Botswana 2015

David P. Gillikin

Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry,
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), 2005

M.Sc. in Marine Ecology,
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), 2000

B.Sc. in Environmental Geology,
State University of New York at New Paltz, 1994

Teaching | Research | Potential Thesis Ideas | CV | Publications (see also Google profile) | Contact info

Stable Isotope Laboratory


The central theme of my research program involves the use of geochemical proxies (stable isotopes and trace/minor elements) to understand past and present biogeochemical cycles as well as paleo-climatological and paleo-environmental conditions. I focus on the use of biological carbonates as environmental/climatic record keepers, a field known as sclerochronology (analogous to dendrochronology). More precisely, I study how well skeletal chemistry records the environment. All proxies have their own limitations, and one of the main drawbacks in using a biologic carbonate is that the biology of the organism may interfere with equilibrium reactions in the skeleton. Understanding these 'vital effects' is part of my specialty.I am an Assistant Professor of Geology at Union College where I teach Stable Isotopes in Environmental Science, Introduction to Oceanography, The Earth and Life Through Time and Biogeochemistry.

The core of my teaching philosophy revolves around actively including students in research and developing their critical thinking. I achieve this through exposing students to scientific peer-reviewed papers, the peer-review process, class discussion on controversial topics in environmental sciences (both intro and upper level classes) and having students conduct their own research project (upper level classes). I have taken several students to regional and national meetings for them to present their research. I also strongly feel that a field component should be incorporated into all classes. I find that field trips can make learning fun, and help me connect with the students as well as creating a ‘community’ feeling in the class and department.






Essentially all we know about past climates and ecosystems is derived from either chemical or physical proxy records stored in solid structures such as tree-rings, ice-cores, or carbonate skeletons. Understanding how precisely these proxies record their environment is of paramount importance to understanding global climate change. It is well known that each proxy has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, ice cores can only be obtained from limited locals; trees only provide terrestrial records. Biological carbonates, however, are found from the poles to the tropics and from shallow freshwater and marine systems to the deep oceans. My research focuses on the use of biological carbonates as environmental/climatic record keepers, a field known as sclerochronology (analogous to dendrochronology). More precisely, I study how well skeletal chemistry records the environment (or sclerochemistry, a term a colleague and I recently proposed [Grocke and Gillikin, 2008]). One of the main drawbacks in using a biologic carbonate is that the biology of the organism may interfere with equilibrium reactions in the skeleton. Understanding these ‘vital effects’ is my specialty. I have worked on trace elements such as Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, Mg/Ca, and Pb/Ca as well as stable isotopes (see publications bellow). My current projects include estuarine and freshwater biogeochemistry, freshwater mussel shell geochemistry, isotope chemostratigraphy and chemical dendrochronology.



Keck 2012 in Montana


Measuring beach profiles on Long Island in GEO-106

Lauren Graniero - Freshwater mussel shells as archives of past African river biogeochemistry
(PhD, University of North Carolina)

Nick Weidhaas -Biogeochemistry and sediment transport through a tropical Andean paternoster lake system
(MSc, Pitt)

Students: Potential thesis ideas

Full CV

Publications [§ = grad students, * = undergrads]
Geochemistry papers
link to reprint §Kornecki, K.M., M. Schuller M.E. Katz, R.A. Relyea, F.M.G. McCarthy, M.F. Schaller, Gillikin, D.P., J.C. Stager, C.W. Boylen, L. Eichler, S. Nierzwicki-Bauer (2020). The canary in the coal mine: Testate amoebae record anthropogenic impacts in oligotrophic Lake George, NY sediments. Journal of Foraminiferal Research in press
link to reprint §Thatcher, D., A.D. Wanamaker, R. Denniston, Y. Asmerom, V. Polyak, D. Fullick, C. Ummenhofer, Gillikin, D.P., J. Haws (2020). Hydroclimate variability from Western Iberia (Portugal) during the Holocene - Insights from a composite stalagmite isotope record. The Holocene in press
link to reprint *Molloy, J.B., D.T. Rodbell, Gillikin, D.P., K.T. Hollocher (2020). Citizen science campaign reveals widespread fallout of contaminated dust from mining activities in the central Peruvian Andes. Geology in press
link to reprint Thibault, M., N. Duprey, Gillikin, D.P., J. Thebault, P. Douillet, L. Chauvaud, E. Amice, J.M. Munaron, and A. Lorrain (2020). Bivalve δ15N isoscapes provide a baseline for urban nitrogen footprint at the edge of a World Heritage coral reef. Marine Pollution Bulletin 152: 110870.
Full text reprint Vansteenberge, S., Verheyden, S., Genty, D., Blamart, D., Goderis, S., Van Malderen, J.M., Vanhaecke, F., Hodel, F., Gillikin, D.P., Ek, C., Quinif, Y., Cheng, C., Edwards, R.L., and Claeys, P. (2019) Characterizing the Eemian-Weichselian transition in northwestern Europe with three multiproxy speleothem archives from the Belgian Han-sur-Lesse and Remouchamps cave systems. Quaternary Science Reviews 208:21-37.
Full text reprint Cheng, L., Normandeau, C., Bowden, R., Doucett, R., Gallagher, B., Gillikin, D.P., Kumamoto, Y., McKay, J.L., Middlestead, P., Ninnemann, U., Nothaft, D., O. Dubinina, E., Quay, P., Reverdin, G., Shirai K., Tore Mørkved, P., Theiling, B. P., van Geldern, R., Wallace, D. W. R. (2019) An international inter-comparison of stable carbon isotope composition measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon in seawater. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 17: 200-209. doi: 10.1002/lom3.10300
Full text reprint Debret, B., E. Albers, B. Walter, R. Price, J. Barnes, H. Beunon, S. Facq, D.P. Gillikin, N. Mattielli, H. Williams (2019). Shallow forearc mantle dynamics and geochemistry: new insights from the IODP expedition 366. Lithos 326-327: 230-245. doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2018.10.038
Full text reprint Goodwin, D.H., D. P. Gillikin, *R. Banker, G. T. Watters, D. L. Dettman, and C. S. Romanek (2018). Reconstructing intra-Annual growth of freshwater mussels using oxygen isotopes. Chemical Geology 526: 7–22. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.07.030
Full text reprint Wanamaker, A.D., and D. P. Gillikin (2018). Strontium, magnesium, and barium uptake in aragonitic shells of Arctica islandica: insights from a temperature controlled experiment. Chemical Geology 526: 117–129. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.02.012
Full text reprint §Kelemen, Z., D. P. Gillikin, and S. Bouillon (2018). Relationship between river water chemistry and shell chemistry of two tropical African freshwater bivalve species. Chemical Geology 526: 130–141. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.04.026
Full text reprint §Geeza, T., D. P. Gillikin, Goodwin, D.H., *S. Evans, G.T. Watters, and N.R. Warner (2018). Controls on magnesium, manganese, strontium, and barium concentrations recorded in freshwater mussel shells from Ohio. Chemical Geology 526: 142-152. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.01.00
Full text reprint §Geeza, T., D. P. Gillikin, B. McDevitt, K. Van Sice, and N.R. Warner (2018). Accumulation of Marcellus Formation oil and gas wastewater metals in freshwater mussel shells. Environmental Science & Technology 52 (18), 10883-10892. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b02727
Full text reprint Granath, G., H. Rydin, J. L. Baltzer, F. Bengtsson, N. Boncek, L. Bragazza, Z.-J. Bu, S. J. M. Caporn, E. Dorrepaal, O. Galanina, M. Gałka, A. Ganeva, D. P. Gillikin, I. Goia, N. Goncharova, M. Hajek, A. Haraguchi, L. I. Harris, E. Humphreys, M. Jirousek, K. Kajukao, E. Karofeld, N. G. Koronatova, N. P. Kosykh, M. Lamentowicz, E. Lapshina, J. Limpens, M. Linkosalmi, J.-Z. Ma, M. Mauritz, T. M. Munir, S. Natali, R. Natcheva, M. Noskova, R. J. Payne, K. Pilkington, S. Robinson, B. J. M. Robroek, L. Rochefort, D. Singer, H. K. Stenoien, E.-S. Tuittila, K. Vellak, A. Verheyden, J. M. Waddington, and S. K. Rice. Environmental and taxonomic controls of carbon and oxygen stable isotope composition in Sphagnum across broad climatic and geographic ranges. Biogeosciences 15, 5189-5202; doi: 10.5194/bg-15-5189-2018
Full text reprint §Nehme C., S. Verheyden, S.F.M. Breitenbach, D. P. Gillikin, A. Verheyden, H. Cheng, L. Edwards, J. Hellstrom, S. Noble, A. Farrant, D. Sahy, T. Goovaerts, G. Salen, and P. Claeys (2018). Climatic variability during penultimate interglacial and glacial periods recorded in a speleothem from Kanaan cave, Lebanon (Central Levant). Quaternary Research 90: 10-25. doi:10.1017/qua.2018.18
Full text reprint §Durham, S.R., D. P. Gillikin, D.H. Goodwin, and G.P. Dietl (2017). Rapid determination of oyster lifespans and growth rates using LA-ICP-MS line scans of shell Mg/Ca ratios. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 485: 201-209. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.06.013
Full text reprint

