Ruth Blake named Edward P. Bass (BS ’67, ARTA ’72) Professor

Blake is a leading marine and environmental biogeochemist and geomicrobiologist. She joined the Yale faculty in 2000.
Ruth Blake
Ruth Blake

Ruth Blake, a leading marine and environmental biogeochemist and geomicrobiologist, was recently appointed the Edward P. Bass (BS ’67, ARTA ’72) Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and professor of chemical engineering and environment. The appointment was effective July 1, 2023.

She is a member of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, and also has appointments in the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science and Yale School of the Environment.

Blake, who joined the Yale faculty in 2000, is a graduate of Wayne State University, where she earned a B.S. in geology. She also holds an M.S. in hydrogeology from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from the University of Michigan.

A marine and environmental biogeochemist, geomicrobiologist, and planetary scientist, Blake is an expert in the fields of aqueous geochemistry, stable isotope geochemistry, and microbiology, and is particularly well known for her work on phosphorous cycling, water-rock-microbial interactions, and DNA thermometry.

Her research has greatly increased our understanding of biological and chemical activity in the oceans, sediments, and soils and illuminated the ancient history of Earth’s biosphere as well as provided new methods for detecting extraterrestrial life. In 2002, she received the F.W. Clarke Medal from the Geochemical Society, recognizing her work showing how isotopes of oxygen in phosphates are indicators of specific microbial activities. Her group is responsible for developing new methods to study the phosphorus cycle and to trace transformations of phosphorus compounds. Blake’s recent discovery of temperature recorded in the phosphate backbone of DNA allows for the application of oxygen isotope thermometry for all cells and tissues in all forms of life.

In 2022, a newly discovered bacterial phylum, Blakebacterota, was named in her honor, as one of a set of “contemporary female scientists that have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the deep ocean.”

In addition to her scientific achievements, she is well known for her exceptional work in public education and outreach and in the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) space, for which she was awarded the FAS Dean’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging last year.

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