My primary interests lie in the biogeochemical cycling of carbon in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, particularly at the crossroads of both. Currently, I am exploring the fate and burial efficiency of organic carbon within deltaic soils and sediments of the Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana. This delta is unique due to its relatively young age (subaerial since 1973) and the fact that it is building land while the majority of surrounding coastline is losing it. I’ll be initially taking measurements of the soil/sediment organic carbon pool along a soil chronosequence, which will then be fine-tuned by focusing on the individual mechanisms responsible for preserving organic carbon over longer periods of time. This is all done by using chemical biomarkers, stable and radiogenic isotopes, soil aggregate structures, and organomineral binding measurements to uncover the carbon cycling story for this embryonic delta. This project will allow for a better estimate/understanding of the carbon sequestration potential for delta restoration projects, and connect the dots between the deposition of organic carbon in young delta soils and its ability to be preserved in delta lobes over a thousand years old.
My research pursuits include understanding the dynamics of natural systems and how those systems interact with society. My research at present is focused on understanding the amount and quality of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost soils as well as the response of permafrost and stored carbon to a warming Arctic. My projects include using biomarkers to assess how the organic carbon composition of permafrost soils change during controlled laboratory incubations, the development of novel techniques for the extraction and analysis of amino acids, and exploration of permafrost sediment cores that contain a record spanning beyond the last glacial maximum. Together, these projects will assist in characterizing how these high latitude systems have responded to perturbations in the past in order to better predict the impacts of contemporary climate change.
I received my B.A. degree in philosophy in 2010 from the University of South Florida. During this time, my interests included the political philosophy of Plato and John Rawls as well as emerging work on embodied cognition, which attempts to reconcile philosophical conceptions of the human mind with contemporary science. I later received my M.S. degree in geology in 2013 also from the University of South Florida where I used experimental marine biology to investigate the origin of incomplete drilling traces by naticid gastropods. This research directly impacted long-held assumptions on incomplete drill holes found in fossils throughout the Cenozoic used to interpret the nature of evolutionary predator-prey arms races.
My research interests revolve around using geochemistry to create high-resolution paleoclimate records. The research I will be performing will involve the use of several biomarker-based proxies, including the LDI (long-chain diol index), the mass accumulation rates of diatom and coccolithophore biomarkers, and GDGTs (glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether). My upcoming project will utilize these proxies to examine ENSO variability during the last glacial period in the tropical Pacific. This record can then be compared to North Atlantic records and ongoing modeling studies to examine the relationship of ENSO variability to abrupt climate events and to glacial climate forcings.
Jun Zhao, Ph.D., Hangzhou, China (2017-present)
Undergraduate Lab Assistants
Major: Environmental Engineering
Major: Environmental Geoscience
Recent Former Lab Members