Tom Marchitto

Tom Marchitto

Fellow of INSTAAR

  • Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs, Dept. of Geological Sciences
  • Affiliate Faculty, Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences



  • PhD: Marine Geology and Geophysics, MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, 1999
  • BS: Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 1994

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-7739


Paleoceanography and paleoclimatology
ICP-MS Trace Element Lab

Research Interests

Past abrupt climate change, ocean circulation, ocean biogeochemistry, marine carbon cycle, trace and minor elements in biogenic calcium carbonates, biomineralization


Graduate students assist with retrieval of a gravity core aboard the R/V Knorr in the Florida Straits. This coring device is useful for obtaining records of relatively recent climate, typically spanning some tens of thousand of years. Photo credit: Tom Marchitto.

As human activities continue to alter Earth’s climate, it becomes increasingly important to look to the past to better understand the future. I am a paleoceanographer, studying large-scale changes in ocean circulation and biogeochemistry that occur over timescales ranging from a few years to tens of millennia. Most of my work has focused on the last full glacial-interglacial cycle, spanning roughly the past 150,000 years. Major variations in ocean circulation, from the surface to abyssal depths, have influenced climate via the transport and storage of heat. The oceans also exert control over atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. Such changes are reflected in the physical and chemical properties of seawater, including temperature, salinity, carbonate system parameters, radiocarbon content, and the concentrations of various nutrients. I mainly use the chemistry of the shells of marine protozoa (foraminifera) as recorders of these properties. By analyzing and dating sediment cores that contain foraminifera, we can reconstruct ocean chemistry and inferred circulation patterns during the past.


  • Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, National Academy of Sciences, 2013
  • Provost's Faculty Achievement Award, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2008