Chris Shank

University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute, USA


Expertise - Coastal Geochemistry Ph.D., Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina, 2003 M.S., Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina, 1993 B.S., Electrical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1984 Solar radiation, especially high energy ultraviolet (UV) radiation, triggers many chemical reactions in the surface layers of the sea. These reactions occur because there are many naturally occurring substances in the water that can absorb UV energy, just as sunburns occur when pigments in our skin are damaged by the absorption of UV energy. My research investigates how these sunlight-induced chemical reactions affect oxygen levels and change nutrient and metal cycles in the sea. I am also studying how light-absorbing compounds in the water influence the optical properties of coastal waters. Because compounds in the water column absorb UV radiation, they serve as natural sunscreens for marine organisms that are sensitive to light. Coral reefs, for instance, can be damaged by extended UV exposure. In the Florida Keys, organic material that flows into the coastal waters from the Everglades or from nearby seagrass beds and mangrove patches provide a natural sunscreen for corals. My lab also examines how water quality is affected by climate fluctuations and the freshwater that flows into coastal ecosystems. Coastal waters are precious to many people for their natural beauty and recreational resources. One aspect of my research focuses on potentially toxic metals in these coastal environments. Metals such as copper and mercury enter the marine environment through a variety of pathways, including runoff, shipping, and industry. Both of these metals can be extremely toxic to marine organisms at very low levels. My lab studies the processes that affect the toxicity of these metals in coastal waters, especially freshwater from rivers and interactions between sediments and the overlying water.

Biography Updated on 21 May 2012

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