Dr. Robert Spencer

Dr. Robert Spencer
Stem Field
Title of Research
Organic Matter Characterization to Understand its Role in the Environment
Description of Research Area

Research in my laboratory spans the fields of oceanography, hydrology, soil science and organic geochemistry and addresses important biogeochemical questions in many different areas of carbon cycling and Earth system science. A major research focus is examining how anthropogenic impacts such as climate change, land-use change, and combustion of fossil fuels are impacting the carbon cycle, particularly the movement of carbon between reservoirs. Current research primarily examines controls on the export, processing and fate of organic matter at the land-ocean interface with a specific focus on globally significant vulnerable organic carbon pools (e.g. Arctic permafrost and tropical forest ecosystems). Research in my laboratory applies a diverse array of analytical, modeling and experimental techniques to answer hypothesis-driven questions. Commonly used techniques include spectrophotometric analyses, elemental and biochemical compositions and stable and radioisotopes to characterize organic matter sources, degradation histories and to delineate organic matter dynamics in a range of environments from soils and glaciers through rivers and estuaries and into the ocean. I particularly welcome applicants interested in projects tying the composition of organic matter from thawing Arctic permafrost to microbial community composition, with the aim of improving our understanding of microbial degradation of permafrost organic matter.

Special Research & Career Skills

I have been fortunate enough to have a number of PDRs in my laboratory all whom have gone on to achieve their stated career goals. I will provide mentorship in data analysis, scientific writing including manuscript and grant applications, and opportunities for student engagement. An interactive IDP will be developed.