Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department
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Assistant Scientist Mak Saito, left, with Ken Buesseler, department chair, in the new trace metal clean lab in the Stanley W. Watson Laboratory. Mak studies trace metals in the oceans, especially their role as micronutrients for marine phytoplankton. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, WHOI)
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Scientists in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department had another busy year in 2005. Staff members could be found throughout the world’s oceans on research cruises, back in the lab analyzing samples and working on new chemical techniques, and using models to understand everything from small-scale geochemical reactions to large-scale global processes. In 2005 four scientists joined the department, adding new and complementary skills.

Marco Coolen arrived from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (Royal NIOZ). With his background in organic geochemistry and microbial biology (from the University of Oldenburg in Germany and the Royal NIOZ) he is one of the few investigators in the world who can look back in time at layers of marine and lake sediments and analyze ancient DNA sequences to learn, at the species level, which microorganisms had been living in the overlying waters at that time. Marco is a pioneer in this challenging new field of paleomicrobiology.

Olivier Rouxel was hired after being one of our WHOI postdoctoral scholars who was sponsored by the Deep Ocean Exploration Institute, having obtained his Ph.D. degree at Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine in France and worked at the University of Cambridge in England. His area of specialty is the application of metal stable isotopes, which are natural chemical signatures that change slightly depending upon the extent of chemical and biological processing. Using special WHOI mass spectrometry facilities managed by Lary Ball, Olivier has applied his skills in isotope geochemistry to look at hydrothermal systems, marine sediments, weathering of rocks, and the biology and chemistry of the ancient oceans.

Dierdre (DeDe) Toole was also a WHOI postdoctoral scholar sponsored by the Ocean and Climate Change Institute. She came from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she studied satellite oceanography, modeling, ocean optics, and analytical techniques to measure climate-relevant gases, in particular one called dimethylsulfide (DMS). These combined skills allow her to study the production by marine plankton of DMS, which may influence both the hydrologic cycle and the global heat budget through its role in cloud formation, and may alter rainfall patterns and temperatures.

Laura Robinson comes to us from a postdoctoral position at California Institute of Technology, following her Ph.D. degree from the University of Oxford. Her studies focus on past records of climate change, recorded in the skeletons of deep-sea corals. Her innovative studies allow us to look at deep ocean circulation in the past by measuring chemical signatures in corals bands, in particular carbon isotopic records from corals that are retrieved via deep ocean dredging or directly from research submersibles such as Alvin.

These scientists join a diverse MC&G scientific staff that study not just the fundamental chemical properties of the ocean, but who use chemical signatures as tracers to learn more about marine biology, geology, and physics, and more broadly, how the ocean and earth work today as well as in the past. These new scientists are a diverse group, from different fields and different countries, trained in some of the top labs in the world. We wish them well as they embark on fruitful WHOI careers.

—Ken Buesseler, Department Chair

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