Skip to main
Atmospheric science

Brittany Hupp Joins AOES Faculty

Brittany Hupp

AOES has academic and research strengths in climate and geology.  It’s newest faculty member, Brittany Hupp, is a geologist who studies sediments, microfossils, geochemistry, and climate.

Dr. Hupp is particularly interested in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense warming around 55 million years ago.  Like today, the PETM was marked by a steep rise in atmospheric CO­2. Understanding how the ocean reacted, back then, to the CO2 release and heat may provide insight into what lies in store for us now. 

A large influx of CO2 into the atmosphere increases the acidity of the ocean, making it difficult for corals and other shelled organisms to grow. At the same time, extreme warming can “bleach” the corals and threaten their survival by killing the algae which provide their energy.

Sediment records contain geochemical and marine fossil clues about the ocean’s chemistry and biology during the PETM.  Dr. Hupp is investigating whether bleaching events occurred among other organisms that hosted algal symbionts during the PETM and how organisms like planktic foraminifera (see photo) cope with oceanic acidification.  Planktic foraminifera are a type of zooplankton whose shell chemistry is often used to reconstruct past conditions.  Hupp is also studying modern planktic foraminifera to better understand how the geochemistry of their fossil shells can be used to reconstruct past ocean conditions. As part of that work, she participated in a NOAA-led cruise in the California Current region this fall.   While at sea, she conducted plankton tows, collected waters samples, and made ocean temperature and salinity measurements.

Brittany Hupp News Item Picture

Dr. Hupp is setting up a lab for geochemistry and micropaleontology at Mason’s Potomac Science Center, located in Belmont Bay near the mouth of the Occoquan River, where she appreciates the “beautiful views and… nice environment to take walking breaks during the work day.”

Scheduled to teach GEOL 403 Geochemistry this spring, Dr Hupp says she’s excited “to bring my research experience and interests into the classroom environment… In all my teaching, I strive for students to be able to connect what they are learning to real world applications and implications.”

A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Dr. Hupp earned an MSc at West Virginia University, and a PhD at University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She was a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University before coming to George Mason.  When not working, Dr. Hupp loves “hiking, fossil hunting, kayaking, playing board games, and spending time with my partner, son, and our many pets.”