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The University of Texas
Marine Science Institute
750 Channel View Drive
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Phone: 361-749-6711

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Zhanfei Liu

Associate Professor
Department of Marine Science

Marine Organic Geochemistry, Environmental Analytical Chemistry


Phone: 361-749-6772

Office Location

Postal Address

Ph.D., Coastal Oceanography, Stony Brook University (2006) 
M.S., Environmental Science and Engineering, Xiamen University, China (2000)
B.S., Chemical Oceanography, Xiamen University, China (1997) 

Research Interests

Marine Organic Geochemistry/Environmental Analytical Chemistry

Behavior and distribution of biogenic organic compounds in the ocean; biogeochemistry of marine particles including suspended and sinking particles; Geochemistry of proteins and peptides; sorption and degradation of biogenic and anthropogenic compounds in sediments and soils; advanced analytical techniques including liquid chromatography (LC), gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (MS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); algae to biodiesel.

I am mainly interested in the source, distribution and diagenesis of biogenic compounds in the ocean. Most biogenic compounds are produced in the surface ocean through photosynthesis, and they are subsequently subject to different biogeochemical processes. For example, some are degraded or modified by bacteria or zooplankton; some are preserved in a long time scale by interaction with minerals. Elucidating these processes can not only help us to better understand global carbon cycle, but also provide valuable information for paleoceanography and paleoclimate studies.

Measuring biogenic compounds in environmental samples must involve different analytical instruments. My research mainly involves GC, LC, MS, and NMR, either applying established protocols or developing new analytical methods. In addition, I use compounds labeled with radio- or stable-isotopes, such as 14C, 13C and 15N, to trace their fates and pathways in the environment.

Seeley M.E.*, Wang Q., Bacosa H.P., Rosenheim B.E., Liu Z. 2018. Environmental petroleum pollution analysis using ramped pyrolysis-gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Organic Geochemistry 124, 180-189.

Lu K.*, Gardner W.S., Liu Z. 2018. Molecular structure characterization of riverine and coastal dissolved organic matter with ion mobility quadrupole time of flight LCMS (IM Q-TOF LCMS). Environmental Science & Technology 52, 7182-7191.

Bacosa H.P.**, Erdner D.L., Rosenheim B.E., Shetty P., Seitz K.W., Baker B.J., Liu Z. 2018. Hydrocarbon degradation and response of seafloor sediment bacterial community in the northern Gulf of Mexico to light Louisiana sweet crude oil. The ISME Journal (10.1038/s41396-018-0190-1).

1Liu S.*, Liu Z. 2018. Free extracellular enzymes dominate initial peptide hydrolysis in coastal seawater. Marine Chemistry 199, 37-43.  

1Tang T.*, Filippino K.C., Liu Z., Mulholland M.R., Lee C. 2017. Peptide hydrolysis and uptake of peptide hydrolysis products in the James River estuary and lower Chesapeake Bay.  Marine Chemistry 197, 52-63.

1Gardner W.S., Newell S.E., McCarthy M.J., Hoffman D.K., Lu K.*, Lavrentyev P.J., Hellweger F.L., Wilhelm S.W., Liu Z., Bruesewitz D.A., Paerl H.W. 2017. Community biological ammonium demand: A conceptual model for cyanobacteria blooms in entrophic lakes.  Environmental Science & Technology  51, 7785-7793.

1Liu S.*, Wawrik B., Liu Z. 2017. Different bacterial communities involved in peptide decomposition between normoxic and hypoxic coastal waters.  Frontier in Microbiology 8, 53.

2Reyna N.E.*, Hardison A., Liu Z. 2017. Influence of major storm events on the quantify and composition of particulate organic matter and the phytoplankton community in a subtropical estuary, Texas. Frontiers in Marine Science 4, 43. 

1Evans M.*, Liu J., Bacosa H.P.**, Rosenheim B.E., Liu Z. 2017. Petroleum hydrocarbon persistence following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a function of shoreline energy. Marine Pollution Bulletin 115, 47-56.  

1Liu J., Bacosa H.P.**, Liu Z. 2017. Potential environmental factors affecting oil-degrading bacterial populations in deep and surface waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Frontier in Microbiology 7, 2131.

1Gemmell B.J., Bacosa H.P.**, Liu Z., Buskey E.J. 2016. Can gelatinous zooplankton influence the fate of crude oil in marine environments? Marine Pollution Bulletin 113, 483-487.  

1Wang Z. *, Liu Z., Liu M., Xu K., Mayer L.M. 2016. The impact of drying on structure of sedimentary organic matter in wetlands: Probing with native and amended polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Science of the Total Environment 568, 42-51. 

1Gemmell B.J., Bacosa H.P. **, Liu Z., Buskey E.J. 2016. Can gelatinous zooplankton influence the fate of crude oil in marine environments? Marine Pollution Bulletin 113, 483-487.

