Teaching & Outreach

UB faculty and students collecting a sediment core from a frozen bog in western New York. We're studying pollen and biomarkers in these sediments to determine past temperature, precipitation, and ecosystem changes.

Image of varves (annually laminated sediments) from a proglacial lake on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. Red ticks are 1 mm. At this site, we used varve thickness to infer temperature for the past millennium.

Chironomid head capsulesChironomid (non-biting midge larva) head capsules photographed at ~40x power. We use these insect fossils, preserved in lake sediments, to reconstruct past climate.

Postdoc Opportunities

The UB Paleoclimate Dynamics group is always seeking new postdocs, contingent upon funding. Feel free to pitch your own idea! We welcome discussions about NSF postdoctoral fellowships (AGS, EAR, and OPP), NOAA C&GC, and other external postdoctoral fellowships.

Please get in touch with Elizabeth Thomas at: ekthomas at buffalo dot edu. In your email, please describe your interests and background, and attach your CV.

Graduate Student Opportunities

If you're interested in studying Arctic and mid-latitude paleoclimate and the water cycle, especially via field work, biomarkers, light stable isotopes, and/or models, please get in touch with Elizabeth Thomas at: ekthomas at buffalo dot edu. In your email, please describe your interests and background, and attach your CV.

I seek highly motivated team members with excellent communication skills in English (written and oral), and with experience with, or a strong interest in developing skills in, geochemistry, climate dynamics, and numerical modeling and scientific programming skills.

I encourage candidates from groups underrepresented in the geosciences (including, but not limited to, black, indigenous, and people of color) to apply; I am committed to creating an inclusive environment where all team members can learn and excel.

Apply to join my team here: arts-sciences.buffalo.edu/geology/apply.html
*UB Geology does not require GRE for graduate admissions!*
Apply by December 15 for consideration for University at Buffalo Fellowships (PhD applicant only)

When evaluating graduate applications, I focus primarily on a student's written statement and on the reference letters. Here are some criteria that can be good predictors of success in graduate school, and that I look for evidence of in applications:

  • perseverance
  • independence
  • curiosity
  • creativity
  • making the most of available opportunities (broadly speaking! work, research, courses, clubs, coaching, etc)
  • work ethic
  • engagement
  • ability to complete tasks
  • time management
  • ability to work in teams
  • writing efficiency
  • writing capability
  • analytical skills/experience
  • strong performance and/or demonstrated improvement through time in science & math courses

Undergraduate Student Opportunities

Undergraduate student researchers are a key part of our team!

We usually hire students in spring, to start research in summer. We are especially interested in students who can be a member of our team for a full year or more.

Undergraduate researchers join our weekly group meetings and work closely with a graduate student on a research project of their own. Most of our student researchers present their findings at a conference, and some are coauthors on manuscripts resulting from their research. You don't need prior experience in this field.

Traits we look for when hiring undergrad team members include: initiative, comfort with asking questions, strong time management and communication skills, and excitement and interest to learn more about the science (climate change! the Arctic! isotopes! atmospheric circulation! lakes! biology! coding!)

Undergrad research tasks may include water sample collection and analysis, organic geochemical sample preparation and analysis, data analysis and interpretation, and running sensitivity tests of lake water and energy balance models (in python).

If you are interested in joining our team, please get in touch with Dr. Thomas at: ekthomas at buffalo dot edu. In your email, please describe your interests and background, and attach your CV or resume.

New team members (postdoc, grad, & undergrad) would work on some combination of the following funded projects:

Project 1:
RAW: Rapid Arctic Warming
Patterns and processes of rapid Arctic warming based on paleoclimate observations and models

UB students: Hannah Holtzman MS student, Harleena Franklin PhD student
I am seeking one graduate student to join an NSF-ARCSS-funded interdisciplinary team at the University at Buffalo (UB) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) that aims to better understand the feedbacks, patterns, and processes associated with rapid warming in the Arctic.

Research for this project entails a range of activities, including:

  • lab work to generate records of temperature and precipitation change at six sites throughout the Arctic,
  • proxy system modeling to interpret proxy records,
  • collaboration with NAU team who will be synthesizing & analyzing existing proxy records and climate models,
  • semester-long exchanges between UB and NAU
  • outreach with UB's EarthEd Institute, a continuing education summer program for high school science teachers

Project 2:
CHARMinG: Climate, Hydrology, & Action for Rapid climate Mitigation in the Great lakes
CAREER: Back to the Future-Integrating Research on the Mid-latitude Climate Response to Rapid Warming with Experiential Curriculum that Turns Knowledge into Action
I am seeking one PhD student to join an NSF-Paleoclimate-funded team that aims to better understand the feedbacks, patterns, and processes associated with rapid warming in the Great Lakes Region AND that trains UB students in a project-based course to help local businesses reduce their carbon footprint.

Research for this project entails a range of activities, including:

  • monthly field work to collect sediment, plant, and water samples,
  • lab work to generate high-resolution temperature and precipitation records during periods of rapid warming,
  • set up and validation of a lake water and leaf wax proxy system model,
  • proxy system modeling to interpret proxy records,
  • synthesizing & analyzing existing proxy records,
  • working with the education team to implement & improve project-based curriculum for UB's Carbon Reduction Challenge course

Project 3:
GRate: – Integrating data and modeling to quantify rates of Greenland Ice Sheet change, Holocene to future
I am seeking one PhD student to join a cohort of trainees on an NSF-ARCSS-funded interdisciplinary team that aims to better understand past and future Greenland Ice Sheet change.

