Atmospheric Biogeochemistry Lab
Professor Robert Rhew
  1. Theme of our research:  the atmospheric biogeochemistry of Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOCs), with a focus on halocarbons, hydrocarbons, and reduced sulfur compounds.   

  2. What we do: We do fieldwork and laboratory-based studies to investigate the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of environmentally important trace gases and to identify the physical and biological controls on those fluxes.

  3. This informs us about: the atmospheric lifetimes and persistence of pollutants; how important certain biomes are for regional and global atmospheric chemistry; how trace gases can provide indicators of key ecosystem processes; and how the future atmosphere may be affected by changes in climate, land use and public policy.


Our current research focuses on compounds that:

  1. *catalyze stratospheric ozone depletion (methyl halides and chloroform)

  2. *affect planetary temperature (methane and carbonyl sulfide)

  3. *are indicators of key ecosystem processes (reduced sulfur gases)

  4. *are precursors to ozone and biogenic aerosols (hydrocarbons)

We conduct research in a wide range of natural and human-dominated ecosystems, including Arctic tundra, temperate grasslands, salt-affected lands, arid and semi-arid shrublands, boreal forest, temperate forest, and the tropics. Our work seeks to quantify sources and sinks, to assess atmospheric lifetimes (how long these compounds persist in the atmosphere), and to elucidate key biogeochemical processes.

We seek to understand the linkages between the sulfur, halogen and carbon cycles.  All are affected by changing climate, redox conditions, plant biochemistry and land use change. 

Recent news (April 2017):

* Congratulations to Yi Jiao for receiving the Outstanding GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) Award!  Yi has been the GSI for the flagship physical geography course, Geography 40, Earth System Science.  He will receive the award at this year’s Geography graduation ceremony. 

* Congratulations to our graduating seniors Jerrold Acdan and Bernard Koh

* Congratulations to Bernard Koh also for receiving the Senior Undergraduate Research Award in the Department of Chemistry! 

  1. *Congratulations to Anna Mikheicheva for receiving the Summer URAP award, which will support her research efforts with us this summer.

  2. *FALL 2017:  Prof. Rhew will be offering a new Freshman Seminar this Fall  “Geog 24:  Natural History of the East Bay Regional Parks”.   He will also be co-teaching “Geog 147: Communicating Climate Science” with Dr. Lynn Tran. 

Recent papers and reports:

SPARC Report on the Mystery of Carbon Tetrachloride. Q. Liang, P.A. Newman, S. Reimann (Eds.), SPARC Report No. 7, WCRP-13/2016. doi:   Available at: (2016).

*Whelan M.E. and R.C. Rhew, Reduced sulfur trace gas exchange between a seasonally dry grassland and the atmosphere, Biogeochemistry, doi: 10.1007/s10533-016-0207-7 (2016).

Rhew, R.C. and J. Happell, The atmospheric partial lifetime of carbon tetrachloride with respect to the global soil sink, Geophysical Research Letters, 43, doi:10.1002/2016GL067839  (2016).

How to apply for graduate school for research in the Atmospheric  Biogeochemistry Lab:

Apply either to: the Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (Ecosystem Sciences Division), or the Department of Geography (Earth System Science Division), and indicate Prof. Robert Rhew as one of your faculty interests