Welcome to the
Paytan Biogeochemistry Lab

photos of sunsets

The Paytan Lab at UCSC

cycle diagram

The Paytan Biogeochemistry Lab is a part of the Institute of Marine Science and the Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Our group's primary research interests lie in the fields of biogeochemistry, chemical oceanography, and paleoceanography. We use both chemical and isotopic tracers in diverse environmental samples such as water, sediments, aerosol, and vegetation in order to study present and past biogeochemical processes on a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. An over-arching goal of our research is to link changes observed in the earth and ocean systems to global changes in climate and tectonics with an emphasis on human impacts.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us!


Paytan Lab News

1/31/14 -- Adina's Public Lecture on Ocean Acidification. Watch her presentation here

December 13 -- Adina has presented the Rachel Carson Lecture in the Ocean Sciences Section at AGU this year. Watch her presentation here

6/17/12 -- New results from our coral reef ocean acidification study on the news here

3/28/13 Awards and Honors
-- Marine scientist Adina Paytan receives prestigious international award here

4/12/12 -- Our lab's work on coral reefs is highlighted in an article written by Adina Payatan published in the Talking Points section of the online edition of Environmental Research Letters. The article, "Coral reefs - are they tough enough?" discusses current research in coral environmental biology as well as our own lab's studies of corals growing near acidic springs. The article includes photos of the coral research done by Adina and Elizabeth Derse Crook off of the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Read the full article here.

12/9/11 -- LiveScience reporter Wynne Parry writes an article on Adina's coral reef research that was just presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Fransisco. The article, "Surprise! Corals Discovered in Acidic Submarine Springs", includes amazing photos of the corals found in these underwater springs (off of the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico) and of the SCUBA diving research performed by Elizabeth Derse Crook. Read more here.

11/28/11 -- UCSC's News and Events page highlights our lab's work on coral reefs along the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Adina and Elizabeth Derse Crook, a graduate student in our lab, have been studying the submarine springs at Puerto Morelos near the Mesoamerican reef for the past 3 years. The submarine springs discharge water with a lower pH than the surrounding seawater. They found the number of coral species and size of coral colonies declined with increasing proximity to the center of these springs. The findings are reported in a paper published in the journal Coral Reefs (click here for the paper). Read the UCSC press release here.

Adina in Tahiti

Adina measuring sea water chemistry in Tahiti.

Featured Project

Records of changing carbonate chemistry in the Southern California margin over the past 20,000 years

southern California paleo project

Carbon dioxide released by human burning of fossil fuels is causing rapid ocean acidification, which negatively impacts a wide variety of marine organisms. Recent investigations have found regions of unexpectedly low pH in the coastal upwelling zones off western North America, but a lack of long-term records of ocean pH makes it unclear whether these low-pH zones are unusual (perhaps related to human-caused ocean acidification), or part of natural long-term climate cycles. Geologic records of past ocean pH can help us put the current observations in context and help us understand what we may expect for the future.

Ph.D. student Nadine Quintana Krupinski is reconstructing records of ocean carbonate chemistry in the Southern California Bight, a region of naturally low and variable pH, from the Last Glacial Maximum (20,000 years ago) to today. She is also using Pacific Ocean core top sediments to improve and expand carbonate system proxy calibrations using trace elements in planktonic foraminifera. This work will fill critical gaps in our knowledge of natural and anthropogenic variability in upwelling zone ecosystems.

Learn more about this and other projects here.


Biogeochemical research is the study of chemical and biological processes, often which are intrinsically coupled, operating within earth systems. Biogeochemical interactions occur on a wide-range of spatial and temporal scales, ranging from atomic and microbial to global and from the distant past to the present, and operate within environments ranging from terrestrial to marine to atmospheric.

Chemical Oceanography is the study of everything about the chemistry of the ocean based on the distribution and dynamics of elements, isotopes, atoms and molecules. This ranges from fundamental physical, thermodynamic and kinetic chemistry to interactions of ocean chemistry with biological, geological and physical processes.

Paleoceanographyis the study of the history of the oceans in the geologic past with regard to circulation, chemistry, biology, geology and patterns of sedimentation. Paleoceanography data are derived from many proxies found in deep sea sediments including trace metal and isotopic composition of fossil plankton, species composition, and lithology.

Page last updated on February 3, 2014