Beth Caissie


I am a lesbian and I am a paleoceanographer. //

I’m an assistant professor at Iowa State University where I teach environmental and historical geology and micropaleontology. My lab group is focused on how Arctic sea ice has changed over hundreds of thousands of years. Specifically, we use single-celled algae, called diatoms, as proxies for past environmental conditions. Diatoms are sturdy, so they stick around in ocean sediments for millions of years. We take sediment cores from the sea floor and identify the species of diatoms we see. Different species have different environmental preferences, so we use that information to reconstruct how much sea ice was present in the past. We use organic geochemistry, sedimentology, and statistics to help us in this quest. Our goal is to look at the transitions from glacials to interglacials in the Bering and Chukchi seas and Gulf of Alaska to see how sea ice retreats during a natural warming. We hope that understanding this will help us prepare for declining sea ice today.