Biography

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Richard Norris is a professor of paleobiology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

My research focuses on the evolution of life in the oceans, with particular emphasis on the mechanisms of extinction and speciation of plankton and the processes of assembly of marine ecosystems. I use ecological, genetic, and biogeographic studies of living plankton and pelagic fish as well as the extensive fossil record of marine plankton and fish preserved in deep sea sediments. Other tools include the use of sediment geochemistry to reconstruct the history of ocean productivity and climate. Part of my research has focused on climate history and evolutionary dynamics during past intervals of extremely warm periods in the Cretaceous, Paleogene and Neogene as analogs for modern global change. I also work on the recent fossil record of reefs and coastal environments to evaluate the impact of human activities on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

I am presently on sabbatical at Heidelberg University in Germany.  There I am working on tying the archaeological and historical record of the rise of civilizations around the Mediterranean to the rich ecological evolution of that ocean basin.  The basic question is "What did the Romans (and other cultures) do to the marine ecosystems of the Mediterranean?"  We are using the fossil record of fish, pollen and plankton to reconstruct the detailed history of the Mediterranean over the last ~10,000 years to provide the first quantitative record of how fishing, land use, and pollution changed the ocean environment between the rise of Neolithic settled societies to the modern industrial age.

I hold a B.S. in earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.S. in geosciences from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University. I was a postdoctoral scholar and research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution before joining Scripps. I have served on the editorial boards of numerous journals,  a number of panels for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and have been a foraminifer paleontologist or chief scientist on six expeditions of the Ocean Drilling Program. I also serve as  curator of the Marine Geological Collections at Scripps, as academic chair of the SIO Masters of Advanced Study program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, and in the leadership of the SIO Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. I am also academic director of the Science Support Office for the International Ocean Discovery Program. I have edited or written 115 scientific articles, and seven books.

Last updated June 2016