Richard G. Fairbanks
Professor Fairbanks is a specialist in isotope chemistry and mass spectrometry and applies this expertise to researching some of the most puzzling oceanographic and atmospheric questions of our day. Fairbanks' research is focused on better predicting future ocean and climate conditions by studying modern ocean systems as well as delving into the oceanographic archives to see how the oceans operated in the recent past. External forcing of the oceans due to planetary motions, i.e. the Milankovitch astronomical theory of climate change, and internal forcing of the oceans such as the El Niño oscillation dominate much of the world's oceans variability and change. This research leads to the indisputable conclusion that the oceans and climate systems are under constant change and intricate knowledge of these systems is necessary in order to extricate man-induced changes from natural variability. Fairbanks and his graduate students and post-docs combine isotope chemistry, biology, and physics to tackle global-scale projects. Some examples include studies of global sea level change, the production history of radiocarbon over the past 50,000 years, changes in the deep ocean circulation rates and patterns, measuring the surface ocean temperature using chemical thermometers, and studying the natural modulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and the carbon isotopes. Graduate student training and research is an integral component of the Isotope Laboratory. Graduate students may expect extensive field work, and rigorous training in mass spectrometry and other state-of-the-art instruments, data analysis, and modeling while working on world-class research topics. Dissertation chapters are published in the most prestigious scientific journals including Science and Nature and graduates successfully compete for the very best career opportunities.