User Profile

Name: Robert Dunbar
Member Since: October 22nd, 2007
Member Name: Robert.dunbar

W.M. Keck Professor of Earth Science, Stanford University
Professor of Environmental Earth System Science
Victoria P. and Roger W. Sant Director of the Earth Systems Program
J. Frederick and Elisabeth B. Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education
Director, Stanford University Stable Isotope Lab
Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

My research and teaching interests include Climate Dynamics, Oceanography, Marine Ecology, and Biogeochemistry. I am interested in environmental policy directed towards problem-solving. My research group studies global environmental change with a focus on air-sea interactions, tropical marine ecosystems, polar climate, and biogeochemistry. In October, 2001, I became the founding director of a new Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources, a position I maintained until 2005. In January, 2003, I was appointed the Victoria P. and Roger W. Sant Director of the Earth Systems Program, the largest undergraduate and co-terminal masters program in the School of Earth Sciences. In January, 2004, I was named the J. Frederick and Elisabeth B. Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. This fellowship is in recognition of teaching and mentoring of Stanford undergraduate students and is the most meaningful honor I have ever received! I was awarded the William M. Keck Professorship in 2008, the same year that I moved from the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences to the newly created Department of Environmental Earth System Science. In 2009, I was elected as a Trustee for the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. where I am active in promoting the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the Ocean Observatories Initiative. In 2004 I helped start the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium (PARC) to promote research and conservation of Pacific coral reefs.

My group specializes in high resolution studies of climatic and oceanic variability during modern times as well as over the past 50 to 12,000 years. Our most productive archives for this work include the skeletons of long-lived corals from the tropics and the deep sea, as well as sediments from lakes and marine environments. We use chemical, isotopic, and morphological measurements of these materials to investigate the timing and rates of change associated with past climate and C cycle excursions. Current field areas include the American Samoa, Antarctica, the Line Islands, Easter Island, Chile, Patagonian Argentina, Tierra del Fuego, and Palau. We are also well into a multi-year effort to collect deep sea corals to better understand their ecology as well as their self-contained records of change in the deep sea. We do this work using deep diving research submersibles in the Gulf of Alaska and the central tropical and north Pacific. We dive with the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab, using their two submersibles Pisces IV andPisces V. We are currently working on several projects in Antarctica to assess the impacts of climate change on Southern Ocean ecosystems and C-system chemistry. Much of this work focuses on the Ross Sea where we are studying the modern uptake of carbon dioxide by the ocean and the sensitivity of primary production to changes in nutrients, temperature, sea ice cover, and CO2. We are also using sediment cores from fjords and shelf basins of East Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula to study past and changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet. My lab participated in the ANDRILL program as shore-based and field-based scientists exploring the history of Antarctic climate at Windless Bight (McMurdo Ice Shelf Drilling) and Southern McMurdo Sound. I am also a proponent and participant on the recently completed IODP Expedition 318 to Wilkes Land, Antarctica. See  Integrated Ocean Drilling Program as well as the San Francisco Exploratorium Video Blog Site and the Ocean Leadership YouTube Channel (search under Wilkes Land Expedition Reports).

We have recently engaged in an extensive collaboration with colleagues in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford to develop instrumentation and methodologies for directly measuring C system transformations (production/ respiration and calcification/ dissolution) in coastal marine systems. We are currently instrumenting coral reefs at several Pacific locations as well as a kelp forest in Monterey Bay. In parallel with our studies of field-scale variability in carbon system chemistry we have also been engaged in a series of efforts to understand the controls on carbonate biomineralization in organisms ranging from reef-building corals to clams from the deep sea.  We hope that a better understanding of this process leads to better predictions for the impact of global environmental change on marine organisms.
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