Lorrain, A., F. Houlbreque, F. Benzoni, L. Barjon, L. Tremblay-Boyer, C. Menkes, D. P. Gillikin, C. Payri, H. Jourdan, G. Boussarie, A. Verheyden, and E. Vidal (2017). Seabirds supply nitrogen to reef-building corals on remote Pacific islets. Scientific Reports 7:3721 doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03781-y

Full text reprint

§Kelemen, Z., D.P. Gillikin, *L.E. Graniero, *H. Havel, F. Darchambeau, A.V. Borges, A. Yambele, A. Bassirou and S. Bouillon (2017). Calibration of hydroclimate proxies in freshwater bivalve shells from Central and West Africa. Geochimica et Cosmochmica Acta 208: 41-62. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2017.03.025

Full text reprint Gillikin, D. P., A. Verheyden, and D. H. Goodwin (2017). Paleoclimate reconstruction from oxygen isotopes in a coral skeleton from East Africa: A data-enhanced learning experience. Hands-on-activity, Oceanography magazine 30(1),
Full text reprint

§Sletten, H. R., D. P. Gillikin, J. Halfar, C. F. T. Andrus, and H. M. Guzman (2017). Growth controls on Mg/Ca and P/Ca relationships in Gulf of Panama rhodoliths. Chemical Geology 465:1-10.

Full text reprint

§Black H.D., C.F.T. Andrus, W.J. Lambert, D. P. Gillikin, and T. Rick, δ15N values in Crassostrea virginica shells provides earliest direct evidence for nitrogen loading in Chesapeake Bay. Scientific Reports 7:44241; doi: 10.1038/srep44241

Full text reprint Gillikin, D. P., A. Lorrain, A. Jolivet, §Z. Kelemen, L. Chauvaud, and S. Bouillon (2017). High-resolution nitrogen stable isotope sclerochronology of bivalve shell carbonate-bound organics. Geochimica et Cosmochmica Acta 200: 55-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2016.12.008
Full text reprint

§Graniero, L.E., D. Surge, D. P. Gillikin, I. Briz, and M. Alvarez (2017). Assessing elemental ratios as a paleotemperature proxy in calcite shells of patelloid limpets. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 465: 376-385. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.10.021

Full text reprint §Clark, J., A. Perez-Huerta, D. P. Gillikin, A. Aldridge, M. Reolid, and K. Endo (2016). Determination of paleoseasonality and specimen ontogenetic ages of fossil brachiopods using shell spiral deviations and chemical proxies. Palaeoworld 25: 662-674. DOI:10.1016/j.palwor.2016.05.010
Full text reprint

§Poulain, C., D. P. Gillikin, J. Thebault, J.-M. Munaron, M. Bohn, R. Robert, Y.-M. Paulet, and A. Lorrain (2015). An evaluation of Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, and Ba/Ca ratios as environmental proxies in aragonite bivalve shells. Chemical Geology 396: 42-50. doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2014.12.019

Full text reprint §Allan, M., N. Fagel, M. Van Rampelbergh, J. Baldini, J. Riotte, H. Cheng, L. Edwards, D. P. Gillikin, Y. Quinif, S. Verheyden (2015). Lead concentrations and isotope ratios in speleothems as proxies for atmospheric metal pollution since the Industrial Revolution, Chemical Geology 401: 140-150. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.02.035
Full text reprint *O’Neil, D.D., and D. P. Gillikin (2014). Do freshwater mussel shells record road salt pollution? Scientific Reports (Nature) 4:7168; doi:10.1038/srep07168.
Full text reprint Bouillon, S., A. Yambele, D. P. Gillikin, C. Teodoru, F. Darchambeau, T. Lambert, and A. V. Borges (2014). Contrasting biogeochemical characteristics of right-bank tributaries and a comparison with the mainstem Oubangui River, Central African Republic (Congo River basin). Scientific Reports (Nature) 4:5402; doi:10.1038/srep05402
Full text reprint

Schöne, B. R., and D. P. Gillikin (2013). Unraveling environmental histories from skeletal diaries - advances in sclerochronology. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 373: 1-5. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.11.026

