Remembering William “Bill” Reeburgh (1940-2021)

December 15, 2021

Professor William S. Reeburgh, known to friends and colleagues as Bill, died in July. He was a Geochemistry Fellow and active supporter of the Geochemical Society for many years. He and his wife, Carelyn, established the Endowed Biogeochemistry Lecture in 2016 and it is now an important part of the annual Goldschmidt Conference.

Born in 1940 in Port Arthur, Texas, Bill received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. in oceanography from Johns Hopkins University. He was professor and chair of Marine Science at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks for many years. In 1993, he moved to the University of California, Irvine as a founding professor of the university's Department of Earth System Science.

According to a press release from UCI:

"Bill Reeburgh's research contributed enormously to our understanding of the global methane cycle, and it was once said that he was to methane what Dave Keeling was to CO2. He recognized that methane entering the atmosphere and oceans represents the small imbalance between very large methane production and oxidation sinks resulting from microbial activity in sediments and soils. He demonstrated an important new sink mechanism for methane in oxygen-free environments, but had to convince skeptical microbiologists, as no microbe had then been discovered with this metabolism. To do this, Bill used what he called "the 3R's" – documenting routes, reactions and rates by combining tools ranging from sediment reaction-diffusion modeling, isotope labeling and stable isotope distributions to build an incontrovertible case. Many of the measurements came from favorite field sites in Skan Bay, Alaska and the Black Sea."

His important contributions to the fields of biogeochemistry and global elemental cycling were recognized by the GS and EAG in 2018 when Bill was named a Geochemistry Fellow. He was also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Bill and Carelyn were married for 54 years and raised three children together. On retiring from UCI, Bill moved to Vancouver, Washington where he enjoyed woodworking, spending time with his six grandchildren, and serving on various scientific advisory committees, including the GS Strategic Planning Committee.

Bill will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in the Geochemical Society. But his and Carelyn's generosity will be felt long into the future as the Endowed Biogeochemistry Lecture continues to recognize innovative science in this field.

The Geochemical Society has planted a tree in memory of Bill Reeburgh. You can also plant a tree in his name.

Remembering Professor William "Bill" S. Reeburgh - UCI Physical Sciences Communications

Category: In Memoriam