Reed Scherer

Research Interests

Most of my research relates to history of the Antarctic ice sheet and other studies of climate change through time.

Research Activities 

I am, in essence, a micropaleontologist, but the arc of my career spans the spectrum from the smallest fossils (diatoms) to the largest fossils (dinosaurs).

Most of my research relates to history of the Antarctic ice sheet and other studies of climate change through time. I use assemblages of fossil diatoms (microscopic siliceous algae) as tools for evaluating these changes. My students and I work with diatoms in sediments recovered by stratigraphic drilling and piston coring along the Antarctic continental margin and the circum-Antarctic ocean and sediments recovered from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf and grounded West Antarctic Ice Sheet. I also use diatoms as tracers of ice sheet processes, using the physical properties of diatoms to help evaluate sediment mixing and subglacial shearing in tills.

In addition to these projects I work on a variety of applications of diatom fossils as Pleistocene and Holocene paleoenvironmental tracers in both marine and non-marine settings, including projects in the Midwest.

My students drew me into the exciting world of dinosaurs, including research on Jane, Burpee Museum of Natural History's famous juvenile T. rex and other significant finds from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation in southeastern Montana and a haul of Morrison Formation Jurassic fossils from Utah.  I’m also a Board of Trustees member of the Rockford IL museum.

Jeol JSM-5610LV Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope 

Byrd Polar Research Center

NIU Biological Sciences Vertebrate Paleontology, Ecology and Evolution program

West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative

Selected Recent Publications

2016: Scherer, R.P., DeConto, R., Pollard, D. and Alley, R.A. Windblown Pliocene diatoms and East Antarctic Ice Sheet retreat. Nature Communications.

2016: Warnock, J. P. and Scherer, R. P. Increased diatom dissolution in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica linked to inception of the Prydz Bay gyre. Diatom Research. DOI:10.1080/0269249X.2016.1182075.

2016: Hodson, T.O., Powell, R.D., Brachfeld, S.A., Tulaczyk, S. and Scherer, R.P. Physical processes in Subglacial Lake Whillans, West Antarctica: Inferences from sediment cores. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 444, 56–63.

2016: Hodgson, D. A. and 14 coauthors. Review article: Technologies for retrieving sediment cores in Antarctic subglacial settings. Phil. Trans.  Royal Society A. 374 20150056; DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2015.0056.

2015: Warnock, J., Scherer, R. and Konfirst, M. A record of Pleistocene diatom preservation from the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica with possible implications on silica leakage. Marine Micropaleontology. 117, 40-46.

2015: Warnock, J. and Scherer, R. Diatom species abundance and morphologically-based dissolution Proxies in coastal Southern Ocean assemblages. Continental Shelf Research. 102, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2015.04.012

2015: Fisher, A., et al. High geothermal heat flux measured below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Science Advances, 1, e1500093, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500093

2014: Warnock, J. and R. Scherer. A revised method for determining the absolute abundance of diatoms and other silt-sized sedimentary particles. Journal of Paleolimnology. DOI 10.1007/s10933-014-9808-0.

2012: Konfirst, M., Scherer, R., Kuhn, G. and Hillenbrand, C.D., A marine diatom record from the Amundsen Sea – Insights into the response of West Antarctic oceanography and climate to the Mid-Pleistocene Transition in the West Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean. Marine Micropaleontology. 92/93, 40-51. doi:10.1016/j.marmicro.2012.05.001.

2012: Sjunneskog, C., Riesselman, C., Winter, D and Scherer, R. Fragilariopsis diatom evolution in Pliocene and Pleistocene Antarctic shelf sediments. Micropaleontology. 58(3), 273-290.

2012: Wilson, G.S., Levy, R.H., et al., (Scherer, R.P.). Neogene tectonic and climatic evolution of the Western Ross Sea, Antarctica — Chronology of events from the AND-1B drill hole. Global and Planetary Change.

2012: Konfirst, M. A., Kuhn, G., Monien, D. and Scherer, R.P. The influence of siliciclastic input on Chaetoceros abundance in an early Pliocene segment of the ANDRILL AND‑1B drill core. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 346/347, 87-94.

2012: Konfirst, M.A. and Scherer, R.P. Low amplitude obliquity changes during the early Pliocene reflected in diatom fragmentation patterns in the ANDRILL AND-1B core, Marine Micropaleontology, 82-83:46-52. doi:10.1016/j.marmicro.2011.10.004.

2012: McKay, R., Naish, T., Powell, R., Barrett, P., Scherer, R., Talarico, F., Kyle, P., Monien, D., Kuhn, G., Jackolski, C. and Williams, T. Pleistocene variability of Antarctic Ice Sheet extent in the Ross Embayment, Quaternary Science Reviews, 34, pp. 93-112.

Selected Earlier Publications

2011: Konfirst, M., Sjunneskog, C., Scherer, R., Doran P. A diatom record of environmental change in Fryxell Basin, Taylor Valley, Antarctica, late Pleistocene to present. Journal of Paleolimnology, 46(2): 257-272.

