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Cindy Lee

Distinguished Professor Emeritus



- University of California at San Diego/ Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Research Topics:

Ocean carbon cycle, marine geochemistry of organic compounds, organic and inorganic nitrogen-cycle biochemistry silicate and carbonate biomineralization


  • Bio/Research


    My research has been concerned with the distribution and behavior of biogenic organic compounds in the marine environment, and the role of these compounds in the global carbon cycle. Understanding how organic compounds behave requires knowledge of the biological, geological, and physical processes in the sea. Most biogenic organic compounds are produced in surface waters by phytoplankton as a result of photosynthesis. These compounds can enter the marine food chain by acting as food for bacteria or zooplankton. Organic compounds can also be affected by chemical and physical processes such as adsorption, photochemical degradation, and transport by currents. I have been interested in the rates and mechanisms of the transformation reactions which occur as organic compounds are affected by these processes. To study transformation reactions, my students and I identified and measured the amount of individual organic compounds present in the marine environment, particularly seawater, surface microlayer, particles, and sediments of open ocean and coastal areas.

  • Publications


    Wang, W., C. Lee, J.K. Cochran, F.W. Primeau, and R.A. Armstrong. 2017. A novel statistical analysis of chloropigment fluxes to constrain particle exchange and organic matter remineralization rate constants in the Mediterranean Sea. Mar. Chem. 192: 49-58,  doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2017.03.011.

    Cisternas Novoa, C., C. Lee, A. Engel.  2015. Transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and Coomassie stainable particles (CSP): Differences between their origin and vertical distributions in the ocean. Mar. Chem. 175: 56-71,

    Tang, T., C. Lee, and K. Kisslinger. 2014. Silicate deposition on decomposing cyanobacteria as a source of particulate silicate in the ocean. Nature Comm, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5143.

    Abramson, L., C. Lee, Z. Liu, J. Szlosek and S. Wakeham. 2010. Exchange between suspended and sinking particles in the northwest Mediterranean as inferred from the organic composition of in situ pump and sediment trap samples. Limnol. Oceanogr. 55: 725-739

    Lee, C., Peterson, M.L, Wakeham, S.G., Armstrong, R.A., Cochran, J.K., Miquel, J.C., Fowler, S.W., Hirschberg, D., Beck, A., and Xue, J. 2009. Particulate organic matter and ballast fluxes measured using time-series and settling velocity sediment traps in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Deep-Sea Res. II, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.11.029

    Engel, A., Abramson, L., Szlosek, J., Liu, Z., Stewart, G., Hirschberg, D., and Lee, C. 2009. Investigating the effect of ballasting by CaCO3 in Emiliania huxleyi: II. Decomposition of particulate organic matter. Deep-Sea Res. II, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.11.028

    Abramson, L., Wirick, S., Lee, C., Jacobsen, C., and Brandes, J.A. 2009. The use of soft X-ray spectromicroscopy to investigate the distribution and composition of organic matter in a diatom frustule and a biomimetic analog. Deep-Sea Res. II, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.11.031

    Liu, Z. and Lee, C. (2007) The role of organic matter in the sorption capacity of marine sediments. Mar. Chem., 105: 240-257

    Peterson, M.L. Wakeham, S.G., Lee, C., Askea, M.A. and Miquel, J.C. (2005) Novel techniques for collection of sinking particles in the ocean and determining their settling rates. Limnol. Oceanogr.: Methods, 3: 520-532.

    Lee, C., S.G. Wakeham and C. Arnosti. (2004) Particulate organic matter in the sea: The composition conundrum. Ambio 33: 565-575.

    Ingalls, A.E., C. Lee, S.G. Wakeham and J.I. Hedges (2003) The role of biominerals in the sinking flux and preservation of amino acids in the Southern Ocean along 170oW. Deep-Sea Res. II. 50: 709-734.

    Armstrong R. A., C. Lee, J.I. Hedges, S. Honjo and S.G.Wakeham (2002) A new, mechanistic model for organic carbon fluxes in the ocean based on the quantitative association of POC with ballast minerals. Deep-Sea Res. II, 49: 219-236.

    Hedges, J.I., J.A. Baldock, Y. Gélinas, C. Lee, M. Peterson and S.G. Wakeham (2001) Evidence for non-selective preservation of organic matter in sinking marine particles. Nature 409: 801-804.

    Kuznetsova, M. and C. Lee (2001) Enhanced extracellular enzymatic peptide hydrolysis in the sea surface microlayer. Mar. Chem. 73: 319-332.

    Lee, C., S.G. Wakeham and J.I. Hedges (2000) Composition and flux of particulate amino acids and chloropigments in equatorial Pacific seawater and sediments. Deep-Sea Research I, 47: 1535-1568.

    Pantoja, S. and C. Lee (1999) Peptide decomposition by extracellular hydrolysis in coastal seawater and salt marsh sediment. Mar. Chem. 63: 273-291.

    Wakeham, S. G., C. Lee, J. I. Hedges, P.J. Hernes and M. L. Peterson (1997) Molecular indicators of diagenetic status in marine organic matter. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 61: 5363-5369.

    Lee, C. (1992) Controls on organic carbon preservation: The use of stratified water bodies to compare intrinsic rates of decomposition in oxic and anoxic systems. Geochem. Cosmochim. Acta, 56: 3323-3335.

    Complete List of Publications

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