Martin Medina Elizalde

Martin Medina Elizalde
Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
627 North Pleasant Street
Fields of interest
Climate evolution, Climate Change, Speleogenesis, hydroclimate, Climate Change during the Collapse of the Maya civilization, geochemical proxies in speleothems (i.e. oxygen isotopes, carbon isotopes and trace elements)
Description of scientific projects
My research is currently focused on reconstructing Holocene and Pleistocene
hydroclimate change in the Yucatan Peninsula and Caribbean regions using stable isotopes and trace elemental ratios from cave deposits, namely stalagmites.

In order to understand the fundamental factors that control proxy variability in speleothems we have been leading a monitoring effort of cave environmental and physicochemical conditions in the eastern Yucatan Peninsula for over seven years (Fernanda-Lases et al., GCA 2019 and 2020).

In addition, this year we started a new NSF project to explore the influence of prior calcite precipitation and rainfall amount variability on the trace element and carbon isotopic composition of dripwater and speleothems in the fascinating cave system of Rio Secreto ( The Rio Secreto Natural Reserve, is an extensive semi-inundated cave system located in the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that has been featured in various documentary films, such as Mysteries of the Underworld by NatGeo. Although it is a major tourist destination in the Maya Riviera, less than 5% of the system is currently used to support tourism. We the full support of the Rio Secreto Natural Reserve trustees we have been conducting research in this cave since 2012 and published numerous papers.

The research we conduct in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has been supported so far by three NSF P2C2 collaborative grants (June 2015-June 2024) (NSF Award numbers 1664316, 1702848 and 210298).

Another research project also currently supported by an NSF grant concerns the reconstruction of hydroclimate variability in Cuba using speleothem archives (NSF-Funded, 2019-2022).
My interest in doing research in Cuba is motivated by scientific and cultural reasons.
Predicting future hydroclimate change is one of the greatest challenges for the paleoclimate and modeling communities today. Despite the observed intensification of the hydrological cycle including the increased incidence of drought, flooding and extreme events such as tropical cyclones, the historical record is insufficiently long and uncertain to enable the firm attribution of specific observed extreme hydrological events to an anthropogenic cause and/or to internal modes of climate variability. This project aims at producing multi-proxy stalagmite precipitation records from a Caribbean location, the island of Cuba, and at examining underlying causal mechanisms of extreme tropical hydroclimate change by integration of these records with climate model simulations of the last millennium. This project would provide empirical information of the frequency and magnitude of regional hydroclimate change, perhaps also of tropical cyclones, and on the mechanisms driving this variability before human interference with the climate system. Furthermore, this work will provide the climate context to first human settlements in the Island. I envision facilitating the connection and future collaboration among scientists from the United States, Mexico and Cuba as a means to help reduce the technological and scientific isolation of our Cuban colleagues, while developing projects on the island within the areas of climate, hydrogeology and environmental change.