The Schlanger Ocean Drilling Fellowship Program offers merit-based awards for graduate students enrolled in a Ph.D. program to conduct research using samples/data from the International Ocean Discovery Program or one of its predecessor scientific ocean drilling programs. The Fellowship year begins in either June or August (summer or fall semester) and runs one year. 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.


The application period for fellowships for the 2024-2025 academic year is now open. Applications should be submitted through the USSSP Application Portal. The deadline for applications is December 22, 2023.

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 currently enrolled at U.S. institutions in full-time 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.

The Schlanger Fellowship winners for the 2023-2024 academic year are:

Shihan Li, Texas A&M University

Data-driven solution of the carbon emission conundrum over the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) event



Current estimates concerning the amount of carbon emission over the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) event remain elusive, ranging from ~4,500 to ~13,000 Gt. Associated with such a large uncertainty is the incapacity of using a carbon cycle model to reconcile multiproxy records in the carbonate system (e.g., pH and calcite compensation depth). We hypothesize that this incapacity might be due to simplified formulation of silicate weathering in the current carbon model framework, which only incorporates the Ca-silicate weathering on land and neglects the reverse weathering in the ocean. To address this issue, we propose collecting mineralogical and elemental data from IODP sediment cores to quantify the evolution of reverse weathering flux and develop a fully coupled C-Si cycle model. Our goal is to narrow our knowledge gap in the carbon emission trajectory across the PETM.



Since childhood, I have been fascinated by math and history: math is so elegant, and history is like a puzzle game where people can reconstruct a story using pieces of information.  Pursuing geoscience, I earned my bachelor’s degree from Tongji University in China and my master’s degree from the University of Bremen in Germany, where I first discovered the field of paleoclimate research. There, I employed oxygen and carbon isotope data from sedimentary foraminiferal tests to explore Earth’s climate since the Last Glacial Maximum. Currently, as a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University working with Dr. Shuang Zhuang, I use both data-driven and model-driven approaches to investigate the link between the climate evolution and the global carbon cycle. The ultimate objective of my research is to generate trustworthy implications for past and future climate change caused by large carbon emissions. With the Schlanger Fellowship, I will assimilate mineralogical and elemental data from IODP sediment cores to help quantify the carbon emission scenario during the PETM event. To serve the global research community, the code developed in the project will be published on GitHub as open-source resources. In addition, with the vision of introducing more mathematical and modeling techniques to the geoscience community, I intend to host workshops and share the modeling deliverables from this project with other students.

Andrea Mason, Brown University

Congo Basin climate and ecosystem sensitivity during the Pleistocene



The Congo is the world’s second largest rainforest and is not only a globally important carbon sink, but also rich in biodiversity. Currently, the rainforests of the Congo are threatened by increasing dry season length and fire at the rainforest edges. With few observational and paleoclimate records from this region, it is difficult to determine how the Congo will continue to respond to changing climate. ODP Site 1075, taken near the outflow of the Congo River, provides the unique opportunity to understand the past climate and ecological variability of the Congo Basin under varying climate conditions.



I began my academic career not in Earth Science, but in ecology. During my time as an undergraduate, I pursued research in aquatic ecology, animal behavior, and paleoclimatology. In 2019, I completed my BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.  Following my degree, I continued biology research at various institutions studying marine mammal ecology, marine natural products chemistry, and stable isotope ecology. After several years of research, I finally merged my interests in climate, biology, and geoscience by pursuing a PhD in terrestrial paleoclimatology and paleoecology under the advisement of Dr. James Russell. For my PhD work, I use marine and terrestrial sediment cores to study biomarkers, such as leaf wax isotopes, GDGTs, and PAHs, to study past climate and ecosystem changes in equatorial Africa during the Quaternary.

