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Ronald Martin


Ron Martin is Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Delaware.  He grew up in southwestern Ohio, where world famous assemblages of Late Ordovician fossils drew his attention to paleontology.  He received a B.S. degree in Geology and Paleontology from Bowling Green State University (Ohio), M.S. in Geology from the University of Florida, and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley.  He worked as an operations micropaleontologist and biostratigrapher for Unocal in Houston (Texas) from 1981-1985 before coming to the University of Delaware.  He teaches (or has taught) introductory courses in Physical geology and Earth history (upon which Earth’s Evolving Systems is based), Paleontology, Paleoecology, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, and Advanced (Sequence) Stratigraphy), among others and he has been nominated several times for the university-wide Best Teacher Award.  His research interests include the taphonomy (preservation) and biostratigraphy of microfossil assemblages and, most recently, the role of phytoplankton evolution in the diversification of the marine biosphere.  He is the author or co-author of over 60 papers; in addition to Earth’s Evolving Systems, he has also authored One Long Experiment: Scale and Process in Earth History (Columbia University Press) and Taphonomy: A Process Approach (Cambridge University Press), and edited Environmental Micropaleontology: The Application of Microfossils to Environmental Geology (Kluwer/Plenum Press).  He received the Best Paper Award in 1996 from the journalPalaios for “Secular Increase in Nutrient Levels Through the Phanerozoic: Implications for Productivity, Biomass, and Diversity of the Marine Biosphere”; his work was also featured as the cover article in the June (2013) issue of Scientific American: “Tiny Engines of Evolution”, which was translated into French, German, Spanish, and Japanese sister publications.   He is past president of the North American Micropaleontology Section of the Society of Sedimentary Geology, former Editor of the Journal of Foraminiferal Research and Associate Editor of Palaios; and was Visiting Professor at the Université de Lille (France) in 2014.

Research Interests

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.

Taphonomy Book Cover

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.

Envl Micro Book Cover

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.

Calvert Cliffs 2ACoring 2Coring 1

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.   

EES book coverOLE Book Cover


Allmon, W. D. and martin, R. E. 2014. Seafood through time revisited: the Phanerozoic increase in marine trophic resouirces and its macroevolutionary consequences.  Paleobiology 40:256-287. doi:10.1066/13065

Martin, R. E. 2016. 2nd Edition. Earth's Evolving Systems: The History of Planet Earth. Jones and Bartlet Learning, Burlington, MA. 615pp.

Martin, R., Quigg, A. 2012. Evolving phytoplankton stoichiometry fueled diversification of the marine biosphere. Geosciences 2: 130-146. doi:10.3390/geosciences2020130

Martin, R. E. and Quigg, A. 2013. Tiny engines of evolution.  Scientific American (June). 40-45. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tiny-plants-that-once-ruled-the-sea/

Servais, T., Martin, R. E., Nutzel, A. 2016. The impact of the 'terrestrialization process' in the late Paleozoic: pCO2, pO2, and the 'phytoplankton blackout.'  Rev. Palaeobotany and Palynology 224: 26-37.  dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2015.08.010

Servais, T., Perrier, V., Danelian, T., Klug, C., Martin, R., Munnecke, A., Nowak, H., Nutzel, A., Vandenbroucke, T. R. A., Willians, M., and Rasmussen, C. M. O. 2016. The onset of the 'Ordovician Plankton revolution' in the late cambrian.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 458:12-28.  dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.11.003

Current Students

Tyler Buchanan

Mike Fulton

Subsurface Stratigraphy and Water Resources of Delaware

Formations in the subsurface of Delaware crop out at Calvert Cliffs along Chesapeake Bay

Marine Biodiversity and Taphonomy Through Geologic Time

The trilobite Paradoxides from Morocco.

Environmental Micropalaeontology and Geoarchaeology

The ancient harbor of Troy filled with sediment as a result of deforestation.


• Marine Ecology• Paleoceanography• Marine Chemistry• Geoarchaeology• Geochemistry• Water Science• Water & Society• Earth History & Paleoclimate• Geobiology• Environmental Interactions


CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Geological Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography

Investigating the interactions between people and the environment and the processes that explain the location of human and natural phenomena.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-2841
Geography: 302-831-2294 • Geology: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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