Basia Marcks headshot photo

Basia Marcks

Ocean Science Intern
PhD Student
University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

My research focuses on the interactions between biology, geology, and chemistry in past periods of climate change. Our planet stabilizes itself through a series of interconnected biogeochemical feedbacks but many of these feedbacks are poorly understood--or even unknown. My research aims to resolve which feedbacks operated in past climate transitions with the goal of better understanding what may happen in the future. To do this, I look for plankton in deep-sea sediments and measure the chemistry of their shells to reconstruct past climate, nutrient cycles, and even ocean currents. I spend a lot of time in front of a microscope identifying and picking plankton with a tiny paintbrush. Once I have isolated my plankton by species, I clean, grind, and dissolve them before measuring elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen in their shells. 

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I fell in love with paleontology after watching Jurassic Park and spending too much time at my local Natural History Museum. I found myself in awe of murals depicting how our planet looked millions of years in the past and I wondered how we knew that our planet could look so different. When I got to college I took one class in geology and I fell in love. I learned to use clues preserved in the geologic record to tell me about our planet and how it has evolved over time. Hiking turned into exploration and each rock I saw told a story. I became enamored with the story of Earth and decided I wanted to spend my life unraveling its history. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I certainly would not have made it to my Ph.D. without encouragement and unflinching support from my undergraduate professors. I am forever indebted to the faculty of the Earth and Planetary Science department at UCSC for fostering my passion and providing me the avenues to pursue it. 

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I find the greatest excitement in seeing how our planet recycles and stabilizes itself. Learning about Earth's resiliency and ability to recover from asteroid impacts, huge gas releases, and biologic perturbations is very humbling. 

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I worked in a variety of research assistantships and internships during my undergraduate and through my masters. I prepared samples and analyzed satellite data, getting my hands on anything that caught my interest. 

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Earth Science with a focus in Environmental Geology -- University of California Santa Cruz, 2016. Masters of Science in Earth Science -- University of California Santa Cruz, 2017.

What are your hobbies?

I try to get on my bike at least once a day but when the weather is bad I'll spend my time painting or climbing walls at my local rock gym. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

If you want to study geology or oceanography I recommend being outdoors as often as you can. Experience the world around you and apply what you learn in the classroom to the real world. Make the most of interactions with other researchers or scientists. People love talking about their passions and I have gained a lot from conversations with professors and mentors. Constantly apply yourself and when you fail, try something new. Don't be afraid to talk about your failures, you'll likely learn something from an outside perspective. Most of all, encourage others, science is a collaboration and the support you show to your peers will come back around to you. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

I applied for the SEIP after hearing about it from Megan Lubetkin. 


Basia participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: