Geochemist, Ph.D.

Hi, I’m Claire Nelson and I am a geochemist studying carbon capture and storage using basalt.


My Story

 Born in Oregon, I spent the first few years of my life frolicking around the Columbia River Gorge, until at age 8, my family moved to a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico called Culebra. Because of my good fortune of spending most of my young life outdoors, I was instilled with a deep connection with and curiosity towards the natural world.

This passion blossomed at Union College in upstate NY into an undergraduate career marked by environmental activism and outdoor sports. During college, most of my energy was focused on skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking my way through the Adirondacks and Vermont, which eventually led me to a Bachelors degree in Geology.

Prior to entering the science world, I dipped my toes into the world of outdoor education. I spent six months teaching science and leading backpacking and canyoneering trips for High Mountain Institute, in Leadville, Colorado. Much of my time there was spent learning how to be a teacher in an experiential education setting. I then returned to the Pacific Northwest to teach science for Cascade Mountain School, where I led mountaineering trips on Mt. Adams.

My field experience then led me to work for Andy Jacobson as a part of Northwestern University’s PhD Program, where my dissertation research was focused in Iceland. My project involves using specialized geochemical tools to quantify sequestration rates of atmospheric carbon dioxide through a natural process called weathering. When not in the field in Iceland, I spent my time processing my samples in the Stable and Radiogenic Isotope Clean Laboratory at Northwestern.

My interest in basalt weathering and the carbon cycle led me to pursue a career in carbon capture and storage. I recently began a job as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. My work at LDEO is mainly focused on optimizing and developing monitoring methods for carbon storage in basalt. Carbon storage in basalt essentially speeds up the basalt weathering process that happens in nature (the focus of my PhD) to mineralize CO2 into solid carbonate underground within basaltic formations.  This geoengineering strategy was demonstrated to be successful in Iceland by CarbFix and in the Columbia River Gorge by the Pacific Northwest National Lab. At LDEO we are focussing on scaling this to offshore basalt.

Please feel free to contact me. I am available for consulting.