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Professor Robert F. Chen, Ph.D

email: Bob.Chen"at"umb.edu

phone: 617-287-7491

fax: 617-287-7474

Research Interest

Organic molecules in the ocean play a vital role in regulating the health and future of the earth on global and local scales. Cycling of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), the largest pool of organic carbon in the ocean, must be understood to accurately predict effects of fossil fuel CO2on Greenhouse warming. Toxic organic compounds such as petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated pesticides can dramatically affect the health of a coastal ecosystem. Both natural and anthropogenic organic compounds exist in the marine environment as complex dilute solutions and undergo a number of biochemical, photochemical, physical transformations from photosynthesis through diagenesis and remineralization. My interests are to better understand the sources, transport, and fate of organic compounds at interfaces such as those between land and sea, sediment and water, particle and bulk solution.

Current Research

Chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is an important, sometimes dominant component of the sunlight absorbing constituents of seawater, especially in coastal waters where terrestrial inputs of organic matter are large. It is the goal of this study to characterize the terrestrial component of CDOM, observe its reactivity in a number of estuaries with differing watershed properties, and quantify its delivery to coastal systems. Three specific obejctives are:

  • Determine high resolution (ECOShuttle; MiniShuttle) spatial and temporal variability of CDOM in large (Mississippi River) and small estuaries (Plum Island, Neponset River) under low and high flow conditions.
  • Characterize and quantify the terrestrial/freshwater component of the CDOM using molecular, isotopic, and optical techniques.
  • Model the reactivity of CDOM as a function of watersehd properties and extrapolate results to estimate a total flux from land to sea.