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Markus Huettel
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University,
1011 Academic Way.,
Florids 32306-4320

send email mhuettel@fsu.edu
phone number 850/645-1394
contact us at Research Group

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Eddy correlation flux measurements

A central tool for our investigations of fluxes at the seafloor is the eddy correlation technique that we are deploying and developing together with Peter Berg from the University of Virginia. For more information, please visit http://faculty.virginia.edu/berg/ and our web page addressing our Eddy Correlation research.



Oil spill research:

After the Deepwater Horizon accident, crude oil was buried in submerged, intertidal and dry Gulf of Mexico beach sands. Prediction of the ecological effects and fate of this buried oil remains hampered by our limited understanding of the controls of the biodegradation and functioning of sedimentary microbial communities that break down petroleum hydrocarbons. Transport of oxygen and nutrients to the buried oil is expected to control the rates of hydrocarbon biodegradation. We investigate the biodegradation of oil buried in unsaturated, temporally saturated and saturated sands. The results of these investigations are integrated into a model that allows predictions of pathways and rates of oil degradation.

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Research Topics

Research in the Huettel lab group focuses on the ecology of coastal and shelf environments with emphasis on processes in the sediments and at the sediment-water interface. In the past years, we have investigated sediment-water exchange processes in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and the consequences of these fluxes for the biological, chemical and physical processes in the deposits and the overlying water column.



St. George Beach

Study site at St. George Island, Northeastern Gulf of Mexico

Seawifs Florida

SeaWiFS image (NASA) showing high chlorophyll concentrations in the coastal zone as red rim lining the Florida coast

  We are interested in the shelf environment because it is responsible for approximately one-third of the total oceanic primary production emphasizing its role in the oceanic and global cycles of matter. Input from land and atmosphere leads to peak concentrations of organic carbon, nutrient and contaminants in the coastal zone. Dilution and dispersal of these substances in the shallow nearshore environment is relatively slow resulting in high primary production rates and dense fish populations, but also pollutant build-up and decreased oxygen concentrations at the sea floor.
We investigate processes a the sea floor because most of the water column production in the shallow shelf settles to the bottom, where biological and physical transport mechanisms can rapidly mix the deposited material into the sea bed. However, only a small fraction of organic matter is permanently buried, most of it is rapidly degraded. The shelf sediments, thus, are a site of intense decomposition processes but also act as storage compartment for poorly degradable substances and contaminants. Understanding the sedimentary processes thus is prerequisite for understanding the cycles of matter in the shelf.


Sand ripples at the sea floor generated by wave-generated oscillating bottom currents

Polychaete Mounds

Mounds on the sediment surface produced by bottom-dwelling polychaetes. The color difference indicates different geochemical characteristics of the excavated sand.

  We focus on biological and physical transport mechanisms because they play a key role in the production and decomposition processes at the shallow sea floor. Foraging and burrowing activities of bottom dwellers, like echinoderms, mollusks, crustaceans and polychaetes mix settled organic matter into the surface layers of the bed and pump oxygen-rich water through burrows and sediment pores. Likewise strong bottom currents can mix the surface layers of the sea bed and pump water through permeable sand sediments. The sedimentary microbial food web benefits from these transport mechanisms and responds with a rapid decomposition of the organic material mixed into the deposits.
The same transport mechanisms carry the degradation products of the organic matter decomposition, including carbon dioxide and nutrients, back to the sediment surface and out of the sea bed. As light can penetrate through the shallow water column, intensity at the sediment surface over large areas of the shelf is sufficient to support photosynthesis and the growth of unicellular algae, macroalgae and seagrasses. Where the water is relatively clear, this benthic plant growth can be as productive as that of the phytoplankton community in the overlying water column.


Seagrass growing in a shallow sheltered site in Apalachicola Bay. Oxygen bubbles form due to intense photosynthesis.






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Open Positions
Graduate and undergradueate students interested in this research should contact me (email)


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