John Kessler

John Kessler

  • Professor
  • Department Chair, Earth and Environmental Sciences

PhD, University of California Irvine, 2005

210 Hutchison Hall
(585) 273-4572

Office Hours: By appointment


Curriculum Vitae

Research Overview

Dr. 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. He is 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.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • EES 212 / 412:  A Climate Change Perspective to Chemical Oceanography, Syllabus
  • EES 261 / 461:  Stable Isotope Geochemistry: Fractionation Equations and Models, Syllabus
  • EES 307 / 407:  Advanced Seminar in Climate and Environmental Change, Syllabus
  • EES 312W:  Research in Ocean Biogeochemistry, Syllabus

Selected Publications

Bold indicates graduate student authors.

  • Garcia‐Tigreros, F., Leonte, M., Ruppel, C. D., Ruiz‐Angulo, A., Joung, D. J., Young, B.*, & Kessler, J. D. (2021). Estimating the impact of seep methane oxidation on ocean pH and dissolved inorganic radiocarbon along the U.S. Mid‐Atlantic Bight. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 126, e2019JG005621.
  • Joung, D.-J., Leonte, M., Valentine, D. L., Sparrow, K., Weber, T., & Kessler, J. D. (2020). Radiocarbon in marine methane reveals patchy impact of seeps on surface waters. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2020GL089516.
  • Wang, B., I. Jun, S. A. Socolofsky, S. F. DiMarco, J. D. Kessler (2020). Dynamics of gas bubbles from a submarine hydrocarbon seep within the hydrate stability zone. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2020GL089256.
  • Leonte, M., Ruppel, C. D., Ruiz-Angulo, A., and J. D. Kessler (2020). Surface methane concentrations along the Mid‐Atlantic Bight driven by aerobic subsurface production rather than seafloor gas seeps. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 125, e2019JC015989.
  • Chan, E.W., A.M. Shiller, D.J. Joung, E.C. Arrington, D.L. Valentine, M.C. Redmond, J.A. Breier, S.A. Socolofsky, and J.D. Kessler (2019). Investigations of Aerobic Methane Oxidation in Two Marine Seep Environments: Part 1-Chemical Kinetics. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124, 8852-8868.
  • Chan, E.W., A.M. Shiller, D.J. Joung, E.C. Arrington, D.L. Valentine, M.C. Redmond, J.A. Breier, S.A. Socolofsky, and J.D. Kessler (2019). Investigations of Aerobic Methane Oxidation in Two Marine Seep Environments: Part 2-Isotopic Kinetics. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 124, 8392-8399.
  • Joung, D.-J., M. Leonte, and J. D. Kessler (2019). Methane sources in the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior as revealed by natural radiocarbon measurements. Geophysical Research Letters, 46, 5436–5444.
  • Leonte, M.,  B. Wang,  S. A. Socolofsky,  S. Mau,  J. A. Breier, and  J. D. Kessler (2018). Using Carbon Isotope Fractionation to Constrain the Extent of Methane Dissolution Into the Water Column Surrounding a Natural Hydrocarbon Gas Seep in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 19, 4459-4475.
  • Garcia-Tigreros, F. and J. D. Kessler (2018). Limited acute influence of aerobic methane oxidation on ocean carbon dioxide and pH in Hudson canyon, northern U.S. Atlantic margin. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 123(7), 2135-2144.
  • SparrowK. J., J. D. Kessler, J. R. Southon, F. Garcia-Tigreros, K. M. Schreiner, C. D. Ruppel, J. B. Miller, S. J. Lehman, and X. Xu (2018). Limited contribution of ancient methane to surface waters of the U.S. Beaufort Sea shelf. Science Advances, 4(1), eaao4842.

Research and Student Opportunities

Research in my laboratory focuses on oceanic methane isotope biogeochemistry investigations. Our projects are heavily rooted in analytical chemistry, while also being very multidisciplinary drawing from the fields of chemistry, geology, 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 my laboratory.