by the end of this century. Studying various aspects of the climate system during this time period is particularly important for numerical models that seek to test climate sensitivity at various CO2 levels.




My research interests in paleoclimatology are broad, including deep ocean circulation and climate variability on orbital and suborbital timescales, sea level variability, and the abrupt climate transitions during deglaciation. It was at my undergraduate program in Geology at the College of William and Mary where I first grasped of the severity of mankind’s negative impact on the planet and the implications of future climate change. I received my first opportunity to pursue research in paleoclimatology through a joint thesis project with the United States Geological Survey reconstructing paleoceanographic changes in the Arctic Ocean over the last 50,000 years with Dr. Rowan Lockwood and Dr. Thomas Cronin. After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I continued my education at the University of Delaware working with Dr. Katharina Billups reconstructing changes in deep ocean circulation throughout the mid-Pleistocene climate transition. I am currently pursuing my PhD at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where I am working with Dr. Miriam Katz. I am studying Quaternary sea level highstands and variability along the southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain, as well as reconstructing changes in deep ocean circulation during the Pliocene ~3 million years ago. This period represents the most recent time in Earth’s history with sustained atmospheric CO2 concentrations comparable to the 21st century, lending insight into climate sensitivity in a future ice-reduced world.

The application of clumped isotopes in studying the post-depositional alteration of marine carbonates




After deposition, sediments and porewaters co-evolve during diagenesis, a process that takes place over a range of temperatures and depths, making its effects difficult to constrain. These processes can be further complicated by advection of fluids induced by benthic currents. In order to understand the effects these processes have, it is necessary to constrain the crystallization temperature, which has been made possible with recent advances in mass spectrometry. My intent is to apply this new temperature proxy towards studying two “classic” sites recovered by the ODP, as well as samples currently being recovered in the Maldives by IODP Expedition 359.




My attraction to geology and geochemistry grew out of a love of history and storytelling. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, my thesis project used carbonate isotope geochemistry to study climate variability in the early Eocene. During this project I was mentored by James Zachos, as well as a number of graduate students, many of whom were recipients of the Schlanger fellowship as well. This community of shared knowledge and experience encouraged me to continue research after graduating. During the year after graduation, I was graciously given access to a microscope allowing me me to work separating microfossils for a project under Robert Dunbar at Stanford. I am now pursuing a doctorate in marine geology from the University of Miami, studying the slow, but very important, chemical reactions that occur after carbonate materials are emplaced. Outside of the lab, I enjoy biking, skiing, and kayaking around the warm waters of South Florida.

Evaluating the impact of Central American Seaway closure on Pliocene Walker circulation




Closure of the Central American Seaway (CAS) during the Pliocene reorganized patterns of ocean circulation, but its impact on atmospheric water vapor transport is unclear. I propose to investigate the strength of equatorial atmospheric (Walker) circulation during the Pliocene by reconstructing zonal (E-W) gradients in sea-surface salinity. This will be achieved by pairing in situ δ18O and Mg/Ca analyses of biogenic calcite domains within planktic foraminifera from three equatorial Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) sites. The use of these in situ data will greatly enhance the fidelity of resulting zonal gradients in Pliocene sea-surface temperature and oxygen isotope composition of seawater (δ18Osw).




As an undergraduate chemistry major, my research on antibiotic contamination in groundwater motivated me to pursue graduate research in a discipline that utilized both chemistry and geology. My interest in paleoclimatology was piqued completing organic geochemistry summer research at the University of Texas at Austin. Now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my Ph.D. research investigates the geochemical effects of diagenesis on planktic foraminiferal shells. I utilize in situ techniques to measure stable isotopes and trace elemental ratios within individual foraminiferal shells to reconstruct diagenetically-unaltered paleoclimate records. The Schlanger fellowship provides me with the opportunity to apply these novel geochemical methods to investigate the strength of Walker circulation during the Pliocene.

