School of Earth, Energy &
        Environmental Sciecnes

     Robert B. Dunbar

W.M. Keck Professor of Earth Science, Stanford University
Professor of Environmental Earth System Science
Anne T. and Robert M. Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education
Director, Stanford University Stable Isotope Lab
Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

     Rob Dunbar and Hatch  

Dr. Robert B. Dunbar        Department of Earth Systems Science
Geology Corner, Room 326
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-2115

Phone: (650) 725-6830

Dunbar Google Scholar


Dunbar TED Talk

For Prospective Students:

See Papers by Advisees Section of my CV


Stanford Homepage

School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Lab (SIBL) located in rooms 332 and 334 of Green Earth Sciences

Woods Institute for the Environment

Dunbar CV

Dunbar YouTube

Dunbar Nature Photos

Earth Systems Program

ESS Department


Stanford Travel Study

Weather at Stanford

Weather at Durango

Dunbar FTP site

Hopkins Marine Station

ESS Seminar Schedule

My research and teaching interests include Climate Change, Oceanography, Marine Ecology, and Biogeochemistry. I am also engaged in using marine science to inform policies directed towards solving key problems involving the oceans. My research group studies global environmental change with a focus on air-sea interactions, tropical marine ecosystems, polar climate change past and present, and the biogeochemistry of elements involved in life processes in the sea, e.g., oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon.

I arrived at Stanford in 1997, from Rice University. At Stanford I've created and/or led several environmental academic programs. In October, 2001, I became the founding director of a new Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources (IPER, now Emmett-IPER), a position I held through 2005. In January, 2003, I was appointed the Victoria P. and Roger W. Sant Director of the Earth Systems Program,the largest undergraduate and co-terminal masters program in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences. In January, 2004, I was named the J. Frederick and Elisabeth B. Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. This fellowship is in recognition of teaching and mentoring of Stanford undergraduate  students and is  among the most meaningful honors I have received. I was named the William M. Keck Professor of Earth Science in 2008, the same year that I moved from the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences (now Department of Geological Sciences) to the newly created Department of Earth System Science. In 2009, I was elected as a Trustee for the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. where I remain active in promoting sound ocean policy as well as federal funding for ocean research. In 2018 I was appointed to the Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Over the past 20 years I have helped start new tropical marine stations, run many field programs in Antarctica and the tropics, and engaged in many types of international science exchange and partnership. Details of these activities can be found in my CV.

The Dunbar Lab is currently working on several projects in Antarctica to assess the impacts of climate change on Southern Ocean ecosystems and C-system chemistry, as well as melt rates of the ice sheet. Some of this work focuses on the Ross Sea where we are studying the modern uptake of carbon dioxide by the ocean and the sensitivity of primary production to changes in nutrients, trace elements, vitamins, temperature, sea ice cover, and the C chemistry of seawater. We continue to use sediment cores from fjords and shelf basins of East Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula to study past and changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet. We are also engaged in analysis of stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in seawater samples from along Antarctica's ice margins. This is a new method, completely independent of satellite data, that shows promise for the estimation of melt rates from Antarctica's continental ice sheet. The method is easily transported to other ice margins in Patagonia, Alaska, and Greenland.This project involves significant instrumentation development as well as field work in Antarctica. Our current focal region is Pine Island Bay.

My lab has begun an exciting new project working in the Chagos Archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory, with partners from Oxford University and the Zoological Society of London. With funding from the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science we are working to understand biological, physical, and genetic drivers of biodiversity and change in the regions coral reefs. Our project is part of a much larger effort focused on transformative scientific research within one of the world's largest and pristine no-take Marine Protected Areas.

I been working for 45 years to develop high resolution records of past climatic and oceanic variability in modern lakes and oceans - and this work continues in 2020. By understanding natural climate variability in our recent past, we are better able to discern man-made impacts on our climate system. To pursue this research we use the skeletons of long-lived corals from the tropics and the deep sea, as well as sediments from lakes and marine environments. We use chemical, isotopic, and morphological measurements of these materials to investigate the timing and rates of change associated with past climate and C cycle excursions. Field areas include the American Samoa, Antarctica, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, Patagonia, and Palau.

