Skip over navigation

Jessica Whiteside

Assistant Professor:
Geological Sciences
Phone: +1 401 863 3339

My recent paleobiological and biogeochemical research has concentrated on responses to abrupt, sometimes catastrophic climate change in the context of cyclical processes and long-term trends in evolution.


I received my B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 2001, a M.A and a M. Phil in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Columbia University in 2003 and 2004. I received my PhD from Columbia University, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, in 2006. My research is in the field of terrestrial paleoclimates, an area in which I combine geochemistry, paleontology and evolution, and paleo-climatology to address questions about the stability of the carbon cycle following mass extinctions, cyclical climate change in paleo-lake ecosystems and the climate forcing on biotic provinciality.


I continue to develop a long-range research program in continental ecosystem evolution, especially in ancient lake systems, using a suite of sensitive isotopic and paleontological proxies to better understand the role of historical contingency, environmental cyclicity, and rare, sometime catastrophic events in earth history at a sample resolution and time scale appropriate for numerical, process-based models.

This year I initiated research in the Late Triassic (Chinle Formation) of the southwestern U.S. to examine how changes in climate and carbon cycle dynamics are related to biotic turnover events including the rise of dinosaurs. I have already obtained exciting preliminary results suggesting an unstable carbon cycle for much of the Late Triassic (Dunlavey, Whiteside, & Irmis, GSA abstract 2009) and have identified carbon isotopic excursions occurring at the only major faunal and floral turnover event recognized in the Chinle Formation. This work formed the basis for a collaborative proposal to NSF SGP and integrates well with my investigation of similar processes with the Colorado Plateau Coring Project.

New Lab Set-up: My primary focus has been to get my lab operational, including my central research tool, a ThermoElectron DeltaVPlus mass spec interfaced with GC, TC/EA and gas bench.

Field work in Green River Formation: I spent five weeks in the field, three with graduate student Devina Swarup recovering samples and measuring sections from the Green River Formation of Utah and Colorado. This was a successful field expedition; we sampled in detail 30 m of outcrop section and took back with us ~200 m of ½ round cut of the White River Shale Project, P-4 and Tosco Corp., Utah State 1 cores from the Utah Geological Survey.

Field work in Kinney Quarry: With an associate from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Sciences, I excavated the Pennsylvanian age strata of the Kinney Quarry lacustrine lagerstätte, west of Albuqueque, NM, famous for well-preserved fossils of the oldest diapsids (the group to which living lizards, crocodilians, birds, and dinosaurs belong). Along with Brown undergraduates, I am currently analyzing the samples for a suite of paleoenvironmental/ paleoclimate proxies to better understand the practically unknown environmental context.

Colorado Plateau Coring Project: I am a collaborator on a major proposal to recover cores spanning 100 million years of the early Mesozoic sedimentary record of the Colorado Plateau. My component of the project is to develop a molecule-specific carbon and hydrogen chemostratigraphy that will yield a synoptic view of early Mesozoic long-term trends in CO2 δ13C and water balance. These cores, needed because of pervasive surface alteration, will place this rich biological and geological archive in a high-resolution global picture that will allow tests of alternative models of climate evolution during the assembly of Pangea and tests of models of the tempo and mode of biotic change during the first half of the Mesozoic.


Recent Awards and Honors:
2008: Brown's ADVANCE Career Development Award.

2006: Featured in Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Biennial Report for academic excellence.

2003: International Symbiosis Society NSF-sponsored travel grant; GSA travel grant.

2001: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; Sigma XI award; Phi Beta Kappa.


June 2002 to present: Member IGCP 458 (Triassic-Jurassic Boundary Events)

Nov. 2006 to present: Member IGCP 506 (Marine and Non-marine Jurassic)

Phi Beta Kappa

Sigma XI

International Symbiosis Society

Geological Society of America

American Geophysical Union

European Geophysical Union

American Association of Petroleum Geology

The Paleontological Society

New York Academy of Sciences


GEOL 0310: Fossil Record
GEOL 0291: Paleolimnology
GEOL 2920B: Cyclicities and Singularities in the History of Life

Current Graduate Students:
Alex Kasprak

Former Graduate Students:
Danielle Grogan, Sc.M. '11
Devina Swarup, Sc.M. '08

Funded Research

Current Research Grants:
"Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction Caused by Volcanism? Carbon Isotopic Tests in Eastern North America and Morocco (SGER)".

Utah Geological Society: "Multiproxy environmental characterization of Lake Level Cycles in the Green River Formation of Utah".

ACS Petroleum Research Fund: "Molecule-specific Investigation of Lake-level and Ecosystem Control of Organic Matter Sources in Oil Shale of the Green River Formation, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah."

"Deep Time Lacustrine Biogeochemistry: An ADVANCE Proposal for a Mini Symposium."

Acquisition of a high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS), NSF EAR (Instrumentation and Facilities Program).

Paradise Found: A Multiproxy Environmental Reconstruction of Earth's Most Recent Extreme Hothouse, Brown University Environmental Change Initiative Seed Funds.

Web Links

Curriculum Vitae

Download Jessica Whiteside's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format