Past Members

Dr. Katie Schreiner

Research: My research is primarily focused on organic carbon cycling in terrestrial soils, marine sediments, and aquatic and marine systems, which I study using a variety of organic biomarkers, bulk and compound specific stable isotopes, and radiocarbon. I have studied organic carbon inputs into large-river delta-front estuarine and marine sediment in mary areas around the world, including the Mississippi River estuary in the Gulf of Mexico and the Colville River estuary in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Additionally, I have assisted with water column studies in the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone and the Drake Passage north of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Southern Ocean. Currently, my research is focused on studying the flow of organic carbon in terrestrial soils through soil fungal-mediated pathways, in order to determine the role that these important soil microbes play in the formation and stabilization of long-lived organic carbon pools in soils.


Currently at: University of Minnesota Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory



Dr. David Vinson

Research: Overall, my research examines redox processes, biogeochemical transformations, and water-rock interaction in the subsurface. This research spans hydrogeology, isotope geochemistry, water quality, and energy resources. At Northwestern, I am working with Neal Blair on improved tools to understand what actually controls carbon isotope signatures of biogenic methane in coal beds. A major collaborator in this effort is Jennifer McIntosh (U. of Arizona). As part of this research, I am exploring the compound specific carbon isotope signature of acetate, an important biological precursor of methane in coal bed waters, as a tool for understanding the key metabolic pathways of methane production in the subsurface. This is combined with conventional isotope fingerprinting techniques for accumulated end products (methane and CO2). At NU, I was supported by an NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship.


Currently at: UNC Charlotte, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences



Elizabeth Conger

Research: Through my environmental and chemical engineering education at Northwestern University, I have developed a commitment and passion to producing renewable energy solutions, especially the production of biofuel from novel feedstocks. My research interests have led me to multiple research experiences with biofuel production around the world, including my undergraduate research at Northwestern on biodiesel production from spent coffee grounds and my work with the Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass (TMFB) Cluster of Excellence in Aachen, Germany. I am an enthusiastic and motivated researcher and engineer with excellent written and oral communication skills.







Dr. Laurel Childress

childressResearch: My research focuses on biogeochemical cycles, specifically the transport, transformation, and burial of organic carbon. Active margins, found at the junction between continental and marine tectonic plates, are characterized by high sediment transport rates and a close proximity between terrestrial sediment source and marine burial. These factors allow active margins to be particularly effective in the burial of organic carbon, resulting in high fidelity records of the terrestrial and marine environment spanning millions of year. Differences through time in the quantity and type of exported organic carbon from terrestrial environments can provide information on past storm frequency, sea level, precipitation regimes, vegetation type, erosion rate, and tectonic uplift.

Additionally my research follows organic carbon into active margin related subduction zones. These regions represent the ultimate sink for sediment and the associated organic matter. To refine global carbon budgets and volatile production in subduction zones I study the transformations and trajectories of organic carbon in laboratory simulations using a high-pressure high-temperature sapphire anvil cell, coupled with Raman spectroscopy.

Research Website
Currently at: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution