Nick Lab

Nick Ward


Educational Background:

Sept 2004-June 2008: University of California San Diego: Environmental Systems(Earth Science) major, Biological Sciences minor.

Research Interests:

River carbon cycling and the fate of terrestrial organic carbon


Nick spent his early years in Monterey, California and graduated from UC San Diego in 2008 with a BS in Environmental Systems/Earth Science and a minor in Biological Sciences. He is now pursuing a PhD in Chemical Oceanography at the University of Washington, and is interested in unraveling the role of river systems in the global carbon cycle. Prior to joining the River Systems Research Group, he performed research at both the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). At SIO he spent several years working with Dr. Lihini Aluwihare, studying the relationship between the expression of specific genes involved in nitrogen metabolism in phytoplankton to in situ nitrogen conditions. He spent the summer of 2007 researching the degradation of dissolved organic matter in arctic rivers with Professors Daniel Repeta, Benjamin Van Mooy, Max Holmes, and Tim Eglinton at WHOI.

Nick came to the University of Washington in 2008, with Jeff Richey.  He started off studying the mobilization sequence of nitrogen and carbon species on short time scales to determine the potential effects of watershed nutrient loading on low dissolved O2 concentrations in Hood Canal, a branch of Puget Sound, Washington, USA (See under Research stories); results of such local studies can be applied to a global perspective. Nick completed his Masters in 2011.

For his Ph.D, working with co-advisors Jeff Richey and Rick Keil, Nick moved to the lower Amazon, as part of the ROCA (River Ocean Continuum of the Amazon) project, where he is working on the very challenging problem of determining what organic matter might be fueling the respiration leading to high outgassing observed in tropical rivers. He is finding that lignin and other terrestrially-derived macromolecules are, in fact, surprisingly  reactive in tropical river systems. If this holds true, these results will overturn the long held paradigm that lignin and other terrestrial macromolecules are recalcitrant and persist for decades to centuries buried in marine sediments 5-9 and reveal a highly dynamic and essential pathway for terrestrial carbon remineralization.

Current projects:

The Amazon (and films of kite-boarding in extreme environments).