Rebecca S. Robinson

  • Professor of Oceanography
  • Marine Geology and Geophysics
  • Phone: 401.874.6569
  • Email:
  • Office Location: 312 Center for Atmospheric Chemistry Studies
  • Website
  • Accepting Students: Master's, Post Doc



Twitter: @RSRobinsonG


  • OCG 123G Climate Change and the Oceans
  • OCG 540 Geological Oceanography
  • OCG 648 Paleoceanography


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Carbon cycle
  • Climate change
  • Geochemistry, Marine nitrogen cycle
  • Coastal nutrient dynamics
  • Paleoceanography

My research focuses on the chemical cycles of nitrogen and carbon in the ocean. Nitrogen, an essential nutrient with the potential to limit biological productivity in large regions of the oceans, is a key determinant of oceanic and atmospheric biogeochemistry. Carbon’s global distribution is intimately tied to the Earth’s climate.

On geological timescales (thousands to millions of years), evidence for changes in the oceanic inventory and/or distribution of bioavailable nitrogen suggests that the marine nitrogen cycle is tightly linked to global climate changes through its interactions with the carbon cycle. My laboratory group seeks to recreate the global distributions of fixed nitrogen species and understand the roles and responses of climate and ocean circulation on the oceanic nitrogen and carbon cycles and the feedbacks within them.

We also seek to understand biogeochemical cycling in the modern oceans. Today, the marine nitrogen cycle is perturbed significantly by human activities. The addition of nitrogen to coasts and estuaries enhances primary production often in excess, and may lead to enhanced production of climatically important greenhouse gases. With a number of collaborators, we are working to quantify the effects of anthropogenic nutrient additions to estuarine ecosystems and how they are affecting primary production and other biogeochemical properties.


  • Ph.D. Marine Geology and Geochemistry, University of Michigan, 2001
  • M.S. Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, 1997
  • A.B. Geology, Bryn Mawr College, 1995

Selected Publications

Robinson, R. S., J. Etourneau, P. M. Martinez, and R. Schneider. 2014. Expansion of water column denitrification during early Pleistocene cooling, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 389, 52-61.

Etourneau, J., P. M. Martinez, R. S. Robinson, and R. Schneider. 2013. Large changes in upwelling intensity, biological production and nutrient utilization in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the last 3.2 Ma, Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 5663–5670.

Robinson, R. S., Kienast, M. and NICOPP Working Group Members, 2012. A review of nitrogen isotopic alteration in marine sediments. Paleoceanography.

Higgins, M.B., Robinson, R.S., Carter, S.J., and Pearson, A., 2012, A high-resolution porphyrin nitrogen isotope record of an Ocean Anoxic Event: Evidence for a Cretaceous Ammonia Ocean: PNAS.

Horn, M., Beucher, C.P., Robinson, R.S., and Brzezinski, M., 2011, Southern Ocean Nutrient Dynamics During the Last Deglaciation, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 310, 334-339.

Horn, M., Robinson, R.S., Rynearson, T.A., and Sigman, D., 2011, Nitrogen isotopic relationship between diatom-bound and bulk organic matter of cultured polar diatoms. Paleoceanography

Higgins, M.B., Wolfe-Simon, F.L., Robinson, R.S., Qin, Y., Saito, M., and Pearson, A., 2011, Paleoenvironmental implications of taxonomic variation among δ15N values of chloropigments: Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta.

Oczkowski, A.J., Lewis, F.G., Nixon, S., Edmiston, H.L., Robinson, R.S., and Chanton, J., 2011, Seasonal and Spatial Variation in Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotope Signatures in Oysters in Apalachicola Bay, FL Estuaries and Coasts.

Kalansky, J., Robinson, R.S., and Popp, B., 2011, Insights into nitrogen cycling in the western Gulf of California from the nitrogen isotopic composition of diatom bound organic matter. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems.

Higgins, M.B., Robinson, R.S., Carter, S., and Pearson, A., 2010, Evidence from chlorin nitrogen isotopes for alternating nutrient regimes in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea: Earth and Planetary Science Letter, v. 290, p. 102-107.

Martinez, P.M., and Robinson, R.S., 2010, Increase in water column denitrification during the last deglaciation: the influence of oxygen demand in the eastern equatorial Pacific: Biogeosciences, v. 7, p. 1-9.

DiFiore, P.J., Sigman, D.M., Karsh, K.L., Trull, T.W., Dunbar, R.B., and Robinson, R.S., 2010, Poleward decrease in the isotope effect of nitrate assimilation across the Southern Ocean: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 37, p. doi:10.1029/GL044090.

De Pol-Holz, R., Robinson, R.S., Hebbeln, D., Sigman, D., and Ulloa, O., 2009, Controls on sedimentary nitrogen isotopes along the Chile margin: Deep-Sea Research II, v. 56, p. 1042-1054.

Higgins, M.B., Robinson, R.S., Casciotti, K.L., McIlven, M.R., and Pearson, A., 2009, Determining the nitrogen isotopic composition of porphyrins by the denitrifier method: Analytical Chemistry, v. 81, p. 184-192.

Ren, H., Sigman, D., Meckler, A.N., Plessen, B., Robinson, R.S., Rosenthal, Y., and Haug, G.H., 2009, Foraminiferal isotope evidence of reduced nitrogen fixation in the ice age Atlantic Ocean: Science, v. 323, p. 244-248.

Robinson, R.S., Martinez, P., Pena, L.D., and Cacho, I., 2009, Nitrogen isotopic evidence for deglacial changes in nutrient supply in the eastern equatorial Pacific: Paleoceanography, v. 24.