Cesare Emiliani, a previous chair of the department, is considered the father of paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, the study of Earth's past climate and oceans. The importance of this field is now well known; if you want to know if Earth is abnormally warming as a result of anthropogenic CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, you need to first understand past climate fluctuations. The university remains internationally famous in this field, with more than two dozen faculty actively engaged in paleoclimate and modern climate research.

Cesare was born in Bologna in 1922, and studied Geology at the University of Bologna. Shortly after World War II, he moved to the University of Chicago to conduct doctoral research with Harold Urey. From 1948- 1956, Cesare developed techniques for measuring the isotopic composition of carbon and oxygen in carbonate tests (shells of small marine organisms). In particular, he realized that these compositions can act as "tape recorders" for oceanic and climate conditions, recording the temperature and salinity of the ocean water at the time of their growth.

In 1957, Cesare moved to the University of Miami's Institute of Marine Sciences, later to become the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, on the Virginia Key campus, to work with scientists whose expertise including recovering and interpreting sediments in core samples from the Earth's deep oceans. These sediments incorporate tests from planktonic foraminifera, small deep sea organisms whose shells faithfully record ocean conditions at the time of their growth. From these samples, Cesare was able to reconstruct a record of Earth's past climate. Cesare was instrumental in starting JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling), a multi-institutional effort for obtaining deep drill core samples in the deep oceans; studies of Earth's past climate is of course a major goal. This project continues today as the multi-national IODP (International Ocean Drilling Program). In 1967, Cesare established the Department of Geological Sciences on UM's Coral Gables campus, to focus on undergraduate education. He was chair of the Department from its formation to 1993. Cesare passed away in 1995.

The research initiated by Cesare Emiliani continues today. Hundreds of scientists around the globe follow the pioneering path laid out by Cesare Emiliani, studying the isotopic and chemical compositions of many species of forams and other deep sea organisms for clues to Earth's climate shifts at various times in the past. Dr. Amy Clement, a professor at RSMAS, was recently awarded AGU's prestigious Macelwane award for her work on paleoclimate and paleoceanography.


In honor of Emiliani’s many contributions to paleo-oceanography, a key indicator species of coccolithophorid (“coccolith”) was named after him. Coccoliths are microscopic phytoplankton (plants) that photosynthesize and live in the upper parts of the ocean. Large concentrations can sometimes be observed in satellite images of the ocean surface, especially in “warm core rings”, eddies that spin off the Gulf Stream. Coccoliths have calcium carbonate tests (shells), evolve rapidly, and have a large number of indicator species that live in different temperature zones. Hence their presence in marine sediments gives important clues to local climate at the time of their “entombment” in the sediment column.

The samples in the photos were collected in the 1970's, as part of a research effort to investigate seasonal variability in coccolith structure in the North Atlantic, where this particular species is quite abundant. They were originally called Coccolithus huxleyi. Subsequent taxonomic work by Bill Hay, a former Dean of the Rosentiel School, clarified the species distribution. Hay re-named this particular species Emiliania huxleyi. More information on this species can be obtained at http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/staff/tt/

The images (with up to 20,000 X magnification) were taken at the University of Miami Center for Advanced Microscopy (UMCAM), GSC’s state of the art micro-imaging facility. This center includes the FEI XL-30 ESEM-FEG, a scanning electron microscope equipped with Oxford thin window EDS for elemental analysis (used for the coccolith images); and a Philips 300 TEM (transmission electron microscope), also equipped with EDS. The samples were coated with sputter-coated with Palladium for conductivity, and imaged at 10KV

‌ 

If you want to read more about Cesare Emiliani, check out: