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Dr. Mitra's Research

The overarching emphasis of my research program is to investigate organic compounds in the natural environment.  As a discipline, this is called Organic Geochemistry.  Our group's research can be categorized into the following focus areas:  Carbon Cycle, Organic Contaminants in Aquatic Ecosystems.

Carbon Cycle

Organic carbon is mainly produced via photosynthetic plants in the terrestrial realm and algae in the aquatic realm. During transport of terrestrial organic carbon to the oceans, the majority is lost or ‘mineralized’, within the land-ocean margin, as very little chemical signal of the newly fixed biological carbon can be found in the ocean (Hedges et al., 1997). Moreover, in freshwater and marine aquatic systems, much of the organic carbon fixed in the euphotic zone has been shown to be recycled in the water column such that a minor percentage of the primary production actually reaches the benthos (e.g. Laskov et al., 2002; Wakeham et al., 1997) and an even smaller portion becomes deeply buried and preserved.

Contaminants in Aquatic Ecosystems

As a society, we produce thousands of novel organic compounds a year.  Some of these compounds are wonderful panaceas for many common ailments.  Think of the emotional uplifting associated with taking Viagra for example.  Other chemicals are designed to make our lives pest-free or weed-free.  Regardless of the chemical, its use in our daily lives often results in unforeseen consequences to the ecosystem.  Because organic geochemistry involves being able to isolate and analyze organic chemicals in the environment, our group is able to assess just how much these chemicals may be affecting our ecosystem.