Contact

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Office

  • 110D MU
  • 617.373.5872

Lab

  • 107/108 MU

Research Focus

Environmental chemistry; geochemistry; the carbon cycle; freshwater, coastal and ocean biogeochemistry; feedbacks between natural biogeochemical cycles and climate change; permafrost; black carbon; aquatic microplastics

About

I grew up in Wales and received my PhD in Marine Biogeochemistry from Newcastle University (Newcastle, England). After that I did a postdoc at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA) before becoming a professor at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (UGA, Savannah, GA). Finally I moved to Northeastern in 2018. I study the natural carbon cycle, how humans are altering it, and plastics in the environment. I see plastics as a novel component of the carbon cycle as well as potential pollutants.

Education

  • PhD, Newcastle University, 2002

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography

Teaching Interests

Earth’s Changing Cycles (ENVR 2200) provides an introduction to how humans have altered Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, including the carbon cycle, nutrient cycles, climate, and the advent of plastics as a global cycle.

Professional Affiliations

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography

American Geophysical Union

American Chemical Society

Research Overview

Environmental chemistry; geochemistry; the carbon cycle; freshwater, coastal and ocean biogeochemistry; feedbacks between natural biogeochemical cycles and climate change; permafrost; black carbon; aquatic microplastics

The global cycles of carbon and plastics.

Research into the cycling of natural carbon focusses upon dissolved organic carbon in natural waters from the depths of the ocean to the Tibetan plateau. I have conducted fieldwork in the open ocean, at hydrothermal vents, on glaciers, on the Amazon River, and in the Siberian Arctic. The diversity of research sites is required to develop a coherent understanding of the global cycles of elements, particularly carbon. The focus upon carbon is due its central role in determining global climate, as the building block of life, and the food that fuels natural ecosystems.

Studying plastics is a natural extension of my work on the carbon cycle. Plastics are also formed predominantly from carbon. They are now also everywhere on Earth, including in the air we breathe. To understand the risk plastics pose, we need to understand where they are in the environment and what types of byproducts are formed when the degrade.

Selected Research Projects

  • Evaluating Patterns and Controls on Microplastic Accumulation in Floodplains
    • – co-Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation
  • CBET: The Role of Sunlight in Determining the Fate and Microbial Impact of Microplastics in Surface Waters
    • – Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation, Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems
  • Constraining the Source of Oceanic Dissolved Black Carbon Using Compound-Specific Stable Carbon Isotopes
    • – Co-Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation
  • RAPID: Extreme Water use Patterns and their Impact on the Microbial and Chemical Ecology of Drinking Water
    • – Co-Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation

Selected Publications

  • Full list of publications: Google Scholar
  • Tuttle, Erin, Stubbins, Aron (2023). An optimized acidic digestion for the isolation of microplastics from biota-rich samples and cellulose acetate matrices. Environmental Pollution, 322,121198. 10.1016/J.ENVPOL.2023.121198
  • A. StubbinsK.L. LawS.E. MunozT.S. BianchiL. Zhu (2021) Plastics in the Earth system, Science, 373 (6550), 51-55. DOI: 10.1126/science.abb0354.
  • Van Stan, J. T. and Stubbins, A. (2018) Tree‐DOM: Dissolved organic matter in throughfall and stemflow. Limnology and Oceanography Letters, 3: 199-214. doi:10.1002/lol2.10059.
  • S. Wagner, J. Brandes, R.G. Spencer, K. Ma, S.Z. Rosengard, J.M.S. Moura, A. Stubbins (2019) Isotopic Composition of Oceanic Dissolved Black Carbon Reveals Non-Riverine Source, Nature Communications, 10(1), 1-8. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13111-7.
  • Stubbins, A. (2016) A carbon for every nitrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1612995113.
  • Moran, M. A., E. B. Kujawinski, A. Stubbins, R. Fatland and 13 others (2016) Deciphering Ocean Carbon in a Changing World. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514645113.
  • Hawkes, J. A., P. E. Rossel, A. Stubbins, D. Butterfield, D. P. Connelly, E. P. Achterberg, A. Koschinsky, V. Chavagnac, C. Hansen, W. Bach, T. Dittmar (2015) Efficient removal of recalcitrant deep-ocean dissolved organic matter during hydrothermal circulation. Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2543.
  • Jaffé, R., Ding, Y., Niggemann, J., Vähätalo, A.V., Stubbins, A., Spencer, R.G.M., Campbell, J., Dittmar, T. (2013) Global charcoal mobilization from soils via dissolution and riverine transport to the oceans. Science. doi: 1126/science.1231476.
  • Stubbins, A., Hood, E., Raymond, P.A., Aiken, G.R., Sleighter, R.L., Hernes, P.J., Butman, D., Hatcher, P.G., Striegl, R.G., Schuster, P., Abdulla, H.A.N., Vermilyea, A.W., Scott, D.T., and Spencer, R.G.M. (2012) Anthropogenic aerosols as a source of ancient dissolved organic matter in glaciers. Nature Geoscience. doi: 10.1038/NGEO1403.