1Bacosa H.P. **, Thyng K.M., Plunkett S. #, Erdner D.L., Liu Z. 2016. The Tarballs on Texas beaches following the 2014 Texas City “Y” Spill: Modeling, chemical, and microbiological studies. Marine Pollution Bulletin 109, 236-244.

1Orsi W., Smith J., Liu S.*, Liu Z., Sakamoto C., Wilken S., Poirier C., Richards T., Keeling P., Worden A., Santoro A. 2016. Diverse, uncultivated bacteria and archaea underlying the cycling of dissolved protein in the ocean. JSMEJ 10, 2158-2173.  

1Liu Z., Liu J., Gardner W.S., Shank G.C., Ostrom N.E. 2016. The impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on petroleum hydrocarbons in surface waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Deep-Sea Research II 129, 292-300.  

Zheng Y., Hou L., Liu M., Liu Z., Li X., Lin X., Yin G., Gao J., Yu C., Wang R., Jiang X. 2016. Tidal pumping facilitates dissimilatory nitrate reduction in intertidal marshes. Scientific Reports 6, 21338.

1Liu Z., Liu S.* 2016. High phosphate concentrations accelerate bacterial peptide degradation in hypoxic bottom waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Science & Technology 50, 676-684.

2Liu S.*, Liu Z. 2015. Comparing extracellular enzymatic hydrolysis between plain peptides and their corresponding analogs in the northern Gulf of Mexico Mississippi River. Marine Chemistry 177, 398-407.

1Bacosa H.P.**, Liu Z., Erdner D.L. 2015. Natural sunlight shapes crude oil-degrading bacterial communities in northern Gulf of Mexico surface waters. Frontier in Microbiology 6, 1325.

1Liu S.*, Riesen A.# and Liu Z. 2015. Differentiating the role of different-sized microorganisms in peptide decomposition during incubations using size-fractioned coastal seawater. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 472, 97-106.

1Bacosa H.P.**, Erdner D.L., Liu Z. 2015. Differentiating the roles of photooxidation and biodegradation in the weathering of Light Louisiana Sweet crude oil in the surface water from the Deepwater Horizon Site. Marine Pollution Bulletin 95, 265-272

1McTigue N.D., Bucolo P., Liu Z., Dunton K.H. 2015. Distribution of sedimentary pigments in the northern Chukchi Sea: Insights into pelagic-benthic coupling, the benthic food web, and organic matter degradation processes. Limnology and Oceanography 60, 429-445.

1Yin G., Hou L., Liu M., Liu Z., Gardner W.S. 2014. A novel membrane inlet mass spectrometer method to measure 15NH4+ for isotope-enrichment experiments in aquatic ecosystems. Environmental Science & Technology 48, 9555-9562.

1Ostrom N.E., Gandhi H., Kamphuis B., DeCamp S., Liu Z., McCarthy M.J., Gardner W.S. 2014. Oxygen metabolism and water mass mixing in the northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone in 2010. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 140, 39-49.

1Liu S.* and Liu Z. 2014. A new method to measure small peptides amended in seawater using high performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Marine Chemistry 164, 16-24.

2Wang Z*., Liu Z., Xu K., Mayer L.M., Kolker A., Wu W. 2014. Concentrations and sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in surface coastal sediments of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Geochemical Transactions 15:2, 1-12.

1Newell S.E., Eveillard D., McCarthy M.J. Gardner W.S., Liu Z., Ward B.B. 2013. A shift in the archaeal nitrifier community in response to natural and anthropogenic disturbances in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Microbiology Reports 6(1), 106-112.

1Liu Z., Liu S.*, Liu J., Gardner W.S. 2013. Differences in peptide decomposition rates and pathways between hypoxic and oxic coastal environments. Marine Chemistry 157, 67-77.

1Almeda R., Wambaugh Z. #, Chai C., Wang Z.*, Liu Z., Buskey E.J. 2013. Effects of crude oil exposure on bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and survival of adult and larval stages of gelatinous zooplankton. PLoS ONE 8(10), e74476.

1Almeda R., Wambaugh Z. #, Wang Z, Hyatt, C., Liu Z., Buskey E.J. 2013. Interactions between zooplankton and crude oil: Toxic effects and bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. PLoS ONE 8(6), e67212.

1Liu Z. Breecker D., Mayer L.M., Zhong J. 2013. Composition of size-fractioned sedimentary organic matter in coastal environments affected by different physical forcing strength. Organic Geochemistry 60, 20-32.

1Liu Z. and Liu J. 2013. Evaluating bacterial community structures in oil collected from the sea surface and sediment in the northern Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. MicrobiologyOpen (DOI: 10.1002/mbo3.89).

1McCarthy M.J., Carini S.A., Liu Z., Ostrom N.E., Gardner W.S. 2013. Oxygen consumption in the water column and sediments of the northern Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 123, 46-53.

1Zhou Z., Liu Z., Guo L. 2013. Chemical evolution of Macondo crude oil during laboratory degradation as characterized by fluorescence EEMs and hydrocarbon composition. Marine Pollution Bulletin 66, 164-175.

