Steve Petsch

Associate Professor
Associate Department Head for Curriculum
Advisor for Geology and Earth Systems majors
organic geochemistry
organic geochemistry
265 Morrill Science Center
(413) 545-4413
PhD 2000 Yale University
Research Interests: 

Life on our planet is constrained within bounds set by the transport and transformations of the elements. Carbon cycling in particular plays a central role in Biogeochemistry on a range of scales in time and space.My research addresses what happens after deposition of organic matter in sediment, and as it turns out, what happens is … a lot! Processes such as diagenesis, chemical decomposition and the existence of metabolically active microorganisms at the deepest and most extreme extent of our exploration lead us to wonder why and how organic matter is preserved for millions of years in rocks.To address this, my research test the limits of what it means to be refractory, labile or biologically available, by exploring the degradation, dissolution and utilization of ancient organic matter in soils, aquatic systems and the deep subsurface. Research Interests:

  • transport and transformation of organic matter within and between sedimentary and earth surface environments
  • delivery of rock-derived fossil organic matter to earth surface reservoirs such as soils, rivers and sediment
  • long-term fate of rock-derived fossil organic matter in the geologic carbon cycle
  • microbe-rock-water interactions in subsurface environments
  • anaerobic biodegradation of shale and coal organic matter associated with methanogenesis
  • interactions between chemical, physical, microbiological and human processes in sedimentary and earth surface environments
  • global biogeochemical cycles of carbon, sulfur, oxygen
  • analytical techniques for characterization of natural organic matter in geologic materials