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Bruce Finney

Bruce Finney, Ph.D.

Paleoecology, Climatic Change, Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry

Office: Life Sciences 256

(208) 282-4318



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Curriculum Vitae


ISU Stable Isotope Laboratory

Lab: Physical Sciences 350

(208) 282-5867

We analyze biological, geological, archeological and other samples for stable isotopes to promote interdisciplinary research.


BIOL 6608 - Stable Isotopes in Environmental Research
BIOL 4491 - Senior Seminar
BIOL 6691 -  Proposal writing/presentation
BIOL 6692 - Climatic change/stable isotope
BIOL 4499/6608-  Stable Isotopes in Environmental Science

Biographical Sketch

Bruce Finney grew up in Minnesota and received a BS in Geology from the University of Minnesota in 1979. PhD (1986) research at Oregon State University focused on paleoceanography of the Equatorial Pacific over the last several glacial-interglacial cycles. Postdoctoral research at Duke University centered on the paleoclimatic history of East African rift-valley lakes. He was a Professor at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks from 1991-2007, and is currently a Professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences at Idaho State University. His current research focus is on the paleoclimatic history of the North Pacific region from the last ice age to the present, and the effects of such changes on regional marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. He has applied stable isotope and paleolimnological techniques to salmon systems in Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest to help understand the influences of climate change and human activity on salmon abundance.

Research Sketch

I’m an interdisciplinary scientist with broad research interests and experiences centered on the region of the North Pacific Ocean and surrounding continental areas. My general research theme is to understand past and future climatic and environmental changes, and their effects on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, in this region. Some of the fields my research encompasses include climatology and long-term climate history (paleoclimatology), oceanography and limnology, biogeochemistry and stable isotope analysis, and aquatic and terrestrial ecology and paleoecology. The time period I’m most interested in is the Holocene, which is the geological time period since the end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago. Within this period, I seek to understand changes over annual, decadal and centennial time scales. This temporal focus is based on my desire to produce research relevant to human concerns and timescales of human lifetimes, with a belief that the environmental challenges facing society, policy makers and managers require a strong scientific basis and understanding.

My research has been motivated by the growing awareness, since about the late 1990s, of important connections between the climate state of the Pacific region, and environmental and ecosystem conditions across widespread geographic areas. As the climate system shifts between different states, such as El Niño/La Niña or the modes of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which last from years to decades, characteristic patterns in regional climate and animal populations occur. During some periods for example, snowpack and stream flow decrease in Idaho but increase in Alaska, and the abundance of salmon decreases in the Pacific Northwest while it increases in Alaska and Japan. These are but some examples of the spatial and temporal patterns that can be explained in the context of a broad climatic framework. My research seeks to develop a more complete picture of such patterns over a longer time period than provided by historical records, and to better understand processes important in driving these connections.

One important component of my research program is to develop long-term records of climatic change in the Pacific region. In the age of significant human influence on the earth system, it is also important to understand anthropogenic impacts. Research along this theme includes understanding human-related nitrogen input to North America, and the transport of ocean-derived pollutants to streams by spawning salmon. Finally, my research on how ecosystems respond to climatic change ranges in its scope from algae, salmon and sea otters in the ocean to vegetation on land and fish in lakes. This research theme includes my novel use of nitrogen stable isotopes to reconstruct past abundance of Pacific salmon from sediment core analysis.

One of my research accomplishments at ISU involves my primary role in developing and managing the Idaho State University Stable Isotope Laboratory as part of the Center for Archaeology, Materials, and Applied Spectroscopy (CAMAS), for which I am assistant director. A key goal in directing this laboratory is to facilitate research for faculty, postdocs and students on campus through the integration of stable isotope techniques into research and classroom teaching. The laboratory has provided data for many faculty, postdocs and students in multiple departments on campus, and plays an important role in classroom teaching.


1987, Ph.D., Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
1979, B.S. Geology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Postdoctoral research topic: Paleoclimate

Selected Publications

2015 Early human use of anadromous salmon in North America at 11,500 y ago. Halffman, C.M., Potter, B.A., McKinney, H.J., Finney, B.P, Rodrigues, A.T., Yang, D. and Kemp, B.M. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112: 12344-12348.

2013 Centennial-scale fluctuations and regional complexity characterize Pacific salmon population dynamics over the last five centuries. Rogers, L.A., Schindler, D.E., Lisi, P.J., Holtgrieve, G.W., Leavitt, P.R., Bunting, L., Finney, B.P., Selbie, D.T., Chen, G., Gregory-Eaves, I., Lisac, M.J. and Walsh, P.B. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110: 1750–1755.

2012 1500-year quantitative reconstruction of winter precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. Steinman, B.A., Abbott, M.B., Mann, M.E., Stansell, N.D. and Finney, B.P. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 11619-11623.

2011 A coherent signature of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition to remote watersheds of the Northern Hemisphere. Holtgrieve, G.W., Schindler, D.E., Hobbs, W.O., Leavitt, P.R., Ward, E.J., Bunting, L., Chen, G., Finney, B.P., Gregory-Eaves, I., Holmgren, S., Lisac, M.J., Lisi, P.J., Nydick. K., Rogers, L.A., Saros, J.E., Selbie, D.T., Shapley, M.D., Walsh, P.B., and Wolfe, A.P. Science 334: 1545-1548.

2002 Fisheries productivity in the northeastern Pacific Ocean over the past 2,200 years. Finney, B.P., Gregory-Eaves, I., Douglas, M.S.V. and Smol, J.P. Nature 416: 729-733.

2000 Impacts of Climatic Change and Fishing on Pacific Salmon Abundance Over the Past 300 Years. Finney, B.P., Gregory-Eaves, I., Sweetman, J., Douglas, M.S.V. and Smol, J. Science 290: 795-799.