Kathleen A. Ritterbush

Curriculum Vitae

credit: Halleema Allam
  • Assistant Professor, Geology & Geophysics


Research Summary

I study marine ecological transitions over large spatial and temporal scales. Marine invertebrates influence habitat development and structure, as well as regional to global marine chemistry and climate feed-backs. I examine the sedimentary and fossil record of mass extinctions, critical transitions in biogeography, and small scale animal-environment interactions.

Research Statement

State Shifts in Benthic Ecology

Animals that dominate seafloor ecosystems can switch roles during local or widespread environmental change or global mass extinctions, and altered ecosystem states can persist for millions of years. I investigate the ways marine animals influence habitat development and water conditions, to determine how new states arise, persist, and eventually terminate. Shifts in benthic ecosystems influence marine sedimentation, geochemistry, and global climate.


Ammonites: Swimmers or Drifters?

Ammonites are extinct shelled cephalopods distantly related to squids. Ammonite shells vary wildly in shape and size. I analyze hydrodynamics of ammonite shells to determine challenges to moving through the water. I use comparisons to modern cephalopod physiology to interpret the possible locomotion styles of these once world-dominant ocean animals.


Life, Weathering, and Marine Chemistry

Biotic regimes can remove crucial ions from seawater, changing the balance of ocean chemistry. Distinguishing the temporal and spatial distribution of biotic and diagenetic sinks for silica and calcium carbonate can reveal long term marine cycling dynamics.

Research Keywords

  • Paleontology, Interest Level: 5
  • Marine Ecology, Interest Level: 5
  • Biomechanics, Interest Level: 4

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Permian Spiculites of Utah. PI: Kathleen Ritterbush. American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, 07/01/2016 - 07/01/2018. Total project budget to date: $110,000.00

Student Research Opportunities

The Marine Paleoecology Lab is currently home to two MS and two PhD students. We are not currently seeking additional graduate students for the 2017-2018 academic cycle.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Marine Paleoecology Lab is currently home to several undergraduate students, studying mass extinctions, functional morphology, and growth in fossil animal life histories. Students interested in proposing new projects to start in summer 2017 should contact Dr. Ritterbush in January 2017.