Prof. Kessler and his lab investigate chemical oceanography with an emphasis on isotope biogeochemistry to elucidate methane and carbon dioxide dynamics within the oceanic system as well as across other Earth systems. They are driven to conduct this research by a desire to quantify feedbacks associated with global climate change. The oceanic methane and carbon dioxide systems are not only the largest global reservoirs of these greenhouse gases in active exchange with the atmosphere, but some of the largest global carbon reservoirs. In addition, the oceanic methane system is a dynamic, metastable, and relatively unexplored reservoir that has the potential for large and explosive feedbacks with climate due to the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas.  The research in this lab quantifies the dynamics at the junction of these two greenhouse gas systems.  Analytical chemistry and isotope (radio and stable) biogeochemistry measurements are conducted and used in regional geochemical models to quantify methane and carbon dioxide biogeochemical dynamics. Past projects investigated methane and carbon dioxide biogeochemistry in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaskan Arctic and Subarctic, Cariaco Basin, Black Sea, and Southern California Bight focusing on such natural features as methane clathrate hydrates, subsea permafrost, and hydrocarbon seeps as well as the biochemical processes in the water column that may enhance or limit its atmospheric release. Overall, the long term goal of this laboratory is to study the dynamics at the junction of the oceanic methane and carbon dioxide systems especially with respect to climate change.

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Our laboratory takes a 3-pronged approach to research.

  1. At sea, we collect natural oceanographic samples for chemical and isotopic analyses.  These samples are used to constrain biogeochemical processes.  
  2. We simulate natural biogeochemical processes in the lab.  Since the ocean is an extremely multivariable and often inaccessible environment, simulating ocean biogeochemical processes in the lab enables us to control many of these variables and collect higher resolution data.  
  3. We develop new instruments and methods which enable more sensitive, precise, rapid, and/or automated measurements in the field and lab.

General

  • Chemical Oceanography
  • Isotope biogeochemistry
  • Analytical chemistry

Specific

  • Understanding oceanic methane’s role in past, present, and future global carbon cycles and global climate change.
  • Determining sources and sinks of oceanic methane with natural isotopic measurements.
  • Quantifying the present day release rate of methane from hydrocarbon seeps, vents, and decomposing clathrate hydrates with analytical geochemical measurements and mathematical models

Research in my laboratory focuses on oceanic methane and carbon dioxide isotope biogeochemical investigations. Our projects are heavily rooted in analytical chemistry, while also being very multidisciplinary drawing from the fields of geology, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and engineering. I am always interesting in talking with intelligent, enthusiastic, and hardworking students about the possibility of joining our team. I encourage prospective Master’s of Science and Ph.D. students to contact me directly before submitting an application to our graduate program.  I also strongly encourage interested undergraduates to contact me about conducting independent research in our laboratory.

Email: john.kessler@rochester.edu