Professor of Marine Geochemistry, Department of Earth Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and MIT Director of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. Professor Boyle studies trace metals and trace metal isotopes in the ocean: e.g., the evolution of the anthropogenic lead transient in the ocean and aspects of their temporal, spatial, and physical variability of iron. He also is interested in the role of the ocean in climate change during the past few hundred thousand years. He received his bachelors degree from the University of California,San Diego (Revelle College) in 1971 and his Ph.D. from the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography in 1976. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

My studies in marine geochemistry focus on ocean trace metal chemistry in relation to biogeochemical cycling, anthropogenic inputs, and as a tool for understanding the geological history of the ocean. I obtained some of the first valid data for several trace metals in the ocean (a field that had been plagued for decades by sample contamination and analytical problems). For the past 25 years, I have been tracking the evolution of the anthropogenic Pb transient in the ocean, from its first perceptible rise in the middle of the 19th century (based on sediment and annually-banded coral records) through the decrease due to the phasing out of leaded gasoline. I have also worked on Pb and other anthropogenic trace metals in Greenland ice cores and estuaries. I have discovered that Fe in the deep southwest Pacific derives from distant hydrothermal vents. I have shown that Cd in some species of benthic foraminifera tracks the Cd content of the bottom water they grow in, and have applied this finding to sediment cores to trace past changes in ocean deepwater chemistry which are influenced by changing ocean circulation patterns and changes in biogeochemical cycling within the ocean, including mechanisms that influence atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. I was the first to observe a predicted response of deep AtlanticOcean chemistry to abrupt climate change during the Younger Dryas event 12,900 years ago.

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Primary Section

Section 15: Geology