Organic Geochemistry at ECU

ECU Lab 1

Welcome to the Mitra Organic Geochemistry website. We study organic molecules in the environment, both past and present. Some of those organic molecules are made naturally and some result from anthropogenic pollution. We study these organic molecules to try and understand their source, the processes that lead to their transport and transformation, and their preservation over time. With that, we can glean information about past climates, how natural processes such as hurricanes may affect organic matter cycling in the environment, and understand how certain contaminants may be adversely affecting an ecosystem.

Dr. Mitra's Blog


Katie Kim and Jeff

As we all know, many things in life go in cycles. As many of you know, academic life also follows cycles. We have cycles of research interests, teaching, mentoring….With respect to mentoring, I’m happy to report that after doing some grueling analytical research for their thesis topics, Kim Scalise and Katie Supler (shown below), have graduated with their master’s degrees,…. and they are still smiling – go figure! Both of them have moved on. Katie has gotten a job as Environmental Health Specialist with Durham County, NC. Kim is somewhere in New England, which by my last check of the weather, is a regional block of ice! My two current students, Jeff Minnehan and Abigail Boutilier are doing well.

Hurricane Irene (2011) Rainwater Composition Paper - In Press, Marine Chemistry

Multiproxy probing of rainwater dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition in coastal storms as a function of trajectory.

This paper which is about to be published in Marine Chemistry is dedicated to the late Dr. Rebecca Dickhut. The collaboration between Andrew Wozniak and myself marks the first research collaboration between two of Rebecca's former students.

Our paper shows four things:

1) rainwater provenance affects its DOM composition,
2) coastal rainwater DOM is not derived exclusively from aerosol scavenging
3) marine-derived DOM may be found in Atlantic hurricane rain,
4) and this recycled marine rainwater may subsidize the carbon cycle in coastal aquatic ecosystems.

Update - 2013 Spring

Post tenure life

That about sums it up! I could go on-and-on about all that has, or more appropriately hasn’t been accomplished over the last year. However, I will take this time to highlight a new and unique course I’ve developed and I’m presently teaching to our majors entitled Environmental Forensics. Several of our students (perhaps some of you reading this) are employed as environmental consultants. There are also those of you that are employed in the petroleum field. Both disciplines require some knowledge of the behavior of organic substances in the environment, whether we are talking about oil or hydrocarbon pollution…..at some point, you just can’t keep calling natural and synthetic organic materials “stuff”!

What have I been up to, you ask??

Whew! The book chapter, "Black Carbon in Coastal and Large River Systems" is finally done. It is a review and synthesis chapter in a book, "Biogeochemical Dynamics at Major River-Coastal Interfaces: Linkages with Global Change" edited by T.S. Bianchi, M. Allison, and W. Cai. The book should be published through Oxford later this year. I now have a new found appreciation for review and synthesis papers.

ECU Organic Geochemistry Lab Group (July 2012)

Lab group july 2012.JPG

The Organic Geochemistry group gets out of the lab to get some sunshine. Left to right: Jeff, Kim, yours truly, and Katie.


The Chancellor's Letter and Big Fat Raise!

Well, its over! Four years at Binghamton plus another four years at ECU have all culminated in the big "T"! Not sure what to do now.....

The Coastal CHANGE program is born

NSF awards ECU Research Team of Mallinson, Leorri, Mitra, and Culver a $400K award. Coastal Combined Hydrodynamic and Natural Geomorphic Evolution (Coastal CHANGE) is born!

Air Samples from Summer 2010 Show low molecular weight PAH distributions similar to Deepwater Horizon oil spill

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that we went to the Gulf of Mexico last summer to collect air and water samples. Well, the analyses of last year's samples are complete and here is what we have to say. First, the PAH distribution pattern for the BP oil from the DWH oil slick is distinct from other oil seeps we analyzed in the Gulf of Mexico. Second, the PAH distributions across the environmental samples collected from the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 are visually comparable and similar across the Gulf Coast region. Lastly, the environmental samples are enriched in low molecular weight PAH compounds.

PAH Fingerprint of Deepwater Horizon Oil

PAH Distributions in Deepwater Horizon Riser oil and surface slicks of the Gulf of Mexico

Our PAH analyses suggests that there is a "fingerprint" of the PAHs from the Deepwater Horzion riser oil (see image). We're presently working on a paper in which we document the presence of that fingerprint in zooplankton collected from the Gulf of Mexico in September 2010.

NSF RAPID Field Work

The field work designed to collect baseline samples for the NSF RAPID project began on July 19th 2010. Jim Watson, my trusty sidekick, and I were "locked and loaded", ready to begin sampling the atmosphere in the Gulf Coast states.