Faculty

May 21, 2024

New Study Finds That Microplastics Reduce the Efficiency of Removing Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere

MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins co-authored a new study, published in Marine Chemistry, which shows that microplastics slow down the ocean’s natural carbon sink process. This is reducing the ocean’s ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which impedes it from helping offset the climate crisis.

aron-stubbuns

In the Media

Apr 22, 2024

5 NSF Projects Transforming How Researchers Understand Plastic Waste

MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins’ research on plastic pollution was featured in the NSF article “5 NSF Projects Transforming How Researchers Understand Plastic Waste.”

Faculty

Mar 21, 2024

Field Experts Discuss the Monitoring of Microplastics in the Massachusetts Bay

At a full-day workshop, CEE/MES Associate Professor Loretta Fernandez, and members of research organizations, academia, and industry discussed microplastics in local water systems and proposed solutions to prevent potential health impacts as the plastics degrade.

aron-stubbuns

Faculty

Feb 02, 2024

How Sunlight Degrades Marine Plastics

MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins was featured in the PBS Instagram post “How Sunlight Degrades Marine Plastics.” This research was published as “Molecular Signatures of Dissolved Organic Matter Generated from the Photodissolution of Microplastics in Sunlit Seawater” in Environmental Science & Technology and “Photochemical dissolution of buoyant microplastics to dissolved organic carbon: Rates and microbial impacts” […]

Faculty

Dec 07, 2023

Sunlight is Breaking Down Plastic Threatening Ocean Health

MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins has found that sunlight breaks down plastics in the ocean into hundreds of new chemicals which will potentially have harmful environmental and health consequences.

Faculty

Dec 07, 2023

2023 Stanford University Annual Assessment of Author Citations

The following COE professors are among the top scientists worldwide selected by Stanford University representing the top 2% of the most-cited scientists with single-year impact in various disciplines. The selection is based on the top 100,000 by c-score (with and without self-citations) or a percentile rank of 2% or above. The list below includes those […]

Faculty

Sep 15, 2023

Announcing Fall 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Fall 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards. Projects this fall are tackling a range of topics and modes with students developing an autobiographical zine, studying the development of amphibian limbs, building better rocket parts, and more. BASE CAMP AWARDS Farhad Ibrahimzade COE’26 & […]

aron-stubbuns

Faculty

Apr 07, 2023

Isolating Plastics to Analyze Pollutants

MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins’ research on “An optimized acidic digestion for the isolation of microplastics from biota-rich samples and cellulose acetate matrices” was published in Environmental Pollution. Plastics need to be isolated to analyze them in environmental samples. Stubbins’ research presents an acidic/oxidative method optimized to preserve plastics while digesting synthetic cellulose acetate and a range of organics encountered in environmental samples, providing a simpler and more effective method than many in the literature.

Faculty

Nov 02, 2022

2022 Stanford University Annual Assessment of Author Citations

The following COE professors are among the top scientists worldwide selected by Stanford University representing the top 2 percent of the most-cited scientists with single-year impact in various disciplines. The selection is based on the top 100,000 by c-score (with and without self-citations) or a percentile rank of 2% or above. The list below includes […]

Samuel Munoz, Ed Beighley, and Aron Stubbins

Faculty

Jul 14, 2022

Investigating the Accumulation of Microplastics in the Environment

MES/CEE Assistant Professor Samuel Munoz, CEE Professor Edward Beighley, and MES/COS/CEE Professor Aron Stubbins were awarded a $530K NSF grant for “Evaluating Patterns and Controls on Microplastic Accumulation in Floodplains.”

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