John Kessler

Associate Professor
PhD, University of California Irvine, 2005

Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences
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

  • Du, M. and J.D. Kessler (2012). "Assessment of the Spatial and Temporal Variability of Bulk Hydrocarbon Respiration Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill." Environmental Science & Technology, doi: 10.1021/es301363k.
  • Ryerson, T.B., R. Camilli, J.D. Kessler, E.B. Kujawinski, C.M. Reddy, D.L. Valentine, E. Atlas, D.R. Blake, J. de Gouw, S. Meinardi, D.D. Parrish, J. Peischl, J.S. Seewald, and C. Warneke (2012). “Chemical data quantify Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbon flow rate and environmental distribution.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1110564109.
  • Hu, L., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, J.D. Kessler, I.R. MacDonald (2012). "Methane fluxes to the atmosphere from deepwater hydrocarbon seeps in the northern Gulf of Mexico." J. Geophys. Res., 117 (C1), C01009, doi:10.1029/2011JC007208.
  • Kessler, J.D., D.L. Valentine, M.C. Redmond, M. Du, E.W. Chan, S.D. Mendes, E.W. Quiroz, C.J. Villanueva, S.S. Shusta, L.M. Werra, S.A. Yvon-Lewis, T.C. Weber (2011). "A Persistent Oxygen Anomaly Reveals the Fate of Spilled Methane in the Deep Gulf of Mexico."  Science, 331, 312-315, doi:10.1126/science.1199697. (Abstract, Full Text, Reprint)
  • Kessler, J. D., Valentine, D. L., Redmond, M. C., and Du, M. R. (2011) Response to Comment on "A Persistent Oxygen Anomaly Reveals the Fate of Spilled Methane in the Deep Gulf of Mexico". Science, 332, doi:10.1126/science.1203428.
  • Pasche, N., Schmid, M., Vazquez, F., Schubert, C. J., Wuest, A., Kessler, J. D., Pack, M. A., Reeburgh, W. S., and Burgmann, H. (2011) Methane sources and sinks in Lake Kivu. J Geophys Res-Biogeo, 116, G03006, doi:10.1029/2011JG001690.
  • S.A. Yvon-Lewis, L. Hu, J.D. Kessler (2011).  "Methane flux to the atmosphere from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster."  Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L01602, doi: 10.1029/2010GL045928.
  • Valentine, D.L., J.D. Kessler, M.C. Redmond, S.D. Mendes, M.B. Heintz, C. Farwell, L. Hu, F.S. Kinnaman, S.A. Yvon-Lewis, M. Du, E.W. Chan, F. Garcia-Tigreros, C.J. Villanueva (2010). "Propane respiration jump-starts microbial response to a deep oil spill."Science, 330, 208-211, doi:10.1126/science.1196830.
  • Kessler, J.D., W.S. Reeburgh, D.L. Valentine, F.S. Kinnaman, E.T. Peltzer, P.G. Brewer, J. Southon, and S.C. Tyler (2008). “A survey of methane isotope abundance (14 13C, 2H) from five nearshore marine basins that reveals unusual radiocarbon levels in subsurface waters.”Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, C12021, doi:10.1029/2008JC004822.


Research & 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.