Photo: Joris Gieskes family

Joris Gieskes: 1934-2024

Marine chemist with near-60-year affiliation with Scripps remembered as beloved mentor, colleague

Joris Gieskes, a marine chemist affiliated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego for nearly six decades, died May 19, 2024 at his home in Del Mar, Calif. He was 90.

Gieskes was an expert in the geochemistry of marine sediments and pore water – water trapped in pores of rock or soil. He had taught and mentored dozens of students since he arrived at Scripps Oceanography as an assistant professor in 1967. His 2018 induction as an American Geophysical Union fellow recognized him “for his pioneering contributions to understanding chemical processes in the ocean, sediment and basalt through pore water analyses and ocean drilling.”

But colleagues remembered Gieskes even more for his unflagging good humor and patience as a teacher and administrator. 

“I only remember him being supportive, he never got angry with anyone working under him,” said Timothy Shaw, a biogeochemist at the University of South Carolina who received his doctorate from Scripps in 1988. “He could sense when we were stressed about some test or experiment and he provided calm guidance and more often than not, a fresh loaf of homemade bread to lift our spirits.”

Joris Gieskes (left) with colleague Miriam Kastner and student Douglas Kent in an undated photo from the 1970s
Joris Gieskes (left) with colleague Miriam Kastner and student Douglas Kent in 1978. The international Ocean Drilling Program pore waters program "would not have survived without [Gieskes'] continuous oversight," Kastner said. 

Gieskes formally retired from Scripps Oceanography in 2004 but was recalled to active duty the following year. In addition, he remained a fixture on campus as the organizer of the Tsaihwa “James” Chow lecture series named for  Tsaihwa J. Chow, a geochemist with a long association with Scripps.  

Additionally Gieskes remained an active researcher into the present day, serving as a co-author on papers yet to be published. 

“I am now revising our recently submitted manuscript regarding lithium cycling in the Hikurangi margin sediments,” said Min Luo, a geochemist at Shanghai Ocean University in China. “We had a lot of discussion on the pore-water lithium isotope data back and forth, and it is a shame that he could not see the paper published as lithium is one of his favorite elements.”

Gieskes was born April 23, 1934 in Helmond, Netherlands. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1960, and a masters degree in 1961 and PhD in 1964 from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. 

Survivors include wife Barbara Gieskes of Del Mar, Calif., son Edward Gieskes of Columbia, S.C., son Mick Gieskes of Del Mar, Calif., daughter Deirdre Wilson of Knoxville, Tenn. and daughter Eileen Stoffel of Riverside, Calif.

Memorial service arrangements are pending.




“It is extremely sad that we lost Prof. Joris Gieskes who is not only an extraordinary marine geochemist, but also a very kind and thoughtful colleague. My first contact with Joris dates back to 2012 when I was a doctoral candidate. Since 2015, we have been collaborating on several projects although he has retired for many years. His extensive knowledge, curiosity, and personal integrity have been inspiring me throughout my scientific career. 

He has so many important scientific discoveries and accomplishments in the field of low-temperature geochemistry, and one of his greatest scientific contributions is his leading role in pore-water geochemistry in the Deep Sea Drilling/Ocean Drilling Program. He was elected an AGU fellow in 2018 for his pioneering contributions to understanding chemical processes in the ocean and sediment/rock through pore-water analyses and ocean drilling. As an early-career scientist, I felt extremely honored for being invited to his AGU Fellow Banquet.

I feel extremely lucky to have been collaborating with him for the past ten years, and I will always remember him.”  Min Luo, Shanghai Ocean University, China



“I don't think I will ever forget the good times we spent together with Joris in Venice. I learned all about the passion for science, joy of small discoveries and fun of geochemistry from Joris. The direction I learned from him always makes a good compass during my difficult times. I think I will always remember him and his kind smile.” – Seunghee Han, ​​Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea


“I was aboard R/V Thomas Washington going across the North Pacific, standing side-by-side with Joris doing calcium titrations. During the first half of the cruise, in particular, we went through a fair number of storms and rocky days at sea. In my office, I still have a picture of Joris sitting in front of our shipboard lab apparatus….I had set up a bottle on a string for the picture so as to show that ‘down’ wasn’t exactly ‘down’ when the ship rolled. On one of those rocky days, Joris was his usual bright, cheerful self (or do I mean ‘himself’). This caused the chief scientist, as Joris passed by, to comment to a couple of us that “On every cruise there always seems to be one person who, on the stormiest of days, can walk down the passageway singing ‘Stormy Weather’ at the top of his lungs.” That, indeed, was Joris and our lives are better for it.”  – Alan Shiller, University of Southern Mississippi


“When I was his graduate student, I noted that Joris always had a very heavy administrative load and I wondered why he got tagged with so many administrative appointments. Dave Wirth, an administrator at the time, told me that Joris had the remarkable capacity to expedite meetings by making everyone in the room feel that their opinions and viewpoints were heard and valued. Everyone left the meeting happily thinking that the outcome had gone their way. Joris then made his own decision, and no one complained. Joris knew that committee members cared more about voicing their opinion and seldom paid attention to the outcome.” – Timothy Shaw, University of South Carolina


“Joris had a sharp sense of humor, mixing English with some Latin and Dutch words...always with a good deep laugh. I had the pleasure to lead the SIOSED-Venice project, in which Joris was involved. During the project, he studied how sediment extracted from the depth of the Venice lagoon to build the MOSE gates would leach/release elements that were potentially toxic to the ecosystem. His work included extracting water from sediment cores and analyzing the chemistry of the water. For this, he used spectrophotometric measurements. Something very characteristic of Joris: He would only work with "his” machine, which was old and manual with nothing digital in it. He would not do research without it and as such, this instrument went back and forth between Scripps and Venice! Another typical trait of Joris, aside from his very personalized giggling, was his way to say goodbye. "Cheerio" was the word. Cheerio to you Joris. It was an honor to get to work with you and get to know you personally!” – Dimitri Deheyn, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego


"I was fortunate to know and work with Joris Gieskes for many years in the 1990s and 2000s.  As a benthic biologist who recognizes that geochemistry often drives the structure of deep seafloor ecosystems, it was easy to form collaborations with Joris. We shared many cruises and projects investigating methane seeps and other slope settings. Joris always provided critical scene-setting data.  We often ran into each other in the hallways of Sverdrup. 
Every day of every year, Joris was kind, cheerful and encouraging to me, in good times and bad.  I already miss his smile and can-do attitude.  Joris - I’m sure you are lighting things up wherever you are." Lisa Levin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

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