Morse, John W. (earth scientist)

(1946- ) American Oceanographer

The oceans can be considered as huge chemical systems with a constant group or series of reactions taking place. These reactions chemically connect the oceans with the solid particles of the Earth, be they sediments or bedrock on the one hand and the gases of the atmosphere on the other. The oceans therefore modulate the entire chemical system of the surface of the Earth. The understanding of these complex chemical systems is, therefore, the key to our understanding of our biosphere. John Morse is one of the foremost experts of this complex system. He studies this chemistry by direct measurements, experimental studies in the laboratory, and theoretical thermo-dynamic studies. His original work was on carbonates and Morse established himself as one of the foremost experts on their chemistry. One reason that carbonates are so important is that they are directly linked to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide through the ocean water system. They also control carbon cycling in the atmosphere-hydrosphere. His work is therefore of critical concern to climate change modelers. Morse is especially interested in the surface chemistry of these minerals because that is where the chemical reactions take place. He studied the effect of minor and trace elements on these reactions as well as radioactive isotopes. He also proposed better ways to analyze carbonates and their constituent elements.

As his career has progressed, Morse expanded his research interests into sulfur and sulfur compounds in ocean water. Although not nearly as abundant, sulfides are of major concern because bacteria in the oceans concentrate sulfur. Sulfide minerals and their production also helps to govern the amount of oxygen in seawater. Morse studied the biogeochemistry of sulfides and sulfates and the trace elements involved in their formation similar to the research he had done on carbonates. In both cases, the interaction of these mineral groups and their interaction with ocean sediments has been a major concern. To predict cycling and circulation the ocean modelers utilize these basic studies. An example of a paper involving this research is “The Chemistry of Transuranic Elements in Natural Waters.”

John Morse was born on November 11, 1946, in Fort Dodge, Indiana. He attended the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and earned a bachelor of science degree in geology in 1969. He completed his graduate studies at Yale University, Connecticut, and earned a master of philosophy and doctor of philosophy in geology in 1971 and 1973, respectively. His adviser was robert berner. He joined the faculty at Florida State University in Oceanography in 1973, but moved to the Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, Florida, in 1976. He served as chair of his division in 1981. Morse accepted a position at Texas A & M University in 1981, and was named the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Professor of Oceanography in 1998, a position he holds today. He served as chair of the chemical oceanography section of his department in 1985-1990 and 1996-1997. He is married to Sandra Morse and they have one daughter. For recreation, Morse enjoys playing acoustic guitar and fishing.

John Morse has led a very productive career. He is an author of some 118 articles in international scientific journals and professional volumes. Many of these articles are benchmark studies of ocean chemistry and thermodynamics. He also wrote Geochemistry of Sedimentary Carbonates, which is regarded as the “bible” on the subject. The research projects that Morse has undertaken have received considerable external funding. He has received several honors and awards for his work including a Fulbright Fellowship (1987), a Sigma Xi Distinguished Scientist Award (1998), and a Distinguished Scientist Award from Texas A&M University (2000). He has performed service to the profession, as well. He served on several panels and working groups for the National Science Foundation and the National Research Council as well as one panel for NASA. He served as the editor in chief for Aquatic Geochemistry (1993-present) and associate editor for Marine Chemistry (1992-present).

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