Ron Martin investigates the formation and preservation of fossil assemblages on different scales of time, ranging from the modern to very ancient. He received a Ph.D. in protozoology from the University of California at Berkeley and then worked as a micropaleontologist and industrial biostratigrapher for Unocal in Houston, where he examined microfossils in well cuttings and “sat” drilling rigs to prevent blowouts (like those of the TransOcean rig). He came to the University of Delaware in 1985, where he is now Professor of Geological Sciences. He has served as Editor of the Journal of Foraminiferal Research , Associate Editor of Palaios, and as President of the North American Micropaleontology section (NAMS) of the Society for Sedimentary Geology. The first edition of his textbook, Earth’s Evolving Systems: The History of Planet Earth, was published by Jones and Bartlett in February, 2012, and a second edition is in preparation.
Ron pursues four broad avenues of research:
1) Taphonomy: The formation and preservation of fossil and subfossil (especially microfossil) assemblages in different sedimentary environments (carbonate and terrigenous) over different scales of time ranging from modern to hundreds of millions of years or more, and the temporal resolution they provide in assessing past environmental change.
2) Environmental Micropaleontology and Geoarchaeology: The use of different microfossil taxa to determine natural and anthropogenic impacts on estuaries and tidal rivers such as sea-level rise, deforestation, and pollution. Recent work has occurred in the Christina tidal river basin and the Black Sea.
3) Subsurface Stratigraphy and Water Resources of Delaware: Dr. Peter McLaughlin of the Delaware Geological Survey and I supervise students who are studying the occurrence of formations in the subsurface of Delaware that serve as important aquifers and aquicludes. We are using foraminiferal assemblages and strontium isotope stratigraphy to better delineate the occurrence of these units and different facies (environments). The occurrence of these units is related to paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic change of Earth's environments.
4) Marine Biodiversity through geologic time in relation to the evolution of major biogeochemical cycles of phosphorus and micronutrients: Together with the phytoplankton specialist Dr. Antonietta Quigg (Texas A&M University, Galveston) and Dr. Warren Allmon (Director, Paleontological Research Institution and Professor at Cornell University), we have hypothesized that the evolution of marine biodiversity over geologic scales of time is related in part to the evolution of phytoplankton stoichiometry. Based on studies of trophic cascades in lakes, we suggest that increasing nutrient content of phytoplankton has made it “easier” for animals higher in food pyramids to obtain these nutrients by not having to first expend their own energy to first respire the carbon in food, thereby leaving more energy available for reproduction, increasing population size, and metabolism and to greater rates of micro- and macroevolution.