Carbonate Critical Zone Research Coordination Network

Lighthouse Cave, San Salvador, Bahamas. Photo Courtesy of Jason Gulley

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Award Dates: 2019- 2023


Project Lead: Jonathan Martin (University of Florida) Project Participants: Wendy Graham, Paloma Carton de Grammont (University of Florida), Pamela Sullivan (University of Kansas), Matt Covington (University of Arkansas), Laura Toran (Temple University), Jennnifer Macalady (Pennsylvania State University), James Heffernan (Duke University). Webpage:

Goals and Objectives

The Earth’s Critical Zone, defined as the region from the tops of the trees to the bottom of the groundwater, provides life-sustaining resources including food production, water quality, and other ecosystem services.  Over the last decade the National Science Foundation funded Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) network has transformed our  understanding of how critical zone (CZ) processes regulate the production of these services. However, none of the CZOs within the network occur in landscapes underlain by carbonate bedrock (which cover about a quarter of Earth’s land surface), limiting the development of a holistic understanding of CZ processes. This project creates a Carbonate Critical Zone Research Coordination network (RCN) that aims to integrate transdisciplinary investigators studying disparate carbonate-rich CZ’s and foster collaboration among these investigators and existing CZO network participants. To do so the project will: (1) Compile available data and models stemming from current research to identify critical knowledge gaps and develop forward-looking research questions and testable hypotheses. (2) Convene workshops, in the field and at major disciplinary conferences.  Three field workshops will occur in distinct carbonate regions that cross gradients of rock age, climate, and tectonism and will integrate across disciplinary boundaries.  Two conference workshops will focus on specific disciplines associated with the particular conference (e.g., geological, hydrological, ecological) and will include special sessions and roundtable discussions across multiple carbonate CZs. (3) Build capacity in state of the art techniques used to study carbonate CZs within the broad CZ scientific community. (4) Use data compilation, workshop participation, and training to advance understanding of properties and processes across all CZs. Outcomes of this RCN will include improved understanding of how relative amounts of carbonate and silicate minerals may cause different CZ properties and processes between regions.  Human capital will be developed through research collaborations created during workshops and through training.  Participants will be recruited to project activities with a focus on diverse disciplinary expertise, research geographical area, career stage, and demographics.  A special effort will be made to increase diversity of participants via members of the steering committee who have interests in expanding inclusivity and by outreach to sections of various major societies aimed at increasing inclusivity along with various smaller societies with primary missions of fostering diversity in STEM fields.  Outcomes will be disseminated among the CZ research community through workshop reports, a series of three peer-reviewed papers, and the project website.