MIT Alumni Travel Program Webinar: From Tortoises to Greenhouse Gases - A New Research Avenue

MIT Alumni Association
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In this live webcast from December 3, 2020, MIT Doherty Assistant Professor Andrew R. Babbin presents on his travels in the Galapagos Islands and a new area of climate research.

In addition to being a remote archipelago synonymous with evolution, the Galapagos are uniquely situated for monitoring some of Earth’s most important climate processes. By establishing an atmospheric monitoring station for nitrous oxide (a strong greenhouse gas and agent of stratospheric ozone loss) in the Galapagos, we can diagnose changes not only to Earth’s greenhouse budget but also in the ocean’s long-term circulation patterns and oxygen content. In this lecture, Professor Babbin discusses the climate science in full view at the Galapagos and how an MIT Alumni Travel Program trip sparked a new research frontier.

Doherty Assistant Professor in Ocean Utilization Andrew R. Babbin

Growing up on the New Jersey shore, it was only natural for Andrew Babbin to become an oceanographer, but the idea really cemented itself while on a trans-Pacific crossing at the age of 16. The specifics of what he studies—how marine bacteria shape the environment around them and, in turn, Earth’s climate—came later. It was from this early age, however, that the romance and wonder of being at sea really attracted him. The focus of Professor Babbin’s research is the element nitrogen and how it is transformed by microbes in the ocean. His studies take him to sea so that he can directly measure the interplay between chemistry and biology in detail. He has worked across the globe, from Antarctica to Iceland, and many places in between. While at sea for months at a time, the research ship is both home and laboratory, and samples are collected and analyzed within mere steps of one’s bed. Professor Babbin earned his PhD in geosciences at Princeton University and a BS in environmental engineering at Columbia University. He has been on MIT’s faculty since January 2017 in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Professor Babbin has led three trips for the Travel Program: Costa Rica (January 2018), Belize and Tikal (March 2019), and the Galapagos (August 2019).