Karla Hubbard

  • Professor of Geosciences


  • BA, Beloit College, 1983
  • MS, University Rochester, 1987
  • PhD, University Rochester, 1993

My main research focus has been on the processes of preservation (taphonomy), particularly of molluscs and echinoderms. I have been a member of a larger research group studying modern processes such as dissolution, epibiont overgrowth, and mechanical destruction of shells in a wide variety of environments from the shallow shelf, to the deep continental slope in both the Gulf of Mexico and in the Bahamas.

Our research group is called the Shelf and Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative (SSETI). The goal of this research is to understand the timing of fossilization processes on the continental shelf. An important way to do this is to measure destructive processes in modern settings and extrapolate to ancient fossil assemblages.

Our experiments were placed on the bottom by submersible in 1993 and have been collected at regular intervals since then. Our last collection was in 2006 after 13 years of exposure on the seafloor.

As an extension of this research, I have developed an interest in the paleoecologic implications for encrusting organisms and bacteria and fungi that bore into shells. They may prove to be excellent indicators of paleobathymetry, nutrient levels, and other physical and chemical conditions acting on any particular organism during its life and after it dies and becomes fossilized.

Other research interests include hurricane effects on tropical coastlines including impacts on coral reefs, beaches, and the overall sediment budget in reef systems. I am also working on the ecology and paleoecology of hydrocarbon seeps and brine seeps. This interest also stems from my work with the SSETI project, where some of our experiments are running near seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, I have done some comparative work on Cretaceous hydrocarbon seeps of the Pierre Shale exposed in Colorado.


Karla Hubbard and Jennifer Fraser co-author article on experiential learning trip to Indonesia

April 23, 2021

Professor of Geology Karla Hubbard and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Anthropology Jennifer Fraser co-authored an article about a 2018 winter term trip that was supported by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment and Oberlin Shansi. The article, “'Natural'” Disasters, Cultural Framings, and Resilience in Indonesia: Transdisciplinary Engagements in an Immersion Program" is published in ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts


Reunifying Oberlin’s Natural History Collection

August 29, 2017

Associate Professor of Anthropology Amy Margaris ’96 along with other faculty and staff members on campus are working to digitize the college’s many “dangling collections”—objects and specimens spread across various campus buildings that at one time had a home in the college’s natural history museum.

Observing the Ocean

December 1, 2015

Eint Kyi ’15 spends her days surrounded by her field of study as she pursues a master’s degree in oceanography at the University of Hawaii.

Cultivating Women in STEM

August 6, 2014

A summer research grant from Alcoa Foundation supports student-faculty collaborations in STEM fields