James W. Moffett
The Trace Metal Biogeochemistry Lab at USC

Current Research

My research spans two disciplines: marine geochemistry and marine microbiology. I hold joint appointments in the Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences Departments at USC. Currently, I am interested in the geochemical cycles of iron and copper in the ocean, and how these elements interact with microbes important in the marine nitrogen cycle. Diazatrophs, nitrifiers, denitrifiers and anammox have high requirements for Fe and/or Cu, arising in part from their role in key metalloenzymes. In pursuing these interests, I am collaborating with several microbiologists who study microbial physiology and ecology of nitrogen cycle processes. Within this context, I am interested in how the unique chemistry of transition metals within oxygen minimum zones influences their transport and geochemical cycling.

Another important aspect of my research is to study the processes that control the distribution of metals in the oceans, since metalloenzymes ultimately create linkages between these processes and major nutrient cycles. The International GEOTRACES program is an ambitious survey program targeted towards that mission. I was chief scientist on the US GEOTRACES section from Peru to Tahiti in 2013. Since the inception of the program more than a decade ago, I have worked hard to prioritize biologically active metals in that program.