Lee Kump is a biogeochemist recognized for his contributions to our understanding of the factors that drove coupled biological and environmental evolution through Earth history, with a special focus on the carbon cycle, paleoclimates, mass extinctions, and the controls on atmospheric oxygen. He is Professor of Geosciences and John Leone Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. He received his A.B. degree with honors in geophysical sciences from the University of Chicago in 1981 and his Ph.D. in marine sciences from the University of South Florida in 1986. He has been on the faculty of the Department of Geosciences at Penn State since 1986. Kump is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, the Geochemical Society, the European Association of Geochemistry, and the Geological Society of London. He received the Distinguished Service Medal from the Geological Society of America in 2000 and the Robert M. Garrels award of the Geobiology Society in 2017, was the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus of the University of South Florida, and is a member of Sigma Xi. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

With his students, postdocs, and other colleagues, Lee Kump has sought to understand how Earth works as a system of interdependent living, physical and chemical components. His main approach has been the application of numerical models of a range of complexities to explore answers to the "big questions" in Earth sciences, including 1) What regulates the atmospheric oxygen level, and how have oxygen levels changed over Earth history? 2) What caused the largest extinction of animals at the end of the Permian Period, ca. 250 million years ago? 3) How did Earth's climate system and ocean chemistry respond to large injections of carbon dioxide, especially during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum ca. 56 million years ago? To support the modeling, his students have conducted field work to establish isotope and geochemical proxies of environmental change through these events in deep time, and to better understand modern analog ecosystems and how they function, including lake and coastal ecosystems impacted by human activity. Their work has promulgated the use of numerical models of Earth's dynamic systems for evaluating hypotheses of paleoenvironmental change.

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Primary Section

Section 15: Geology

Secondary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology