G. Christopher Shank
Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Science
Cycling of metals in coastal waters; geochemistry of coral ecosystems; processes impacting UV and visible light penetration in coastal waters; marine photochemistry.
Coastal waters are precious to many people for their natural beauty and recreational resources. Because of their allure, U.S. coastlines (including Texas) are experiencing rapid population increases and consequently, increased stresses to their precious resources. One aspect of my research focuses on understanding the cycling of potentially toxic metals in these coastal environments. Metals such as copper and mercury are introduced to the marine environment through numerous pathways including runoff, shipping, and industry. Both of these metals can be extremely toxic to organisms at very low levels. My research investigates the processes that impact the cycling/toxicity of these metals in coastal waters including freshwater discharge and sediment/water exchange.
I am also involved in a variety of marine photochemistry research projects. Solar radiation, especially high energy ultraviolet (UV) radiation, initiates numerous chemical reactions in surface waters. Photochemical reactions occur in sunlit waters due primarily to the ability of a specific fraction of the organic matter pool, known as chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM), to absorb light energy (especially UV). I am interested how sunlight-induced reactions involving CDOM create bioavailable organic compounds as well as impact nutrient and metal cycles. My research also concerns the ability of CDOM to control light penetration through the water column. Because CDOM directly absorbs UV radiation, it serves as an important attenuator of UV to light-sensitive marine organisms. Corals reefs, for instance, are susceptible to damage from extended UV exposure. In the Florida Keys, CDOM in surface waters above the reefs provides a natural sunscreen to corals. My research specifically examines how variability in the CDOM pool (and suspended particles) impacts the optical characteristics of the water column overlying these reefs.
Shank, G.C., R.F. Whitehead, M.L. Smith, S.A. Skrabal, and R.J. Kieber. 2006. Photodegradation of strong Cu-complexing ligands in organic-rich estuarine waters. Limnology and Oceanography 51(2):884-892.
Shank, G.C., R.G. Zepp, R.F. Whitehead, and M.A. Moran. 2005. Variations in the spectral properties of freshwater and estuarine CDOM caused by partitioning onto river and estuarine sediments. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 65(1/2):289-301.
Avery Jr., G.B., R.J. Kieber, J.D. Willey, G.C. Shank, R.F. Whitehead. 2004. Impact of hurricanes on the flux of rainwater and Cape Fear River water dissolved organic carbon to Long Bay, southeastern United States. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 18(3).
Shank, G.C., S.A. Skrabal, R.F. Whitehead, and R.J. Kieber. 2004. Fluxes of strong Cu-complexing ligands from sediments of an organic-rich estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 60(2):349-358.
Shank, G.C., S.A. Skrabal, R.F. Whitehead, and R.J. Kieber. 2004. Strong copper complexation in an organic-rich estuary: The importance of allochthonous dissolved organic matter. Marine Chemistry 88:21-39.
Shank, G.C., S.A. Skrabal, R.F. Whitehead, G.B. Avery Jr., and R.J. Kieber 2004. River discharge of strong Cu-complexing ligands to South Atlantic Bight waters. Marine Chemistry 88:41-51.
Contact: G. Christopher Shank