Scott Ishman | Geology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Science


Professor and Associate Dean, College of Science

Scott Ishman

Office: 303 Parkinson Laboratory
Phone: 618-453-7377

Research Interests:

My research encompasses the use of benthic foraminifera as paleoenvironmental proxies. Currently my research focuses on three main areas: 1) environmental controls on modern benthic foraminiferal distributions; 2) foraminifers as Late Neogene paleoenvironmental indicators; and 3) Holocene paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic reconstruction using benthic foraminifera.

1) Environmental controls on modern benthic foraminiferal distributions.

Foraminifera are one of the most widely used paleoenvironmental proxies for marine sediments. Foraminiferal assemblage data, as well as the geochemistry of their tests provide information ranging from bathymetry to water temperature. However, the paleoenvironmental interpretations based on foraminiferal data are only as good as our understanding of the foraminiferal-environmental relationships. My students and I have continued to study the relationship of various environmental conditions on the spatial distribution of benthic foraminifera, particularly on the Antarctic margin. Factors including bottom water mass distributions and primary productivity have profound impacts on foraminiferal population dynamics, and to better understand these relationships will improve our ability to interpret paleoenvironmental conditions.

2) Foraminifers as Late Neogene paleoenvironmental indicators.

The Mid to Late Neogene (Miocene and Pliocene), was a period of extreme climatic variability including the middle Miocene climatic optimum, the middle Miocene climate transition, the mid-Pliocene warming and the Plio-Pleistocene transition. These climatic events have been most notably recognized in proxies that reflect major changes in the Polar Ice Sheets. My research group focuses on the use of foraminifera as paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic proxies. Paleobathymetric estimates based on benthic foraminiferal distributions in coastal regions of the Ross Sea and northern Chile are being used to address Mio-Pliocene sea level change. Mio-Pliocene sea surface temperature estimates from the Caribbean are being used to address the impact of Central American tectonism on oceanographic circulation and climate.

3) Holocene paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic reconstruction using benthic foraminifera.

Global climate change is one of the most serious issues facing mankind today. Mean annual atmospheric temperatures continue to increase from one year to the next. Polar ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice concentrations are being reduced annually. Over the past decade I have been part of a multi-institutional and multi-national research team addressing the impact of climate change on ice marginal systems. Our work is focused on the Antarctic Peninsula margin where some of the most profound changes in temperatures and ice conditions have been observed. We are attempting to obtain a greater understanding of the impact of climate change on ice marginal systems and how this translates to past and future global change. The LARISSA Project is an NSF funded IPY project to obtain a better understanding of the role that climate dynamics has on the systemic relationships between glacial and marine systems.


Warny, S., R.A. Askin, M.J. Hannah, B.A.R. Mohr, J.I Raine, D.M. Harwood, F. Florindo and the SMS Science Team (2009) Palynomorphs from a sediment core reveal a sudden remarkably warm Antarctica during the Middle Miocene. Geology, 37: 955-958.

Lutz, B.P., S.E. Ishman, D.F. McNeill, J.S. Klaus, and A.F. Budd, (2008) Late Neogene planktonic foraminifera of the Cibao Valley (northern Dominican Republic): Biostratigraphy and paleoceanography. Marine Micropaleontology, 69: 282-296.

Pinter, N., and S.E. Ishman, 2008. Impacts, mega-tsunami, and other extraordinary claims. GSA Today, 18(1): 37-38.

Pinter, N., and S.E. Ishman, 2008. Reply to comments on "Impacts, mega-tsunami, and other extraordinary claims." GSA Today, 18(6): e14.

Hromic, T., Ishman, S. and Silva, N., 2006. Benthic foraminiferal distributions in Chilean fjords: 47˚S to 54˚S. Marine Micropaleontology, 59: 115-134.

Le Roux, J.P., D.M. Olivares, S.N. Nielsen, N.D.Smith, H. Middleton, J. Fenner, S.E. Ishman, 2006. Bay sedimentation as controlled by regional crustal behaviour, local tectonics and eustatic sea-level changes: Coquimbo Formation (Miocene–Pliocene), Bay of Tongoy, central Chile. Sedimentary Geology, 184: 133-153.

Domack, E, D. Duran, A. Leventer, S. Ishman, S. Doane, S. McCallum, D. Amblas, J. Ring, R. Gilbert, and M. Prentice (2005) Stability of the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula during the Holocene epoch. Nature 436: 681-685.


GEOL 327I The World’s Oceans
GEOL 328I Dinosaurs and the Age of Reptiles
GEOL 425 Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleoecology
GEOL 428 Paleoecology and Depositional Environments
GEOL 527 Micropaleontology
UHON 351S University Honors: The World Around You