Geology & Earth Science

Geology & Earth Science Experts

Tom Suchanek

Scientist Emeritus
The U.S. Geological Survey
United States Virgin Islands


Trained as a coastal marine ecologist, Tom Suchanek is currently a Scientist Emeritus with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC:, having recently completed a climate change impacts project as Climate Change Science Coordinator for the USGS Southwest Climate Science Center based in Tucson, AZ. In January 2014 he retired from his position as Research Manager, Lead Scientist and Climate Change Science Coordinator with WERC. Until 2014 he also served on the Action Coordination Team of the West Coast Governor’s Council on Ocean Health which is addressing, among other issues, climate change impacts to coastal and estuarine ecosystems on the west coast. Tom spent 20 years as a Research Ecologist and Lecturer at the University of California @ Davis where he also served as the Western Regional Director of the Department of Energy’s National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC) for eight years from 1994-2001. While at the University of California @ Davis, the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Lab and the West Indies Lab (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands), he taught several environmental courses including: Principles of Ecology, Quantitative Field Ecology, Biological Oceanography, Marine Biology, Marine Invertebrate Zoology, Natural History of Marine Invertebrates, Ecology of Coral Reef Communities, Biology of Tropical Marine Invertebrates, Tropical Field Ecology, and Conflicts Over Ocean Resource Use. Tom maintains Research Associate appointments at UC Davis with both the Bodega Marine Laboratory and the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. He has produced over 150 publications, including peer reviewed journal articles, reports and a book.

Research Interest

Climate Change: Tom Suchanek is currently Scientist Emeritus with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) in Sacramento, CA and recently retired from the position of Climate Science Coordinator for the USGS Southwest Climate Science Center based in Tucson, AZ. Tom has been actively engaged in developing research opportunities for WERC scientists in the areas of climate change impacts, conservation and adaptive natural resource management. He has also been the USGS liaison to the US Fish & Wildlife Service led California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA-LCC) program, which is co-located with WERC at the California State University campus in Sacramento. Formerly, Tom served as the Western Regional Director of the Department of Energy’s National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC) for eight years from 1994-2001. Tom is currently a member of the Climate Voices Science Speakers Network, providing speakers for public lectures on climate change topics at - One of his previous Climate Science presentations from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife's Climate College Lecture Series can be found at the following URL: (you may need to wait 10-15 sec for the video to start): OR, a different one from the USGS Menlo Park Monthly Public Science Lecture Series A more recent Climate Science presentation can be found at: Coastal Marine Ecology: As a marine ecologist, Tom has research experience in boreal, temperate and tropical marine ecosystems. During the 1970s, he was the first to describe the diverse (300+ species) community of organisms associated with structurally complex beds of the mussel Mytilus californianus along the outer coast of Washington state. He also conducted studies of disturbance processes in intertidal mussel beds in Southeast Alaska during the 1970s and similar processes in Pyura tunicate beds along the coast of Chile in the mid 1980s. Coral Reef Ecology: While resident at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s West Indies Laboratory in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (1979-1982), Tom conducted research on coral reef ecology, evaluating competitive relationships between benthic reef species such as sponges, corals, corallimorphs and zoanthids. To accomplish this he led teams on three extended missions utilizing saturation SCUBA diving operating out of the underwater research facility HYDROLAB in St. Croix. In the early 1980s, he also analyzed the effects of burrowing callianassid and upogebiid shrimp on sediment transport and seagrass bed communities and the influence of similar burrowing shrimp on redistributing radionuclides resulting from the US government’s atom and hydrogen bomb testing program at Enewetak Atoll in Micronesia conducted during the 1950s. As a follow-up to those studies, he conducted three Earthwatch expeditions along the coast of Papua New Guinea in 1985, leading teams of 18 divers to better understand the influence of bioturbation by callianassid and upogebiid shrimp on local coral reef lagoon habitats and communities. During those studies, he also discovered and described a new species of callianassid shrimp, Glypturus motupore (see Poore et al., 1988). Deep Sea Research: In the 1980s, Tom also conducted deep-sea studies in the Caribbean using the manned submersible ALVIN evaluating the diets of sea urchins at 4,000 m depth that derived their nutritional sources and requirements from shallow tropical lagoons. As a part of a team of biologists and geologists, he also described the geology and biological zonation of the reef slope community at Enewetak Atoll in Micronesia to 360 m depth using the University of Hawaii's manned submersible MAKALI’I. Environmental Contaminants: In the 1970s Tom evaluated the impacts of thermal pollution from the Long Island Lighting Company’s LILCO Power Generating Facility on plankton populations in Long Island Sound. And for several years, he documented the impacts of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill on shoreline intertidal and subtidal communities along the Shelikof Strait and Alaska Peninsula in the “Farfield region” outside of Prince William Sound. In addition to the studies on shrimp bioturbation remobilizing radionuclides at Enewetak Atoll (see above), he also analyzed radionuclide concentrations in fishes collected from the Farallon Islands Nuclear Waste Dump Site (30 miles off the California coast from the Golden Gate Bridge) that were destined for seafood markets in the San Francisco Bay region. During the 1990s and 2000s he also led a 15-yr multi- and inter-disciplinary study to analyze mercury cycling and bioaccumulation in Clear Lake, California, the site of the abandoned Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund Site along the shoreline of the lake.


  • Ackerman, J.T., C.A. Eagles-Smith, G.H. Heinz, S.E. De La Cruz, J.Y. Takekawa, A.K. Miles, T.L. Adelsbach, M.P. Herzog, J.D. Bluso-Demers, S.A. Demers, G. Herring, D.J. Hoffman, C.A. Hartman, J.J. Willacker, T.H. Suchanek, S.E. Schwarzbach, and T.C. Maurer. 2014, Mercury in birds of San Francisco Bay-Delta, California —Trophic pathways, bioaccumulation, and ecotoxicological risk to avian reproduction.

  • Pfister, Catherine A., Kaustuv Roy, J. Timothy Wootton, Sophie J. McCoy, Robert T. Paine, Thomas H. Suchanek and Eric Sanford 2016. Historical baselines and the future of shell calcification for a foundation species in a changing ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Vol. 283, Issue 1832, Pg: 2016.0392.

  • Lafferty, Kevin D. and Thomas H. Suchanek 2016. Revisiting Paine’s 1966 Sea Star Removal Experiment, the Most-Cited Empirical Article in the American Naturalist. The American Naturalist 188(4):365-378.

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