2011: Konfirst, M., Kuhn, G, Monien, D. and Scherer, R. Correlation of Early Pliocene diatomite to low amplitude Milankovitch cycles in the ANDRILL AND-1B drill core. Marine Micropaleontology, 80, 114-124.

2010: Peterson, J.E., Lenczewski, M.E., Scherer, R.P. Influence of Microbial Biofilms on the Preservation of Primary Soft Tissue in Fossil and Extant Archosaurs. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13334. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013334.

2009: Naish, T., Powell, R., Levy, R., Wilson, G., Scherer, R., et al. Obliquity-paced Pliocene West Antarctic Ice Sheet oscillation. Nature. 458, 322-328; doi:10.1038/nature07867.

2009: Peterson, J., Henderson, M., Scherer, R. and Vittore, C. Face biting on a juvenile tyrannosaurid and behavioral implications. Palaios. 24: 780-784.

2008: Scherer, R. P., Bohaty, S., Dunbar, R., Esper, O., Flores, J., Gersonde, R., Harwood, D., Roberts, A. and Taviani, M. Antarctic records of precession-paced insolation-driven warming during early Pleistocene Marine Isotope Stage 31. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, doi:10.1029/2007GL032254.

2007: Warnock, J., Scherer, R. and Loubere, P. A quantitative proxy of diatom dissolution with implications on sediment focusing mechanisms in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Deep-Sea Research II. 54, 772-783.

2007: Sjunneskog, C.M., Scherer, R.P., Aldahan, A. and Possnert, G. 10Be in glacial marine sediment of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, a potential tracer of depositional environment and sediment chronology. NIMB (Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B). 259, 576-583.

2005: Sjunneskog, C.S. and Scherer, R.P. Mixed diatom assemblages in Ross Sea (Antarctica) glacigenic facies.Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 218(3-4), 287-300.

2005: Scherer, R.P., Sjunneskog, C.M., Iverson, N. and Hooyer, T. Frustules to fragments, diatoms to dust: how degradation of microfossil micro and nanostructures can teach us how ice sheets work. Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, 5, 96-99.

2004: Tulaczyk, S., Scherer, R.P. and Clark, C.D. A ploughing model for the origin of weak tills beneath ice streams: a qualitative treatment reprinted in D.J.A. Evans (ed.) Critical Concepts in Geography: Glacial Geomorphology. v. 4. (originally published in Quaternary International. 86(1), 59-70, 2001)

2004: Scherer, R.P., Sjunneskog, C.M., Iverson, N. and Hooyer, T. Assessing subglacial processes from diatom fragmentation patterns. Geology. 32(7), 557-560.

2001: Naish, T., Woolfe, K., Wilson, G, Atkins, C, Barrett, P., Bohaty, S., Bucker, C., Claps, M., Davey, F., Dunbar, G., Dunn, A., Fielding, C., Florindo, F., Hannah,  M., Harwood, D., Watkins, D., Henrys, S., Krissek, L., Lavelle, M., van der Meer, J., McIntosh, W., Niessen, F., Passchier, S., Powell, R., Roberts, A., Sagnotti, S., Scherer, R., Strong, C., Talarico, F., Verosub, K., Webb, P. and Wonik, T. Orbitally induced oscillations in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet at the Oligocene/Miocene boundary. Nature, 413, 719-723.

1998: Scherer, R.P. Occurrences of diatoms, silicoflagellates or ebridians in lower Eocene through lower Miocene sediments of the southeast Greenland margin. Proc. ODP, Sci. Res. College Station TX (Ocean Drilling Program) 152: 249-253.

1998: Tulaczyk, S., Kamb, B., Scherer, R.P. and Engelhardt, H. Sedimentary processes at the base of a West Antarctic ice stream: Constraints from textural and compositional properties of subglacial debris. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 68(3), 487-496.

1998: Scherer, R.P., Aldahan, A., Tulaczyk, S., Kamb., B., Engelhardt, H. and Possnert, G. Pleistocene collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Science. 281(373), 82-85.

1994: Scherer, R.P. A new method for the determination of absolute abundance of diatoms and other silt-sized sedimentary particles. Journal of Paleolimnology 12(2)171-180.

1989: Harwood, D.M., Scherer, R.P. and Webb, P.-N., Multiple Miocene marine productivity events in West Antarctica as recorded in upper Miocene sediments beneath the Ross Ice Shelf (Site J-9). Marine Micropaleontology. 5:91-115.


  • GEOL 104 Introduction to Ocean Science
  • Geol 322 Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology
  • Upper level and graduate courses in Invertebrate Paleontology, Micropaleontology, Scientific Writing and Presentation and seminar courses in diatom paleoecology and biostratigraphy
  • Direct internships in plaeontology at the Burpee Museum of Natural History.

Micropaleontology and Biostratigraphy

301A Davis Hall

Microfossil Separation Lab


Ph.D. Ohio State University

M.S. University of South Carolina

B.S. Southampton College (Long Island University)


Contact Us

Geology and Environmental Geosciences
Davis Hall 312
815-753-1943 (tel)
815-753-1945 (fax)