Researcher Spotlight

Researcher Spotlight: Lauren Shumaker











Ph.D. Candidate Stanford University

I investigate deep-marine sediment transport processes in modern and ancient systems, particularly in New Zealand.

Where and in what field did you receive your B.S., M.S. and/or Ph.D.? 

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Earth Sciences & Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Why should everyone be interested in your research?

The deep ocean is among the next big frontiers in geosciences research. There is so much still to be discovered and understood, yet there is also a foundation of incredible work to build on, with new discoveries – and new questions – coming out all the time. My research on submarine gullies is aimed at understanding how and why they form, and whether the presence or absence of gullies on a slope tells us anything about the types of flows and processes acting on that region. This kind of information can be used for predicting and mitigating hazards for submarine infrastructure, finding potential hydrocarbon reservoirs in offshore settings, and investigating submarine ecosystems and micro-environments.

What excites you about scientific research?

One thing I love about research is knowing that I am contributing – in some small way – to our understanding of the Earth. Even though my projects are tiny postage stamps on a vast world, there is a thrill in exploring new areas and producing data that simply did not exist before. I also thrive on the frequent opportunities to experience something completely new and different, from field work on the beach in New Zealand to sediment core processing on a ship offshore Mexico.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Earth Science?

I stumbled into Earth Science about halfway through college, and immediately fell in love with the excitement and satisfaction of learning about the world around me. I was amazed at how much more there was to see in a beautiful landscape, and how much I had missed on hikes and road trips (how could I ever have thought roadcuts were ugly!). The visual, three-dimensional puzzle-solving nature of classical geology problems appealed to my artistic side, and as with many geologists, the opportunities to do field work had me hooked. I’ve had some incredible life experiences thanks to geology, and I can’t wait to create those opportunities for others.

Given unlimited funding, what research project would your pursue?

This is a very exciting time to be working on deep-marine sediment transport systems. With unlimited funds and access to the latest technology, I would acquire high-resolution bathymetry, subsurface profiles, and densely spaced drill cores across an entire submarine canyon-channel-fan system. It would be incredible to have even one example of a deep-marine system well documented from top to bottom. The cherry on top would be to have instrumentation in place to record modern turbidity currents and other events as they happen.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of your work?

Art has been a hobby throughout my life – particularly painting and drawing, and more recently ceramics. I also enjoy hiking and rock climbing, and adventuring with my partner in crime and our ridiculously adorable dog.


This is a photo looking south along the coastal exposures in part of my field area, in the Waikato district of New Zealand. The beaches are all public, but many are in remote areas or accessible only through private land, so we frequently had the whole beach to ourselves while working.

Photo Credit: Samuel Johnstone

To learn more about Lauren, check out her website at:

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