James Zachos

Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Emeritus

James Zachos is a paleoceanographer/geochemist whose research provides insights into the evolution and dynamics of Earth’s climatic and oceanographic systems. He carried out his doctoral research at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (1983-88) and post-doctoral research at the University of Michigan (1988-1992). He joined the faculty of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UCSC in 1992. He spent time studying at Penn State University, Cambridge University, University of Bremen, and Utrecht University.

Research Focus

Professor Zachos dedicates his research to exploring the biological, chemical, and climatic evolution of late Cretaceous and Cenozoic oceans. His pioneering work involves:

  • Participating in scientific ocean drilling expeditions to recover sediment cores from the sub-polar oceans (Baffin Bay and Southern Indian Ocean), the equatorial and south Atlantic, and the north Pacific.
  • Analyzing the chemical and isotopic composition of fossil shells from marine sediments to reconstruct past changes in ice volume, ocean temperatures, circulation, productivity, and carbon cycling.
  • Working with numerical modelers to uncover mechanisms behind past perturbations to the carbon cycle and impacts on climate.

Current projects aim to understand the sensitivity of regional hydroclimates to extreme warming (i.e., hyperthermals), as well as the role of C cycle feedbacks in damping or amplifying greenhouse gas-driven global warming.

Publications and Lectures

  • Authored over 180 publications.
  • Delivered more than 140 lectures worldwide.
  • Participated in numerous Ocean Drilling Program Expeditions across the globe.

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow of the Geological Society of America, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Geophysical Union. Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Awarded the Milutin Milankovic Medal by the European Geosciences Union in 2016 for outstanding research in climatic changes and modeling, and the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in 2022.
  • Recipient of numerous accolades, including the National Young Investigator Award, the Humboldt Research Award, and recognitions from the American Geophysical Union, among others.