Active microbial carbon cycling in Baltic Sea Basin sediments




Microbes are active players in the geochemical cycling of sediments, and drive the remineralization of up to 97% of the organic carbon that reaches the seafloor. Greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 are produced as end products of microbial organic degradation. However, responses of deep sediment microbial communities to variations in conditions during and after deposition are poorly understood. IODP Expedition 347 – Baltic Sea Paleoenvironment collected four microbiology-designated sediment cores documenting glacial-interglacial cycles. This project focuses on how active microbial communities produce and degrade organics in Baltic Sea sediments deposited during these environmental shifts.




I have always been curious about the microorganisms in our natural environment, stemming heavily from a childhood exploring local streams armed with a microscope. As an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, I joined a microbial ecology group on a project examining microbial bioremediation of polychlorinated ethylene contaminated site. I became fascinated by how microorganisms influence local chemical cycling, which led to my interest in biogeochemical cycling in Earth’s massive subsurface realm. In my Ph.D. at the University of Southern California with Drs. Jan Amend and Brandi Reese, I characterize microbial communities in the deep biosphere to connect their activities to geochemistry, understand the pathways driving carbon cycling, and search for metabolic biosignatures that could be preserved in the rock record.

Award Information


Fellowship awards are $30,000 for a 12-month period and are made to the fellow’s home institution. The entire amount is intended to be applied to the research project, student stipend, tuition, benefits, and, if necessary, related travel. No part of the award is to be used to cover institutional overhead, administrative costs, or permanent equipment. Award start dates can be negotiated on an individual basis—but in general are based on the academic year and following summer.


Applicants are discouraged from proposing projects reliant on data from IODP expeditions that are scheduled but have not yet taken place. USSSP cannot fund projects based on prospective datasets.


The fellowship is open to all graduate students enrolled at U.S. institutions in full-time M.S. or Ph.D. programs. Approval of the research project by the student’s faculty advisor is necessary to begin the application process. Qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, creed, sex, age or national origin.





USSSP convenes a multi-disciplinary panel of scientists to evaluate research proposals and award fellowships. The selection process is based heavily on an evaluation of research potential and quality; applicants are therefore encouraged to propose innovative and imaginative research. The number of fellowships awarded depends upon the availability of funds, but it is anticipated that four awards will be made in the next academic year. Financial need is not considered during the evaluation process.





Fellows must implement their research plans over the period of the award and abide by the conditions of the award; major program changes must be approved by both USSSP and the fellow’s faculty advisor. During the award period, fellows are considered guest investigators and not employees of USSSP, IODP or associated organizations.



Application Materials


The following materials are required for a Schlanger Fellowship application:


1. Application Form: This form includes contact information for the applicant, plus the proposed project title, relevant DSDP, ODP or IODP expedition(s), geographic region, and scientific problem(s) of interest.

2. Recommendation Letters: Two letters of recommendation are required, one from the applicant’s faculty advisor and one from a second reference.

3. Research Proposal: Each research proposal must include a short title, an abstract (about 100 words), and a description of the proposed research (statement of the problem and hypothesis, background and relevance to previous work, discussion of methodology and procedure to be followed, explanation of new or unusual techniques, and discussion of expected results, significance, and application). Research proposals must not exceed four (4) pages of text, not including references or figures. Figures should be included separately at the end of the proposal and should be limited to two (2) pages.

4. Proposal Implementation Form: Applicants are asked to respond to specific questions about other funding sources, their research facilities, and the timeline of their proposed research.

5. Curriculum Vitae: CV should include relevant educational history (degrees and dates awarded); fellowships, scholarships, and awards received; academic honors received; society membership(s); employment experience (including any internships); and any authored or co-authored journal articles, abstracts, or other publications related to your proposed research.

6. Demographic Information Form: This information will not be disclosed to external peer reviewers. If you do not wish to disclose any of the information (excluding your name), please check the appropriate box.



Previous Schlanger Fellows


For a list of previous Schlanger Fellowship winners, please click here.





Contact usssp@ldeo.columbia.edu for more information.