Graduate Studies in Chemical/Geological Oceanography

The chemical and geological oceanography faculty includes Zofia Baumann, William Fitzgerald (emeritus), Julie GrangerDavid Lund, Cara Manning, Rob Mason, Samantha SiedleckiAnnelie SkoogCraig TobiasPieter Visscher, and Penny Vlahos.

A common denominator for the faculty is a cross-disciplinary approach – all professors in the group use geology, chemistry, biology and physics to understand chemical and geological processes in the complex natural environment. The research interests in the group include environmental chemistry and cycling of mercury and other trace elements, organic geochemistry, evaluation of the rates of transport and reaction in aqueous systems, nutrient cycling inferred from stable isotopic tracers, and the microbial dynamics of nutrient transformations, air-sea gas exchange and sensor development. Additionally, there is a focus on the geomicrobiology of mineral formation, paleo-reconstruction of the past biosphere and climate system, trace gas production in microbial mats, modeling of organic matter distributions, and marine geology and tectonics.

Chemical and geological oceanography includes both field and laboratory work. The group works in a range of environments, from the cold of the Arctic to the heat of hydrothermal environments and tropical areas, from the open ocean to coastal environments. Analytical techniques used include high-performance liquid-chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography (GC), a range of trace metal analytical systems, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), spectrophotometry, fluorometry, micro-electrodes, GC-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), isotope ratio mass spectrometry,  ICP with infra-red detection (ICP-IR) and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The group also uses many more chemical instruments belonging to the Suspended Matter Analysis Laboratory for Education and Research, an NSF-funded facility housed in the department.  Five clean rooms, ranging from class 10,000 to class 100, are available. The clean rooms make it possible to carry out sensitive trace analysis of metals and organic materials.

Two of the four primary core courses (Chemical and Geological Oceanography) that are requirements for all students within the department, are taught every year. Furthermore, a more advanced level Chemical Oceanography class is also taught every year. Other classes are taught regularly on a two year rotation, as indicated below. In addition to these regularly scheduled courses, additional courses are taught as needed, based on student interest, and are listed in the catalog, or taught as special topics classes.


MARN 5030 Chemical Oceanography
The course covers the composition, origin and solution chemistry of sea water and the marine biogeochemical cycles of salts, major elements (C,N,O,P,S), trace elements and gases. Their distributions and transfer in the marine environment are understood using fundamental concepts of chemical equilibria, rates, REDOX, partitioning, ocean circulation, biological cycles and crustal exchanges. Students will review major contributions in chemical oceanography and become familiar with current tools such as CO2SYS, BCO-DMO and Chemical Atlases. Offered every year in the Fall semester. This is a core course for the Marine Sciences graduate program.

MARN 5032 Coastal Pollution and Bioremediation
An overview of processes and compounds leading to pollution in the nearshore marine environment. The impact of pollution on marine foodwebs and its response is emphasized. Alleviation of pollution through metabolism of organisms, including bacteria, sea grasses and salt marshes is discussed.

MARN 5036 Advanced Chemical Oceanography
The focus is the major global biogeochemical cycles of the major elements, nutrients, gases, organic matter and trace elements and the impact of climate change and ocean acidification. The course will focus on reaction rates, chemical speciation, equilibria, solubility, oxidation-reduction, absorption and complexation. The transfer of substances at the major interfaces (air-sea, sediment-water) and the biogeochemical processes that occur in sediments and hydrothermal systems is discussed.

MARN 5050 Geological Oceanography
Basic concepts in geological oceanography, including the role of plate tectonics in the control of the Earth and ocean system, fundamentals of biosphere-geosphere interaction over geologic timescales, and the reconstruction of past climates using geological archives.  Special emphasis is placed on understanding the long-term evolution of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere.  Offered every year in the Spring semester. This is a core course for the Marine Sciences graduate program.

MARN 5830 Seminar in Chemical Oceanography
A seminar class with readings and discussion of current literature in chemical oceanography. Suitable for graduate and advanced students in oceanography or related field. Instructor consent required. Variable credits. May be repeated for credit.

MARN 5995 Aquatic Organic Geochemistry
The course will focus organic biogeochemistry in the water column of the ocean and sediments, with discussion of pertinent topics related to the production, fate and transport of organic chemicals in marine systems.

MARN 6031 Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry
Survey of seminal literature in stable isotope biogeochemistry, covering theory and applications relating primarily to the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in environmental research. Other isotope systems (sulfur, iron, mercury, etc…) are surveyed cursorily. Classes involve discussion of readings, in-class exercises, and modeling of individual isotope systems.

For more information please contact.
Penny Vlahos Associate Professor of Marine Sciences