Will Burt

Will Burt

Assistant Professor

Biological Oceanography

College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
123 O'Neill Building
Fairbanks, AK 99775



Dalhousie University
Ph.D. Chemical Oceanography

University of Victoria
B.Sc. Geoscience and Oceanography


Curriculum Vitae




I'm a born and raised west-coast Canadian with a love for the outdoors. I am also an oceanographer with a passion for conducting research aboard ships, where interdisciplinary teamwork is at its best.


Selected Publications

Rosengard, S.Z., R.W. Izett, W.J. Burt, N. Schuback, and P.D. Tortell. In press. Decoupling of net community production and particulate organic carbon dynamics in near shore surface ocean waters. Biogeosciences.

Behrenfeld, M.J., P. Gaube, A.D. Penna, R.T. O’Malley, W.J. Burt, Y. Hu, P.S. Bontempi, D.K. Steinberg, E.S. Boss, D.A. Siegel, C.A. Hostetler, P.D. Tortell, and S.C. Doney. 2019. Global satellite-observed daily vertical migrations of ocean animals. Nature 576: 257–261. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1796-9

Horwitz, R.M., A.E. Hay, W.J. Burt, R.A. Cheel, J. Salisbury, and H. Thomas. 2019. High-frequency variability of CO2 in Grand Passage, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Biogeosciences 16(2): 605–615. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-16-605-2019

Burt, W.J., and P.D. Tortell. 2018. Observations of zooplankton diel vertical migration from high-resolution surface ocean optical measurements. Geophysical Research Letters 45(24): 13,396–13,404. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL079992 

Burt, W.J., T.K. Westberry, M.J. Behrenfeld, C. Zeng, R.W. Izett, and P.D. Tortell. 2018. Carbon: chlorophyll ratios and net primary productivity of Subarctic Pacific surface waters derived from autonomous shipboard sensors. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 32(2): 267–288. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GB005783

Miller, L.A., T.M. Burgers, W.J. Burt, M.A. Granskog, and T.N. Papakyriakou. 2018. Air-sea CO2 flux estimates in stratified Arctic coastal waters: How wrong can we be? Geophysical Research Letters 46(1): 235–243.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL080099

Zeng, C., S.Z. Rosengard, W.J. Burt, M.A. Peña, N. Nemcek, T. Zeng, K.R. Arrigo, and P.D. Tortell. 2018. Optically-derived estimates of phytoplankton size class and taxonomic group biomass in the Eastern Subarctic Pacific Ocean. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 136:107–118. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2018.04.001


  • Marine biogeochemical cycles
  • Phytoplankton biomass and productivity
  • Biological oxygen production
  • Ocean optics
  • Radium/radon isotope tracers


Research Overview

My research encompasses a broad range of topics in marine biogeochemical cycles. My group takes part in large oceanographic expeditions (including those aboard R/V Sikuliaq) utilizing measurements of light (i.e., ocean optics) to estimate the biomass and photosynthetic carbon production of phytoplankton. By installing optical instrumentation into a ship's flow-through system, we can estimate this critical biological process in the waters surrounding Alaska at unprecedented time and space scales. We will also explore how these data can help validate and improve satellite-based ocean color estimates. 

My group also works in more coastal environments, tracing inputs of nutrients, carbon and other dissolved materials from various land-based sources (rivers, groundwater, seafloor sediments) using radioisotope techniques. One current project focuses on characterizing groundwater inputs within Kachemak Bay, and understanding the role of these fluxes in fueling primary productivity and altering ocean pH.


Current research projects

  • Exploring radium isotopes as tracers of groundwater inputs, flushing rates, and produced water in Cook Inlet (Coastal Marine Institute–BOEM)
  • Students Observing Sikuliaq Satellite Information (SOSSI, or 'Saucy') program (North Pacific Research Board Outreach Project #1954)



MSL/FISH 102: Fact or Fishin: Case Studies in Fisheries and Marine Sciences
MSL 111X: The Oceans



  • NSERC Postdoctoral Scholarship, 2016–2019
  • Killam Predoctoral Scholarship, 2013–2015
  • Dalhousie President's Award, 2013


Lab Center