Oceanographer Liz Sikes Named a Hanse Fellow

Prestigious fellowship in Germany will enhance Sikes' research on carbon cycling in the Delaware River estuary.

June 7, 2012

Sikes with sediment array.

Liz Sikes, associate professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University, has been offered a coveted Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) fellowship to conduct research and enhance collaborations among universities and research institutions in the region. Sikes will be working with colleagues from The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, the University of Bremen and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology.

As a Hanse Fellow, Sikes will be in residence in Bremen, Germany, for the summers of 2012 and 2013, working in the lab of Dr. Gesine Mollenhauer, and collaborating with Dr. Sabine Kasten and Dr. Enno Schefuβ at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Bremen. Sikes and colleagues will be collaborating on the joint project, “Sources and fate of detrital particulate carbon in a coastal plain estuary,” investigating carbon cycling in the Delaware River estuary to assess burial (sequestration) versus biological re-mineralization of carbon along the estuary’s chemical gradient. The goal is to improve understanding of carbon budgets within estuaries as well as the influence of estuarine processing on carbon that is delivered to the ocean. 

According to Sikes, it’s an honor to work in the highly specialized facilities in Dr. Mollenhauer’s lab. “The high-tech facilities would allow us to isolate individual compounds for radiocarbon analyses and allow us to pinpoint not only sources but the ages of the organic carbon that is coming out of the Delaware.”

Results generated from Sikes’ fellowship will be integrated into a larger study led by Bob Chant, professor at the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Chris Sommerfield of the University of Delaware. This study addresses how the processing of organic carbon from different sources, particularly pre-aged sources, controls the fate of organic carbon passing through the biogeochemical sieve that is an estuary.

“The fate of organic carbon transported by rivers from the continents to the ocean is one of the fundamental uncertainties in global carbon cycling,” said Sikes. Rivers carry an immense load of suspended sediments containing considerable organic matter and estuaries receive a high amount of terrestrial carbon associated with the sediments that come downriver. Estuaries are effective particle filters that can trap terrestrial carbon. The research conducted by Sikes and colleagues can lead to understanding the bio-geo-physical fluxes and processing of carbon in estuaries and is emerging as important research relevant to our understanding of coastal ecosystems in the face of natural and anthropogenic pressures.

The Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg is a non-profit foundation that, each year, appoints guest scholars or fellows from all over the world to conduct research and facilitate collaboration with colleagues at the universities of Bremen and Oldenburg in Germany. The foundation focuses on four areas including marine and climate research, energy research, social sciences, and neurosciences and cognitive sciences. The HWK promotes disciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration among highly qualified scholars and scientists at the national and international levels.

Sikes holds a Ph.D. from the MIT Woods Hole Joint Program in Oceanography, specializing in paleoceanography. Following a post-doc appointment in Australia and research at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, she came to Rutgers in 2001, where she is an associate professor.

Contact: Paula Walcott-Quintin
Executive Communications Specialist
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