2Liu Z., Liu J., Zhu Q., Wu W. 2012. The weathering of oil after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: insights from the chemical composition of the oil from the sea surface, salt marshes and sediments. Environmental Research Letters 7, 035302.

1Wang, Z.*, Liu, Z., Yang, Y., Li, T., Liu, M. 2012. Distribution of PAHs in tissues of wetland plants and the surrounding sediments in the Chongming wetland, Shanghai, China. Chemosphere 89, 221-227.

1Liu, Z., R. Sleighter, and P. Hatcher.  2011.  The chemical changes of DOM from black waters to coastal marine waters by HPLC combined with ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry.  Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 92, 205-216.

1Sleighter, R., Z. Liu, J. Xue, P. Hatcher.  2010.  Multivariate statistical approaches for the characterization of dissolved organic matter analyzed by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry.  Environmental Science and Technology 44: 7576-7582.

1Abramson, L., C. Lee, Z. Liu, S.G. Wakeham, and J. Szlosek.  2010.  Exchange between suspended and sinking particles in the northwest Mediterranean as inferred from the organic composition of in situ pump and sediment trap samples.  Limnology and Oceanography 55:725-739.

1Liu, Z., M. Kobiela#, G. McKee, C. Lee, M.R. Mulholland, and P.G. Hatcher.  2010.  The effect of chemical structure on the hydrolysis of tetrapeptides along a river-to-ocean transect: AVFA and SWGA.  Marine Chemistry 119:108-120.

1Liu, Z., J.K. Cochran, C. Lee, B. Gasser, J.C. Miquel, and S.G. Wakeham.  2009.  Further investigations on why POC concentrations differ in samples collected by Niskin bottle and in situ pump.  Deep-Sea Research II 56:1558-1567.

1Engel, A., L. Abramson, J. Szlosek, Z. Liu, G. Stewart, D. Hirschberg, and C. Lee. 2009. Investigating the effect of ballasting by CaCO3 in Emiliania huxleyi: II. Decomposition of particulate organic matter. Deep-Sea Research II 56:1408-1419.

1Engel, A., J. Szlosek, L. Abramson, Z. Liu, and C. Lee.  2009.  Investigating the effect of ballasting by CaCO3 in Emiliania huxleyi: I. Formation, settling velocities and physical properties of aggregates.  Deep-Sea Research II 56:1396-1407.

1Wakeham, S.G., C. Lee, M.L. Peterson, Z. Liu, J. Szlosek, I. Putnam, and J. Xue.  2009.  Organic biomarkers in the Twilight Zone – Time series and settling velocity sediment traps during MEDFLUX.  Deep-Sea Research II 56:1437-1453.

1Liu, Z., J. Mao, C. Lee, S. Wakeham, M. Peterson, and P. Hatcher.  2009.  Characterization of sinking particles from the northwest Mediterranean Sea using advanced solid-state NMR.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73:1014-1026.

1Liu, Z., C. Lee, and R.C. Aller.  2008.  Drying effects on decomposition of salt marsh sediment and on lysine sorption.  Journal of Marine Research 66:665-689.

1Sleighter, R.L., G.A. McKee, Z. Liu, and P.G. Hatcher.  2008.  Naturally present fatty acids as internal calibrants for Fourier transform mass spectra of dissolved organic matter.  Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 6:246-253.

1Goutx, M., S.G. Wakeham, C. Lee, M. Duflos, C. Guigue, Z. Liu, B. Moriceau, R. Sempere, M. Tedetti, and J. Xue.  2007.  Composition and degradation of marine particles with different settling velocities in the Northwestern Mediterranean sea.  Limnology and Oceanography 52:1645-1664.

1Liu, Z. and C. Lee.  2007.  The role of organic matter in the sorption capacity of marine sediments.  Marine Chemistry 105:240-257.

1Liu, Z. and C. Lee.  2006.  Drying effects on sorption capacity of coastal sediment: The importance of architecture and polarity of organic matter.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70:3313-3324.

1Liu, Z., C. Lee, and S.G. Wakeham.  2006.  Effects of mercuric chloride and protease inhibitors on degradation of particulate organic matter from the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana.  Organic Geochemistry 37:1003-1018.

1Ingalls, A.E., Z. Liu, and C. Lee.  2006.  Seasonal trends in the pigments and amino acid compositions of sinking particles in biogenic CaCO3 and SiO2 dominated regions of the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean along 170ºW.  Deep-Sea Research I 53:836-859.

1Liu, Z., G.M. Stewart, J.K. Cochran, C. Lee, R. Armstrong, D. Hirschberg, B. Gasser, and J.-C.Miquel.  2005.  Why do POC concentrations measured using Niskin bottle collections sometimes differ from those using in situ pumps?  Deep-Sea Research I 52:1324-1344.

1Liu, Z., X. Peng, L. Xu, and H. Hong.  2000.  Particulate organic carbon (POC) in Taiwan Strait during two cruises in summer 1997 and winter 1998.  Journal of Oceanography in Taiwan Strait 19(1):95-101. (In Chinese).