Ellen Thomas

Senior Research Scientist; Research Professor
Geology & Geophsyics, Yale University; Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University
Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
New Haven, CT, USA


What led you to Earth and Space science?

In high school was interested in the sciences in general, specifically in biology, chemistry and geography. In going to the University in the Netherlands in 1968, one had to choose a major even before applying. I had difficulty deciding, and thought I’d try a major where I could do some of all the sciences. When I went to university information days, I was told ‘women do not study geology’, and that immediately made me decide to do just that. I never looked back, and never regretted my choice.


How long have you been a member of AGU and why did you join?

Not quite sure when I joined, but it was more than 25 years ago (early 1980s). I joined because I was attending an annual meeting, and wanted to have a cheap subscription to an AGU journal.


What are you working on now?

I reconstruct changes in climate and deep-sea oceanic environments, and their linkages with biotic extinction and evolution during Cenozoic global warming events (hyperthermals) caused by greenhouse gas emission. I use benthic foraminiferal assemblages combined with proxies measured on their shells, including traditional (stable carbon and oxygen isotopes) and more novel proxies (e.g., I/Ca for oxygen levels). I image foraminifera in 3D (CT-scanning and synchrotron X-ray tomography) to evaluate preservation, understand shell morphology during ontogeny, use in education, and document museum collections (American Museum of Natural History, NY). With my husband Joop Varekamp (Weselyan University) I collaborate in research on anthropogenic influences on coastal salt marshes and estuarine environments, and carbon budgets of volcanic lakes.