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WHOI scientist named as new Geochemistry Fellow by Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry

Dr. Ken Buesseler has been selected as a Geochemistry Fellow by the Geochemical Society (GS) and the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG). Buesseler shown in the lab of the R/V Sarmiento de Gamboa in May 2021, where as Chief Scientist he was organizing the daily activities on this study of the ocean’s carbon cycle. This was part of a three-ship field program in the Northeast Atlantic sponsored by NASA and WHOI’s Ocean Twilight Zone project. Photo by Marley Parker © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole, MA – Dr. Ken Buesseler, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been selected as a Geochemistry Fellow by the Geochemical Society (GS) and the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG). The Geochemistry Fellow honor is bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have made major contributions to the geochemistry field. Dr. Buesseler was selected for his innovative contributions to studying cycling of radionuclides in the ocean and their application to the study of the biological carbon pump.

A marine radiochemist, Buesseler is an esteemed, trusted source for knowledge on the fate and distribution of radioactive elements in the ocean. Buesseler’s studies have revealed how those radioactive elements reveal information on how fast transformation processes take place at sea. His lab has been active in response to radioactivity released from disasters such as the impact of radioactivity released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, as well as Chernobyl and atomic weapons testing at the Marshall Islands.

Buesseler leads a research team known as Cafe Thorium, analyzing marine radioactive elements in seawater, seafloor and marine “snow” particles. He also serves as director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Marine Radioactivity, a WHOI team dedicated to increasing scientific and public understanding of the sources, fate, and consequences of natural and human-made radioactive substances in the environment, in particular the oceans.

An important research interest of Buesseler’s is the assessment of the ocean’s role in regulating climate and to what degree ocean carbon dioxide removal might be enhanced in a responsible and quantifiable way. Applications of Buesseler’s expertise include studies of the ocean carbon cycle where naturally occurring thorium isotopes tell us how fast and how much carbon is carried on sinking particles from the sunlit surface ocean, through the ocean twilight zone, to the deep sea. He recently co-authored a United States National Academies study of ocean-based carbon dioxide removal options which proposes a research strategy to move forward.

“I am honored by this recognition. As we continue to confront the growing climate crisis, we need to access every tool possible. The distribution of radioactive elements in the ocean can tell us more about the ocean's role in climate and how it is changing over time,” said Buesseler.

The GS is a nonprofit scientific society founded to encourage the application of geochemistry to improving our understanding of the Earth and solar system. The GS community integrates fields including organic geochemistry, high and low-temperature geochemistry, petrology, meteoritics, fluid-rock interaction, and isotope geochemistry.

Twenty-six years ago, the GS and EAG jointly established the honorary title of Geochemistry Fellow. In awarding this Fellow title, the GS and EAG say that “excellence should not be limited to major discoveries and ideas that change paradigms, and not solely evaluated on the basis of the number of papers published in high-impact journals; nor the amount of funding acquired.” Instead, their selection for Fellows is rooted in scientific eminence, achievement, and impact.

The Fellows will be presented at the Goldschmidt Conference in Honolulu in July 2022.




About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its mission is to understand the ocean and its interactions with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of ocean data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge to inform people and policies for a healthier planet. For more information, please visit