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The primary focus of the Climate & Earth Surface Geochemistry Group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD is to understand and reconstruct the relationship between climate and the Earth’s surface. This research is critical because the Earth’s surface (snow, ice, permafrost, water, sediment) and climate (temperature, windiness, precipitation) are influenced by each other. For example, the deposition of dust in ecosystems can stimulate biological productivity and influence landscape evolution and ultimately the carbon cycle.

13 Ice Core_Illuminated.jpeg

Geochemical techniques to determine paleo dust provenance and transport pathways


Isotope systems as tracers of weathering and geologic history


Tracing modern dust sources and composition

Research Focus

One of the main goals in our research group is to provide a more mechanistic understanding of these processes in the modern so that we can accurately interpret the paleoclimate record from the past. Within our current research group, we focus on dust (fine grained mineral particles) and sediment originating from dry, arid environments (deserts) or from retreating glaciers that is transported up to thousands of miles and deposited in new terrestrial, marine, and polar environments.

Our group is interested in answering questions such as: How much dust is transported to an ecosystem, and how does it influence the biogeochemical cycling in this location? Can variations in the composition and size of dust preserved in ice core records inform us about changes in regional climate or ice sheet extent? How does sediment sourced from retreating glaciers and permafrost degradation affect nutrient fluxes to downstream environments in the sub-Arctic? Does human activity (climate and land use change) influence the composition of metals transported to the environment?

To answer these questions, our group uses an array of geochemical and isotopic techniques along with physical measurements to inform us on the source of dust and sediment, its nutrient content, and its fate prior to deposition. We conduct a significant amount of fieldwork depending on the research area and project ranging from Alaska to Antarctica discussed in more detail here. Our research requires clean lab chemistry and isotope analysis on a variety of mass spectrometers.

The Climate & Earth System Geochemistry group is led by Dr. Sarah Aarons, and is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

Lab Updates


Contact Us


Geosciences Research Division
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr #0220
La Jolla, CA 92093-0220


Location:                                                                   3173 Sverdrup Hall