Research for this project entails a range of activities, including:

  • summer field work to collect sediment, plant, and water samples,
  • lab work to generate Holocene temperature and precipitation records,
  • set up and validation of a lake water and leaf wax proxy system model,
  • proxy system modeling to interpret proxy records,
  • collaboration with University of Washington team to synthesize & assimilate existing proxy records with climate models

Ongoing projects:

From Nunavik to Iceland: Climate, Human and Culture through time across the coastal (sub) Arctic North Atlantic (NICH-Arctic)
UB students: Harleena Franklin PhD student
A highly interdisciplinary and international team led by Anne de Vernal (UQAM) has been funded by the Belmont Forum to investigate the interactions between Arctic climate, human populations, and culture during the past several thousand years. The UB team, including a new graduate student, will use biomarker and stable isotope proxies from lakes to reconstruct past climate at our study sites, and will help to synthesize existing paleoclimate proxy records.

PACEMAP: Predicting Arctic Change through Ecosystem MoleculAr Proxies
Ecosystem Response to a Warming Arctic: Deciphering the Past to Inform The Future

UB students: Devon Gorbey PhD student, Kurt Lindberg PhD student, Kayla Hollister MS '21
An interdisciplinary team from UB, CU Boulder, and University of Alaska Fairbanks is funded by NSF-ARCSS to understand the interactions between Arctic plant ecology, temperature, and precipitation during the Holocene and previous interglacials. We collected extensive modern samples and temperature data to calibrate the geochemical proxies that we use to reconstruct past climate. The UB team is using compound-specific isotopes to reconstruct past temperature and precipitation on Baffin Island & northern Québec. The UB team did field work in spring 2019 and in summer 2021.

Exploring ancient Beringia to provide context for rapidly warming circumpolar regions
UB students: Isabelle Mahar (undergraduate at Barnard College)
A National Geographic Society Explorer Grant provided a team from UB and The University of Alberta, led by Dr. Britta Jensen, a chance to study and collect samples from loess sections in central Alaska in summer 2019. These sections contain long records of past climate. We're currently analyzing the samples to determine their age and potential to use biomarkers to reconstruct past climate. I'm seeking a graduate student to work on these samples, starting summer or fall 2021.

Reconstructing environmental and biological changes during the Ordovician mass extinction
UB students: Nathan Marshall BS '18, Arden Croft MS '21, Jiawei Jiang MS '21
We are collaborating with paleontologist and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Dr. Chuck Mitchell to use biomarkers to determine the environmental changes that occurred in the surface ocean during major ecological turnover events in the Ordovician, 450 Million years ago.

Precipitation Isotope patterns in a lake effect region
UB students: Megan Corcoran BS '17, Kayla Hollister BS '19, Katie Lovell BS '21
Lake effect precipitation is an important source of water for cities in the Great Lakes region, but large snowstorms can also wreak havoc and be extremely costly for cities. We collect event-based precipitation samples at several sites in New York State and are using the isotopic 'fingerprint' of recycled lake moisture to better understand what causes lake effect events.

Past projects:

SnowOnIce: Multi-proxy reconstruction of Greenland Holocene climate
Project website and a Blog post by Margie, our outreach coordinator
UB students: Allison Cluett PhD '21, Megan Corcoran MS '19, Amy Grogan MS '20, Kayla Hollister BS '19
We worked with an NSF-ARCSS-funded interdisciplinary team of glacial geologists, glaciologists, climatologists, and ice sheet modelers from UB, Lamont, University of Washington, University of Montana, University of California Irvine, and NASA JPL to understand the interactions between Arctic sea ice, precipitation, and Greenland ice sheet mass balance. My group's portion of the project used compound-specific organic geochemical proxies to reconstruct past temperature and precipitation on western Greenland. Field work to collect lake sediment and rock samples with our interdisciplinary team took place summers 2016, 2017, and 2018. Photos of our field work.

Multi-proxy reconstruction of Eurasian climate for the past 30 kyr
UB students: Owen Cowling MS '18
In collaboration with Norwegian and German colleagues, my group used leaf wax isotopes and biomarkers from lake sediments to reconstruct temperature and precipitation in Norway and Russia.

Leaf wax hydrogen isotope seasonality
With funding from the Great Lakes Research Consortium, we collected samples from ponds in Central New York to understand the modern systematics of leaf wax hydrogen isotope proxies.

Precipitation and its seasonality in the Asian monsoon region
Precipitation in Asia is incredibly complex. For my PhD work, I studied how precipitation seasonality along a latitudinal gradient in East Asia changed on orbital timescales.


UB Geosciences offers an excellent graduate program with a long history in paleoclimatology. Buffalo is a great place to live: a bike-friendly city, with fun bars, restaurants, arts, and lots of outdoor activities.

South China Sea Leaf Waxes

A gas chromatogram of a 100,000 year old sample from the South China Sea containing leaf waxes. The peaks represent compounds with different chain lengths (this sample has leaf waxes ranging from 20 to 33 carbons long). We can use the chain lengths to infer plant ecosystem changes, and hydrogen isotopes of the specific compounds to infer past precipitation changes.