Indiana State University Newsroom

South American scholar gets assistance from Indiana State researchers

January 7, 2015

Indiana might not be the first place one would think of to conduct oceanographic research, but for South American doctoral student Jorge Cardich, who has his choice of institutions worldwide, Indiana State University is the perfect spot.

Cardich spent two weeks in Terre Haute recently, collaborating with geology professor Tony Rathburn and his students and examining some samples Rathburn had collected off Costa Rica.

"My main goal was to get more samples for my Ph.D. thesis, and it went all perfect. I also wanted to discuss some of my results with Tony and define better how my work is going," Cardich said. "I work with very small organisms from the sea bottom called benthic foraminifera. My work consists of better understanding their ecology and determining environmental indicators based on the species."

The Costa Rica samples Rathburn has were of particular interest to Cardich, as this area of the ocean is one of the focuses of his research at the prestigious Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, where he is a student.

"The particular oceanic areas where I work are ... characterized by extreme or total oxygen-deficient settings (oxygen minimum zones or OMZ) and are linked to global climate changes through biogeochemical cycles," Cardich said. "How these OMZs have changed in time is the center of attention for paleoceanographers and paleoclimatologists, and we can depict these changes from using benthic foraminifera."

Rathburn and his students say the relationship is mutually beneficial to Sycamores.

"In the lab, we have another graduate student working on a project in an oxygen minimum zone off the coast of California," said Ashley Burkett, a spatial and earth sciences doctoral student in Rathburn's lab. "I think this is a great opportunity for both of them to have some good conversations with other students focused on the same area of research."

Burkett of Toledo, Ohio, helped collect some of the samples Cardich examined and based her master's research and an important portion of her dissertation on other samples collected in the same region.

"When I first arrived at ISU, I assisted another student in picking a sample from the Costa Rican oxygen minimum zone," she said. "The memories of picking those samples still stick with me. There were so many foraminifera in the sample, I was just amazed!"

This is Cardich's second visit to Indiana State. Rathburn and Cardich met at a foraminifera conference in Germany when Cardich was a masters student in Peru. That encounter prompted him to train in Rathburn's lab in 2012, and in 2013, Rathburn gave a weeklong workshop in Peru for South American graduate students, including Cardich. Rathburn has also served as an advisor for Cardich's graduate work, both master's and Ph.D.

"The U.S.A. brings many benefits to me talking about science. For my working area, I can tell that most of the high-level institutions, universities and laboratories and scientists are located here," Cardich said. "I (revere) Tony for his support and admire him for all the work he's done. He's always been a really excellent person, professor and friend."

As serious as Rathburn, his students and Cardich are about their research, the visit wasn't entirely confined to the lab.

"We have tried to show him around Terre Haute while he is here," Burkett said. "We managed to go to the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra Christmas performance, visit the reindeer at the Vigo County public library and visit friends at 7th and Elm."

During his last visit, Cardich tried his hand at snowboarding. It didn't go so well, he said with a laugh, so this time, they skipped that excursion.

"We introduced him to some winter comfort foods," Burkett said. "He has tried three different types of chili (spicy, sweet and Cincinnati style), homemade chicken pot pie, apple cider, and even homemade pumpkin pie!"


Photos: -- Visiting scholar Jorge Cardich, far left, poses with geology professor Tony Rathburn, third from left, and some of his students. (Rachel Keyes/Indiana State University Photography Services) -- Tony Rathburn, right, professor of geology at Indiana State University, talks about research samples with visiting scholar Jorge Cardich. (Rachel Keyes/Indiana State University Photography Services) -- Tony Rathburn, right, professor of geology at Indiana State University, talks about fossils in the marble of Federal Hall with visiting scholar Jorge Cardich. (Rachel Keyes/Indiana State University Photography Services)

Contact: Tony Rathburn, professor of geology at Indiana State, 812-237-2269 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or