Paula Noble

Geological Sciences and Engineering Department Chair, Professor
Photo of Paula Noble outside


My research focuses on the combined use of siliceous microfossils (radiolarians, diatoms) and sedimentary geochemistry to answer questions about the age of rocks, the evolution and extinction of fossil marine plankton, as well as understanding past climate, anthropogenic impacts, and natural disturbances in mountain lakes.

Radiolarian lab: I have used Paleozoic radiolarians for over 30 years as a biostratigraphic tool to aid in structural and stratigraphy of complex orogenic regions. Current radiolarian work, however, is focusing on the last 10 Ma of radiolarian biodiversity in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific.

Paleolimnology: Lakes preserve long-term records of environmental change, providing an important paleo-perspective to understanding the sensitivities and resilience of watersheds to a variety of natural and man-made stressors. The signals from lake records can extend our knowledge of significant environmental change back in time, well beyond the limits afforded by instrumental records. Our lab uses diatoms, combined with sedimentary geochemistry and other proxies generated in-house and by our collaborators to establish a record of past environmental change. Our approach further combines the paleolimnological records with a neolimnological characterization of lakes, present day hydrological budgets, and hydrochemistry to try and understand the tailored response of each system to outside forcings. Recently, we have begun tracking the occurrence of prehistoric earthquakes in lake records, while trying to understand how seismic events can affect groundwater chemistry and spring discharge that enters these lakes.

Research interests

  • Diatoms and diatomite
  • Paleolimnology
  • Paleoseismicity Triassic ichthyosaurs Luning Formation
  • Paleozoic radiolaria

Courses taught

  • GEOL 101 Physical Geology
  • GEOL 102 Historical Geology
  • GEOL 461/661 Paleobiology
  • GEOL 462/662 Micropaleontology
  • GEOL 763 Paleolimnology


  • Ph.D. 1993, The University of Texas at Austin; geology
  • B.A. 1985, University of California Berkeley; paleontology

Select publications