Home / Research Experiences for Undergraduates / REU - Geochemical Sensing

Marine and Environment

Geochemical Sensing

Jordan Beckler Led by Jordon Beckler, Ph.D.

Jordon Beckler, Ph.D., directs the Geochemistry and Geochemical Sensing Lab at the FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Research Institute and is also an I-SENSE faculty fellow. Beckler’s primary research interests include developing and applying autonomous biogeochemical sensing technologies to constrain fundamental elemental cycling mechanisms and rates in redox environments. These findings can be applied to inform hydrologic or climate models, environmental restoration efforts, or resource management decisions. For example, he is currently developing in situ electrochemical techniques to measure concentrations, transformations, and fluxes of trace metals, carbon, nutrients, and sulfides between sediments and the water column of marine and estuarine environments, such as the locally environmentally stressed Indian River Lagoon.

In addition, he is adapting chromatographic and spectrophotometric analytical techniques for employment by autonomous surface and underwater vehicles, to monitor of the inherent optical properties of terrestrial and marine waters. He has participated extensively in oceanographic expeditions and has used Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Deep Submersible Vehicles (DSVs) in the Atlantic (Carolina slope, Congo River fan), Gulf of Mexico (Louisiana slope) and Pacific Oceans (East Pacific Rise hydrothermal fields, Eastern Tropical North Pacific oxygen-minimum zone).

Beckler is also strongly committed to STEM outreach for high school and undergraduate students and employs low-cost sensors and embedded microcontrollers to engage students on topics relating to ocean observing and environmental stewardship. Beckler is currently a Gulf Research Program Early Career Fellow with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. He is a former Staff Scientist and Program Manager of the Ocean Technology Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida and a courtesy faculty member at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. He holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography and a minor in Inorganic Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology (2014).  


Despite the potential role of internal nutrient loading to the Indian River Lagoon in initiating and sustaining harmful cyanoblooms, the magnitude, composition, and spatial and temporal variability of the sediment-derived fluxes and of the causal geochemical processes are poorly understood. Discrete, vertical, near-surface sediment concentration profiles of the respiratory metabolites O2, Fe2+, organic complexes of Fe(III), and sulfides obtained using traditional electrochemical techniques have been regularly used to infer the primary diagenetic processes governing fluxes from sediments to the water column. However, these traditional techniques can not be used for long-term, continuous unattended monitoring, and it therefore remains difficult to identify temporal system drivers without numerous sampling campaigns.

This summer project will entail the design and implementation of solid-state, mercury/gold “individually addressable microelectrode arrays” for high-frequency (hourly), in situ measurements of the primary sediment redox respiratory metabolites. For the first time, it will be possible to derive their respective fluxes and to constrain organic carbon degradation, iron hydroxide dissolution, and sulfate reduction intensities. More traditional techniques will be used to quantify the resulting fluxes of both organic and inorganic nitrogen and phosphorous, which can be extrapolated over area, compared to water column concentrations, and quantitatively related to potential environmental causal factors. Together, this work will pioneer new tools to provide new fundamental insights into the respective roles of internal and external nutrient loading in this critically sensitive environment.