Jared Nirenberg, Brown University

Southern Ocean and East Antarctic Temperature Evolution during the Middle Miocene



Much of Antarctica was ice-free during the Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO, ~16.9 to 14.8 Ma), the warmest interval of the Neogene. During the subsequent Middle Miocene Climate Transition (MMCT, ~14.8 to 12.8 Ma), Antarctica reglaciated as global temperatures cooled. Despite spanning this critical threshold for Antarctic glaciation, few published paleotemperature records from Antarctica or the polar Southern Ocean cover the Middle Miocene, and low temporal resolution hinders interpretation of the few existing records. Here, I propose creating orbital-resolution, organic geochemical records from ODP Site 1165 in the polar Southern Ocean to quantify the evolution of ocean and continental surface temperatures during this climatic transition. These proxy records will determine the magnitude of cooling in the polar Southern Ocean and East Antarctica, and their resolution will allow for quantification of orbital-scale temperature variability. These biomarker records will provide the first direct, high-resolution insight into polar temperatures during the Miocene transition from ephemeral to permanent Antarctic glaciation, with implications for the sensitivity of modern ice volume under warmer climate conditions.



I grew up in Springfield, Virginia, where I became fascinated by the ocean during family trips to the beach. While attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, I discovered my passion for oceanography and geochemistry through participating in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and aquatic chemistry research. I pursued these interests as an undergraduate at Rice University through obtaining dual degrees in Earth Science and Chemistry. While there, I was introduced to research in paleoceanography through working with Dr. Jeanine Ash to characterize bulk organic matter in Pliocene sediments from the Ross Sea recovered during IODP Expedition 374. These experiences inspired me to pursue a PhD at Brown University working with Prof. Timothy Herbert. I analyze biomarkers in marine sediments to reconstruct high-latitude temperatures during the Middle Miocene, a potential past analogue for future climate. I am excited to use the Schlanger Fellowship to discover how Southern Ocean and East Antarctic temperatures related to dramatic changes in Antarctic ice sheets during this past warm climate, motivated by wanting to understand the long-term consequences of anthropogenic warming on global ice volume and sea level.

Celeste Pallone, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Paleo-productivity in the Late Pleistocene Eastern Equatorial Pacific



Reconstructions of marine primary productivity (PP) in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) from the late Pleistocene are often contradictory, reflecting the lack of multi-proxy and multi-site studies of this highly variable region. A zonal transect of Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Sites in the EEP will be evaluated to characterize changes in PP across recent glacial cycles, mechanisms of change, and influences on global climate. U-series isotopes in marine sediments will be measured at a sub-orbital resolution to generate records of PP, mass flux, terrigenous flux, carbonate flux, and bottom water oxygen. Results from ODP 1240 are consistent with minima in PP in the last two glacial maxima, increases across glacial terminations, and maxima early in the interglacials.



I first learned about paleoclimate, paleoceanography, and marine sediments as an undergraduate student at Barnard College. I was fascinated by these archives of millions of years of Earth’s history and the science that decodes them. I completed a summer internship in sedimentology and geochemistry at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and participated in research cruises during my undergraduate studies. I knew I wanted to study climate and ocean dynamics across recent glacial-interglacial cycles and have developed an interest in two dynamics regions: the Eastern Equatorial Pacific and the North Atlantic. I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and LDEO, where I am advised by Professor Jerry McManus. In my dissertation research, I use multiple proxies derived from marine sediments to characterize marine primary production, water mass properties, upwelling dynamics, water column structure, and ocean-atmosphere interactions in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the late Pleistocene. I also recently sailed as a sedimentologist on IODP Expedition 397 (Iberian Margin Paleoclimate).

Madison Wood, University of California, Santa Cruz

Reconstructing seawater δ88/86Sr response to climate-induced sea level fluctuations and neritic carbonate burial using novel pore fluid archive



The seawater stable strontium isotope (δ88/86Sr) proxy is an emerging geochemical tool for reconstructing carbon cycle processes like global shelf carbonate burial and recrystallization. Application of this proxy to glacial/interglacial cycles promises new insight to continuing questions about the links between climate and the carbon cycle, including Berger’s (1982) “coral reef hypothesis” which predicts a role for shelf carbonate burial in glacial/interglacial pCO2 fluctuations. A unique pore fluid archive of glacial seawater chemistry discovered by IODP Expedition 359 in the Maldives Inner Sea (Blättler et al., 2019) provides an opportunity to directly measure the δ88/86Sr of the glacial ocean. I propose to measure δ88/86Sr and 87Sr/86Sr in pore fluids and carbonates from Site U1466 and U1468, using 87Sr/86Sr to constrain the contribution of carbonate diagenesis to pore fluid strontium and thus determine the δ88/86Sr of glacial seawater. These results will test the hypothesis that glacial seawater δ88/86Sr differed from modern, reflecting a sea level-driven shift in shelf carbonate burial and recrystallization. Complementary analyses of pore fluid δ88/86Sr from two pelagic carbonate-poor sites will provide key context for the interpretation of δ88/86Sr profiles from the Maldives shallow carbonate platform and for future application of the δ88/86Sr proxy in both carbonates and pore fluids.



I grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in a rural, dairy-farming town with a population just shy of five hundred. My parents, a middle school science teacher and a forester, fostered in me a curiosity for the natural world and sense of environmental responsibility that guided my interest in science throughout middle and high school. With little formal exposure to the geosciences as a field of study, I started college at the University of New Hampshire with a major in chemical engineering. I was introduced to paleoclimatology and geochemistry during a Fulbright UK Summer Institute on global climate change at the University of Exeter and found the perfect blend of natural science to fit my interests in chemistry and the Earth. After changing my major, I earned a B.S. in Earth Sciences and completed a senior thesis on seasonal shifts in mercury cycling in coastal New Hampshire wetlands. Now I am pursuing my PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I reconstruct the stable strontium isotopic composition of seawater to investigate carbon cycle changes during periods of climate change. My dissertation is focused on understanding how carbonate burial in the shallow ocean responded to sea level fluctuations during Late Quaternary glacial/interglacial cycles and the Eocene-Oligocene Transition.

Yan Zhang, University of California, Santa Cruz

The evolution of inter-basin δ15N gradients since the Miocene: Insights from a new simple realistic global N cycle model



Nitrogen (N), a critical nutrient in the ocean, influences biological productivity, carbon sequestration, and climate change; yet there is limited knowledge of long-term oceanic N cycling and budget on million-year timescales due to the lack of N isotope (δ15N) records and of model framework to simulate the data. In this study, I propose to build a biogeochemical box model of global oceanic N cycle to simulate basin-resolved δ15N and constrain the rates of N cycle processes over geological time. Newly published δ15N records show dramatic change in δ15N gradient between Pacific and Atlantic since the Miocene and I propose to apply this model to investigate the mechanisms driving the striking inter-basin δ15N gradient evolution over the last 25 Myr. This model will offer inferences about the operation of the ocean N cycle for future studies and the Miocene simulations will offer new insight into long-term N dynamics and budget during the past warm periods.



I was born in the vibrant province of Sichuan, China and spent my childhood in Chongqing, a city renowned for its mountainous terrain and delicious hot pot. As an undergraduate, my interests in paleoceanography stemmed from a fascinating course taught by professor Zhimin Jian and I earned a B.S. in marine geology at Tongji University in Shanghai. I was further drawn into the field of paleoceanography and paleoclimate through my senior thesis project. During this project, I reconstructed the dust flux at ODP Site 1208 in the North Pacific during the late Pleistocene, advised by Dr. David McGee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz, working with Dr. Christina Ravelo. My research focus is on exploring the long-term marine nitrogen cycling on million-year timescales and understanding how nitrogen dynamics interact with climate changes by using nitrogen isotopes combined with modeling simulations. For my Schlanger project, I am working with Dr. Mathis Hain to build an isotope-enabled biogeochemical box model of global nitrogen cycling. Our goal is to investigate the mechanisms driving the inter-basin nitrogen isotope gradient evolution since the Miocene.



USSSP convenes a multi-disciplinary panel of scientists to evaluate research proposals and award fellowships. However, keep in mind that the panel may not consist of researchers with specific expertise in your field; thus, proposals should be written for non-specialists. The selection process is based heavily on an evaluation of research potential and quality; applicants are therefore encouraged to propose innovative and imaginative research that can be accomplished in one year. The number of fellowships awarded depends upon the availability of funds, but three to five awards are typically made each academic year. Applicants are permitted to resubmit a rejected proposal in a subsequent year. Financial need is not considered during the evaluation process.





Fellows must implement their research plans over the one-year 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 may be shared with 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.