Dr. Robert F. Anderson

Ewing-Lamont Research Professor, Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Columbia Climate School

Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (DEES),

Comer 231
61 Route 9W
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, NY 10964


Anderson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Washington in 1975 with a double major in chemistry and in oceanography. In 1981 he was awarded his PhD in Chemical Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography. Since 1981 he has been at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, rising through the ranks until reaching his current position of Ewing-Lamont Research Professor in 2010. Along the way he has taught chemistry of the ocean and of continental waters and served as Associate Director for the Observatory (2003 to 2008), when he oversaw the construction of the Comer building for the Geochemistry Division.

As a student, Anderson was convinced that naturally occurring radionuclides could be used to quantify the rates of key processes in marine biogeochemical cycles. Some of the essential principles were defined initially in the paper by Bacon and Anderson (1982). GEOSECS, the first program to systematically study the chemistry of the ocean at a global scale, was then demonstrating the value of synthesizing results from diverse sources. In 2000, following these principles, Anderson teamed with international scientists as architects of a program to study the marine biogeochemistry trace elements and their isotopes, GEOTRACES. The value of using radionuclides to establish rates is shown in Anderson et al. (2009), where rapid changes in the circulation of the ocean around Antarctica were first demonstrated to be responsible for the release of CO2 to the atmosphere as Earth emerged from the last ice age. Work on this project led to a partnership with George Denton to synthesize records from the ocean and from land, respectively, to define features that characterized Earth’s last transition from ice age to interglacial conditions (Denton & Anderson et al., 2010). By elucidating the important role of ocean circulation, it was possible to determine that the low atmospheric CO2 levels of the Pleistocene ice ages was due to increased storage of CO2 in the deep ocean (Anderson et al., 2019). Now, a growing number of synthesis papers from the GEOTRACES program (Anderson, 2020) are exploiting naturally occurring radionuclides to establish rates of processes that regulate the chemistry of the ocean, such as the delivery of dust from the continents, the sinking flux of biogenic material exported from the surface ocean, and the accumulation of sediments world wide, bringing to fruition Anderson’s dream in graduate school.


Only select projects listed below
Name Start Date End Date
Boundary Sources and Sink of 230Th, 232Th, and 231Pa n the NW Pacific 9/1/10 8/31/13
Collaborative Research: U.S. Geotraces Arctic Section: 230th, 232th and 231Pa tracers of trace element supply and removal 1/1/15 12/31/19
Collaborative Research: Assessing Climate Model Simulations of Last Glacial Maximum Ocean Circulation with Carbons Isotopes 9/1/12 8/31/16
Collaborative Research: Management and Implementation of the US GEOTRACES Pacific Meridonal Transect 8/1/17 7/31/20
Collaborative Research: U.S. GEOTRACES North Atlantic Section: Analysis of 230Th, 232Th and 231Pa 4/1/10 3/31/15
Collaborative Research: U.S. GEOTRACES Pacific Meridional Transect: Thorium-232, Thorium-231 and Protactinium-231 as tracers of trace element supply and removal 11/1/17 10/31/20
Collaborative Research: US GEOTRACES Pacific Section: Analysis of 230Th, 232Th and 231Pa 1/1/13 12/31/17
Heavy Noble Gas Isotopes in the Ocean as a Tracer of Air-Sea Disequilibrium 5/1/18 4/30/19
Holocene Variability of the Deep Limb of Meridional Overturning Circulation 7/1/08 6/30/13
Patagonia Glaciation, Geochemical Tracers of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and Iron Fertilization of the Glacial South Atlantic Ocean 9/1/08 8/31/13
Supply and removal of trace elements in the subtropical South Pacific (UltraPac) 10/1/15 9/30/16
Support for the U.S. GEOTRACES Project Office 10/1/11 9/30/16
Support for the U.S. GEOTRACES Project Office 10/1/15 9/30/19
Support for the U.S. GEOTRACES Project Office 10/1/18 9/30/21
Collaborative Research: Management and Implementation of US GEOTRACES GP17 Section: Amundsen Sea Sector of the Antarctic Continental Margin (GP17-ANT) 1/1/21 12/31/23
Management and Implementation of US GEOTRACES GP17 Section: South Pacific and Southern Ocean (GP17-OCE) 10/1/20 9/30/23
Collaborative Research: U.S. GEOTRACES GP17-OCE and GP17-ANT: Thorium-230, Thorium-232 and Protactinium-231 as Tracers of Trace Element Supply and Removal 7/1/21 6/30/24
Modeling water temperature changes for de-risking aquatic food systems 10/16/22 12/15/22


Only select publications listed below
Name Published Date
Highly bioavailable dust-borne iron delivered to the Southern Ocean during glacial periods 2018
Repeated storage of respired carbon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean over the last three glacial cycles 2017
Large deglacial shifts of the Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone 2016
No iron fertilization in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during the last ice age 2016
Methods for analyzing the concentration and speciation of major and trace elements in marine particles 2015
The Southern Glacial Maximum 65,000 years ago and its Unfinished Termination 2015
230Th and 231Pa on GEOTRACES GA03, the U.S. GEOTRACES North Atlantic transect, and implications for modern and paleoceanographic chemical fluxes 2014
Biogeography in 231Pa/230Th ratios and a balanced 231Pa budget for the Pacific Ocean 2014
Biological response to millennial variability of dust and nutrient supply in the Subantarctic South Atlantic Ocean 2014
Deep Ocean Carbonate Chemistry and Glacial-Interglacial Atmospheric CO₂ Changes 2014
Deep South Atlantic carbonate chemistry and increased interocean deep water exchange during last deglaciation 2014
GEOTRACES: Changing the Way We Explore Ocean Chemistry 2014
A new perspective on boundary scavenging in the North Pacific Ocean 2013
Evidence of Silica Leakage to the Tropical Atlantic via Antarctic Intermediate Water during Marine Isotope Stage 4 2013
Quantifying Lithogenic Inputs to the North Pacific Ocean Using the Long-lived Thorium Isotopes 2013
Responses of the Deep Ocean Carbonate System to Carbon Reorganization During the Last Glacial-Interglacial Cycle 2013
Tracers of physical and biogeochemical processes, past changes and ongoing anthropogenic impacts: the 43rd International Liege Colloquium on Ocean Dynamics, Liege, Belgium, May 2-6, 2011 2013
Two modes of change in Southern Ocean productivity over the past million years 2013
GEOTRACES intercalibration of 230Th, 232Th, 231Pa, and prospects for 10Be 2012
Improvements to 232-thorium, 230-thorium, and 231- protactinium analysis in seawater arising from GEOTRACES intercalibration 2012