Science Faculty Spotlight: Maria Tzortziou

March 21, 2021

 Maria Tzortziou outside

Dr. Maria Tzortziou is Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at The City College of New York and a member of the CUNY doctoral faculty in Earth and Environmental Sciences. Her research focuses on how natural processes and human activities impact the biogeochemistry and ecology of aquatic ecosystems, from rivers to oceans, and the socio-economic services these ecosystems provide. Specific environmental issues addressed in her ongoing projects include urban development, air and water pollution, eutrophication, climate change, sea level rise, coastal habitat destruction, and extreme events.

Before joining City University, she was a Research Scientist in the Science Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland, leading numerous investigations involving remote sensing of aquatic ecosystems and land-ocean-atmosphere interactions. Professor Tzortziou maintains her affiliation with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where she currently serves as the Deputy Program Applications Lead for PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem), a strategic NASA satellite mission that will extend key ocean color, aerosol, and cloud data records for Earth system and climate studies. Professor Tzortziou is also Adjunct Research Scientist at Columbia University Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, a Faculty Affiliate at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), and serves as the “Coastal Resilience” Theme Lead Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (NOAA-CESSRST).

 Maria Tzortziou outside on a boat

A similar integration of field and remote sensing observations with coupled physical-biogeochemical modeling is currently being used by Dr. Tzortziou and her collaborators to assess the role of marsh soils and tidal wetland-estuary margins as buffers, reactors, and transformers of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients. A major objective of these studies has been to quantify human-induced alterations in coastal wetland ecological characteristics and their impacts on land-water biogeochemical exchanges and estuarine ecology, specifically addressing estuarine water quality, plankton community composition, and linkages to development of hypoxic conditions, occurrence of bloom outbreaks, and change in fisheries habitat. Results from these studies are used to improve coastal water quality assessment, guide sustainable management of these highly valuable natural resources, and predict potential responses of wetland and estuarine systems to future pressures. Recently, Dr. Tzortziou and her team received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA's Rapid Response and Novel Research in Earth Science initiative, to examine the impacts of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on nitrogen pollution, air-quality, water-quality, and biogeochemical processes in the New York metropolitan area and quantify the responses of phytoplankton and bacterial assemblages in Long Island Sound to COVID-19 related shifts in nutrient quality.

Dr. Tzortziou is on the Science Steering Committee for the Ocean Carbon Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program and on the Science Leadership Board of the North American Carbon Program (NACP), two major activities of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, an interagency body that coordinates and facilitates activities relevant to carbon cycle science, climate, and global change issues. She has served on the Steering Committee and Writing Team for the 2017-2027 NASA Ocean Biology & Biogeochemistry Program Advanced Science Plan and was Invited Chapter Author for the Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR-2). Dr. Tzortziou serves as Science Team Member and the Applied Science Point of Contact for NASA's recently selected Earth Venture Instrument-5 Investigation GLIMR (Geostationary Littoral Imaging and Monitoring Radiometer), a new instrument competitively selected by NASA, with an award of $108 million, to provide unique observations of ocean biology, chemistry, and ecology that are critically needed to improve coastal resource management, enhance decision making, and enable rapid response to natural and man-made coastal hazards. Over her career, Dr. Tzortziou has participated as a Science Team Member in many joint airborne and ground-based field campaigns. As member of the DISCOVER-AQ and OWLETS Science Teams, she received a 2016 NASA Group Achievement Award "for outstanding achievement conducting airborne field studies to improve the diagnosis of near-surface air quality from space" and a 2019 NASA Group Achievement Award "for designing and executing an unprecedented scientific investigation in the upper and lower Chesapeake Bay to understand the ozone pollution at the land-water interface". 

three people outside