Full text reprint Gillikin, D. P. and F. Dehairs (2013). Uranium in aragonitic marine bivalve shells. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 373:60-65 doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.02.028
Full text reprint Goodwin, D.H., D. P. Gillikin and P.D. Roopnarine (2013). Preliminary evaluation of potential stable isotope and trace element productivity proxies in the oyster Crassostrea gigas. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 373:88-97 doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.03. 034
Full text reprint Bouillon, S., A. Yambele, R. G. M. Spencer, D. P. Gillikin, P. J. Hernes, J. Six, R. Merckx, and A. V. Borges (2012). Organic matter sources, fluxes andgreenhouse gas exchange in the Oubangui River (Congo River basin). Biogeosciences, 9, 2045-2062. doi:10.5194/bg-9-2045-2012

Bouillon, S., R.M. Connolly, and D. P. Gillikin (2012). Use of stable isotopes to understand food webs and ecosystem functioning in estuaries. In: Heip C, Philippart K, & Middelburg JJ (eds) Ecosystem processes in estuaries and coasts. Volume 7 of Wolanski & McLusky (eds) Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science. Elsevier Pages 143-173. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-374711-2.00711-7 email for reprint

Full text reprint §Nerot, C., A. Lorrain, J. Grall, D. P. Gillikin, J.-M. Munaron, H. Le Bris, Y.-M. Paulet (2012). Stable isotope variations in benthic filter feeders across a large depth gradient on the continental shelf. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 96: 228-235. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2011.11.004
Full text reprint Versteegh, E.A.A., D. P. Gillikin and F. Dehairs (2011). Analysis of δ15N values in mollusk shell organic matrix by EA-IRMS without acidification: an evaluation and effects of long-term preservation. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 25: 675-680. doi: 10.1002/rcm.4905
Full text reprint

Cunningham, M. A., K. M. Menking, D. P. Gillikin, S. L. Belli, *C. Freimuth, *K. C. Smith, A. M. Pregnall, M. A. Schlessman, P. Batur, (2010). Influence of open space on water quality in an urban stream. Physical Geography 31:336-356.

Full text reprint
§Poulain, C., A. Lorrain, R. Mas, D. P. Gillikin, F. Dehairs, R. Robert, and Y.-M. Paulet (2010). Experimental shift of diet and DIC stable carbon isotopes: influence on shell δ13C values in the Manila clam Ruditapes philippinarum. Chemical Geology 272: 75-82.
Full text reprint
Schöne, B. R., Z. Zhang, D. Jacob, D. P. Gillikin, T. Tütken, D. Garbe-Schönberg, T. McConnaughey, and A. Soldati (2010). Effect of organic matrices on the determination of the trace element chemistry (Mg, Sr, Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca) of aragonitic bivalve shells (Arctica islandica) – comparison of ICP-OES and LA-ICP-MS data. Geochemical Journal 44: 23-37.
Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P., *K. Hutchinson and *Y. Kumai, (2009). Ontogenic increase of metabolic carbon in freshwater mussel shells (Pyganodon cataracta). Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences 114, G01007,doi:10.1029/2008JG000829.
Full text reprint
Cunningham M. A., C. M. O’Reilly, K. M. Menking, D. P. Gillikin, §K. C. Smith, §C. A. Foley, S. L. Belli, A. M. Pregnall, M. A. Schlessman, and P. Batur (2009). The suburban stream syndrome: evaluating land use and stream impairments in the suburbs. Physical Geography 30: 269-284.
Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P., A. Lorrain, Y.-M. Paulet, L. André, and F. Dehairs, (2008). Synchronous barium peaks in high-resolution profiles of calcite and aragonite marine bivalve shells. Geo-Marine Letters 28: 351-358.
Full text reprint
McConnaughey, T. A. and D. P. Gillikin, (2008). Carbon isotopes in mollusk shell carbonates. Geo-Marine Letters 28: 287-299.
Full text reprint
Gröcke D. R. and D. P. Gillikin, (2008). Advances in mollusc sclerochronology and sclerochemistry: tools for understanding climate and environment. Geo-Marine Letters 28: 265-268.
Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P., A. Lorrain, §L. Meng and F. Dehairs, (2007). A large metabolic carbon contribution to the δ13C record in marine aragonitic bivalve shells. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71: 2936-2946.
Full text reprint
Gillikin D. P. and S. Bouillon (2007) Determination of δ18O of water and δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon using a simple modification of an elemental analyzer – isotope ratio mass spectrometer (EA-IRMS): an evaluation. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 21: 1475-1478.
Full text reprint

Gillikin, D. P., F. Dehairs, A. Lorrain, §D. Steenmans, W. Baeyens, and L. André (2006). Barium uptake into the shells of the common mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the potential for estuarine paleo-chemistry reconstruction. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70: 395-407.

Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P. , A. Lorrain, S. Bouillon, P. Willenz and F. Dehairs, (2006). Stable carbon isotopic composition of Mytilus edulis shells: relation to metabolism, salinity δ13CDIC and phytoplankton. Organic Geochemistry 37: 1371-1382.
Full text reprint
Schöne, B. R., D. L. Rodland, D. M. Surge, J. Fiebig, D. P. Gillikin, S. M. Baier, and A. Goewert (2006). Comment on “Stable carbon isotopes in freshwater mussel shells: Environmental record or marker for metabolic activity?” by J. Geist et al. (2005). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70: 2658-2661.
Full text reprint
Lorrain A., D. P. Gillikin, Y.-M. Paulet, L. Chauvaud, A. Le Mercier, J. Navez, L. André, 2005. Strong kinetic effects on Sr/Ca ratios in the calcitic bivalve Pecten maximus. Geology 33: 965-968. [see our image on the cover]
Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P., F. Dehairs, W. Baeyens, J. Navez, A. Lorrain and L. André, 2005. Inter- and intra-annual variations of Pb/Ca ratios in clam shells (Mercenaria mercenaria): a record of anthropogenic lead pollution? Marine Pollution Bulletin 50: 1530-1540.
Full text reprint

Gillikin, D. P., A. Lorrain, J. Navez, §J. W. Taylor, L. André, E. Keppens, W. Baeyens and F. Dehairs, 2005 . Strong biological controls on Sr/Ca ratios in aragonitic marine bivalve shells. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 6, Q05009, doi:10.1029/2004GC000874.

Full text reprint
Gillikin, D. P., F. De Ridder, §H. Ulens, M. Elskens, E. Keppens, W. Baeyens and F. Dehairs, 2005 . Assessing the reproducibility and reliability of estuarine bivalve shells (Saxidomus giganteus) for sea surface temperature reconstruction: implications for paleoclimate studies. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 228: 70-85.
Full text reprint
[6.98 Mb]
Gillikin, D.P., 2005. Geochemistry of Marine Bivalve Shells: the potential for paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Ph.D. thesis. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, p. 258. [6.98 Mb]
Full text reprint
De Ridder, F., R. Pintelon, J. Schoukens and D. P. Gillikin, 2005. Modified AIC and MDL model selection criteria for short data records. IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement 54 (1): 144-150.
Full text reprint
De Ridder, F., R. Pintelon, J. Schoukens, D. P. Gillikin, L. André, W. Baeyens, A. de Brauwere and F. Dehairs, 2004. Decoding Non-linear Growth Rates in Biogenic Environmental Archives. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 5, Q12015, doi:10.1029/2004GC000771.
Mangrove crab ecology papers
Gillikin, D.P. and C.D. Schubart, 2004. Ecology and systematics of mangrove crabs of the genus Perisesarma (Crustacea: Brachyura: Sesarmidae) from East Africa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 141 (3): 435-445. (a new species of Kenyan mangrove crab)
Gillikin, D.P., B. De Wachter and J.F. Tack, 2004. Physiological responses of two ecologically important Kenyan mangrove crabs exposed to altered salinity regimes. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 301(1):93-109.

Gillikin, D.P. and §C.P. Kamanu, 2005. Burrowing in the East African mangrove crab, Chiromantes ortmanni (Crosnier, 1965) (Decapoda, Bracayura, Sesarmidae). Crustaceana.78: 1273-1275.

Gillikin, D.P., 2004. Osmoregulatory ability of Chiromantes ortmanni (Crosnier, 1965) subjected to dilute and hypersaline seawater. Crustaceana 77(1): 67-74.
Gillikin, D.P., S. De Grave and J.F. Tack, 2001. The occurrence of the semi-terrestrial shrimp Merguia oligodon (De Man, 1888) in Neosarmatium smithi H. Milne Edwards, 1853 burrows in Kenyan mangroves. Crustaceana 74(5): 505-508.

Geology Field Excursion


Contact Information

David P. Gillikin, Ph.D.
Professor of Geology
Department of Geology
Union College
807 Union St
Schenectady, NY 12308

phone: 518-388-6679
fax: 518-388-6417

Perisesarma samawati Gillikin & Schubart 2004

Updated 20-May-2020