The Dauphin Island Sea Lab's University Programs welcomed Dr. Xiangli (Shaun) Wang to the faculty this month. Dr. Wang received his undergraduate degree at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China, and his Ph.D at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with an emphasis in geochemistry.
Dr. Wang's research focuses on understanding the interactions between life and its environment through the lens of metal stable isotopes.
"Some metals - chromium, iron, selenium - are essential nutrients for life when their concentrations are very low in the environment," Dr. Wang explained. "However, they could become toxic when their concentrations reach certain thresholds. My Ph.D. research in Illinois is related to remediating and monitoring metal contamination in groundwater using chromium and uranium isotopes."
During his postdoctoral research at Yale University, he applied metal isotope knowledge to understanding the chemistry of ancient oceans.
"Because of their oxygen-sensitivity, metal isotope systems, such as chromium and uranium, can be used to reconstruct environmental oxygen levels," Dr. Wang said. "By studying their isotopic compositions in sedimentary rocks, we can construct a timeline of oxygen evolution in the ocean-atmosphere system on Earth."
Understanding oxygen fluctuations over a period of time can offer insight into how dead zones or hypoxic locations are created in the oceans. Being centered in coastal Alabama now, Dr. Wang looks forward to mapping out the oxygen history of the Gulf of Mexico.
"The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is in a unique location, where I can apply my research to the real world, right behind the lab door," Dr. Wang said. "Plans for my research are to study how heavy metals cycle through seawater, food web, and sediments."
Proposals are in the works for Dr. Wang to collaborate on a number of projects with DISL colleagues.
As a faculty member, Dr. Wang is teaching the graduate Geological Oceanography course.
In his down time, DISL's newest faculty member is looking to check out the popular fishing spots in the area.