Retired Emeritus

Kent A. Fanning

Kent A. Fanning

Retired-Emeritus, Professor
Chemical Oceanography
Ph.D., Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, 1973
CV: View PDF
Organic Nutrient Laboratory Website

* Please Note: These professors are retired and are no longer accepting new students.

Research: Marine Nutrients

Marine nutrients like dissolved nitrate or silica are the focus of Dr. Fanning’s research through the Oceanic Nutrient Laboratory. The main emphasis concerns inorganic nutrients in upper ocean waters, where most oceanic photosynthesis occurs even though nutrient concentrations are often very low. The challenge is to detect changes in those concentrations as precisely as possible and then try to find explanations for the changes. Detailed surface surveys are conducted with highly sensitive nutrient measurements in patches of coastal surface waters labeled with tracers. Nutrient concentrations in these waters are usually well down into the nanomolar range. Principal nutrients under investigation are the nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium ions. Findings to date are that nitrate and nitrite in these waters show only slight variations from the averages over an annual cycle but that, in sharp contrast, ammonium ion concentrations can vary up to many-fold times higher than what appears to be normal background levels. Causes for this vastly different behavior of ammonium ion relative to the other main nitrogen-bearing inorganic nutrients are poorly known. A major part of the fieldwork is to develop a high-sensitivity nutrient sensor that will function in an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The sensor will permit the determination of the lateral shapes of patches of coastal water with ammonium enrichments, among other things. The AUV will greatly help the search for explanations.

The Oceanic Nutrient Laboratory also conducts research concerns research on temporal trends in nutrient concentrations within permanently anoxic ocean waters. Multi-year trends are being measured in the Cariaco Basin along the Venezuelan continental margin, and those results are compared to nutrient data from the Black Sea and other anoxic regions in the ocean. The objective of this work is to understand the pathways by which anoxia can alter chemical processes in the sea.
* Please Note: These professors are retired and are no longer accepting new students.