After years of only working in remote locations on the far side of the world, I finally have a project in my backyard. Working with colleagues at Cal State Northridge, MBARI, and Stanford, we have instrumented a Kelp Forest at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove to examine how the kelp community modifies seawater and is in turn impacted by changes in seawater chemistry.

We are also engaged in a collaboration with colleagues in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford and MBARI to develop instrumentation and methodologies for better understanding and measuring ocean physics and biogeochemistry in coastal marine systems.

I travel a lot for my work and I am an avid nature photographer. See this page for photographs from Antarctica, South Georgia, Falklands, New Guinea, Nepal, Greenland, Kamchatka, Australia, Palmyra, Palau, American Samoa, Argentina, Alaska, Chile, Japan, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Chagos, Iceland, and Africa. Some videos are posted at my youtube site.


Education and Experience


- Ph.D., 1981, Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
- B.S., 1975, Geology (with Special Honors), University of Texas, Austin


- W.M. Keck Professor of Earth Science, Stanford University, 2008-present
- Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, 2005-present
- Anne T. Robert M. Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, 2013-present
- Professor of Earth System Science, Stanford University, 2007-present
- Director, Stanford Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Laboratory
 - J. Frederick and Elisabeth B. Weintz University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, 2003-2013
- Victoria P. and Roger W. Sant Director of the Earth Systems Program at Stanford, 2003-2011
- Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 1997-2007
- Founding Director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources, 2001-2005
- Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies, Stanford University, 1998-2010
- Adjunct Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Rice University, 1997-2000
- Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Rice University, 1994-1997
- Visiting Scientist, National Geophysical Data Center, 1994-1996
- Assistant/Associate Professor of Geology, Rice University, 1982-1994
- Master, Baker College, Rice University, 1989-1994
- Visiting Fellow, Research School of Earth Sciences, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, New Zealand, 1988
- Visiting Scientist, Geology Department, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1988
- Visiting Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, University of California, San Diego, 1981-82

Full CV



Classes Taught at Stanford

- GES 4: Undergraduate Seminar in Geological and Environmental Sciences
- GES 38N: Stanford Introductory Seminar: Science and History of Polar Exploration
- GES 41: Stanford Introductory Seminar, El Nino: History and Predictability of a Global Climate Pacemaker
- GES 56: Stanford Introductory Dialog, Change in the Coastal Ocean: The View from Monterey Bay
- GES 56Q: Stanford Introductory Seminar, Change in the Coastal Ocean: The View from Monterey Bay
- GES 155: Biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean
- GES 163: Introduction to Isotope Geology
- GES 164: Stable Isotope Geochemistry
- GES 205: Advanced Oceanography
- GES 206: Antarctic Marine Geology & Geophysics
- GES 254: Paleoceanography
- GES 257: Climate Variability and Forcing Mechanisms of the last 2000 years
- GES 290: Numerical Analysis of Geological Time Series
- ESS 182: Stanford @ SEA
- IPER 310: Environmental Forum Seminar
- EARTHSYS 210 Earth Systems Senior Seminar
- EARTHSYS 297 Directed Study and Creative Writing
- ESS 240 Advanced Oceanography
- ESS 242 Antarctic Marine Geology
- EARTHSYS 199 Honors Program
- OSPGEN 53 Corals of Palau: Ecology, The Physical Environment, and Reefs at Risk
- OSPGEN 12 Uttermost Part of the Earth The Intersection of Nature and the Human Enterprise in Patagonia
- OSPGEN 2020 Earth’s 3rd Pole: Coupled Human-Natural Systems in the Khumbu Valley, Nepal
- ESS 10SC In the Age of the Anthropocene: Coupled-Human Natural Systems of Southeast Alaska                                                        - ESS 40 Approaching Palau: Preparation and Research Ideation and Development                                                                                     - ESS 355 Coral Reefs of the Western Pacific: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Emerging Crises, and Solutions                                       - ESS 215 Approaching Nepal: Coupled Human-Natural Systems of the Solokhumbu


Publications (see full CV)


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