Spotlight: Casey Saenger

Research Scientist

Casey campingAs indicated by his austere office furnishing, Casey is a fresh face around JISAO having recently relocated from the mountains and strip malls of Anchorage, Alaska. Casey is a bit of a scientific black sheep at JISAO who explores the biological and environmental variables that control geochemical signals of things like coral skeletons and foraminifera tests. A Venn diagram of his research might have a “paleoclimate” circle and a “biomineralization” circle with the overlapping region occupied by Casey at a mass spec generating red Matlab error messages. His interest in paleoclimate is motivated by the hope that a better understanding of natural climate variability prior to the rise in anthropogenic carbon dioxide will inform forecasts and policy in the near future. Similarly, his biomineralization work hopes that understanding how various organisms calcify will help identify those most vulnerable to threats such as ocean acidification, thermal stress and disease. 

Counter to common belief, Delaware is a real place, and Casey was born there. Humid forests and leaky tents were commonplace, but an interest in the natural world developed in spite of them. Casey followed that interest to Maine where he got a B.S. in Geology from Bates College… and a music minor in true liberal arts fashion. His senior thesis on the paleoenvironmental evolution of lakes in the Canadian Arctic started him down the paleoclimate track. After a couple years at the USGS in Virginia researching Chesapeake Bay, Casey started grad school in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program. Sixty months later he emerged with a long titled thesis (“Low-latitude Western North Atlantic Climate Variability During the Past Millennium: Insights from Proxies and Models”), a scientific Casey divingdiver certification, a taste for smoked bluefish and a fiancée. They got hitched and Casey immediately split town for a postdoc at Yale investigating clumped and magnesium isotopes in corals. Vowing never to live apart again, Casey followed her to Alaska two years later where he taught geology, physics and math at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University.

Casey aspires to a balanced life in which science is complemented by other interests such as mountain biking, hiking, backcountry skiing, boating and jazz saxophone. His excitable yellow lab mix joins him for most of these activities, except jazz… she can’t quite get the embouchure right.