Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Steinberg Home Page

Deborah K. Steinberg

Professor of Marine Science

Email : [[debbies]]
Phone : (804) 684-7838
Office : Chesapeake Bay Hall S206
Website : {{}}
Department : Biological Sciences

  • B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1987
  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 1993
Research Interests

My research interests are in zooplankton ecology and physiology, coastal and deep-sea food webs, nutrient cycling, and marine detritus ("marine snow"). Much of my current focus is how zooplankton community structure affects flux of organic material and cycling of nutrients in the sea. Our laboratory has recently been involved in a number of projects with this theme, including the role of zooplankton vertical migration in transport of nutrients, the ecology of gelatinous zooplankton "blooms" and their affect on fluxes of organic matter, the importance of zooplankton in the cycling of dissolved organic matter, mesopelagic zooplankton and particle flux, and the effects of mesoscale eddies on zooplankton community structure. We are also using long-term data sets to study the effects of climate change on zooplankton communities, and how these community changes may affect ocean biogeochemistry. I have worked in a number of marine environments including coastal California, the Antarctic, Bermuda and the Sargasso Sea, the subtropical and subarctic North Pacific, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Current Projects
  • Palmer, Antarctica Long Term Ecological Research: Looking back in time through marine ecosystem space (NSF OPP)
  • Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS): Years 21-25 (NSF  OCE, subcontract)
  • Amazon Influence on the Atlantic: Carbon export from nitrogen fixation by Diatom Symbioses (ANACONDAS) (NSF OCE/ETBC)
Selected Publications
Full CV
  • Steinberg, D. K., M. W. Lomas, and J. S. Cope (2012). Long-term increase in mesozooplankton biomass in the Sargasso Sea: Linkage to climate and implications for food web dynamics and biogeochemical cycling.  Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 26, GB1004, doi:10.1029/2010GB004026.
  • Steinberg, D. K., D. G. Martinson, and D. P. Costa (2012). Two decades of pelagic ecology of the Western Antarctic   Peninsula. Oceanography, 25: 56-67.
  • Bernard, K. S., D. K. Steinberg, O. M. E. Schofield (2012). Summertime grazing impact of the dominant macrozooplankton off the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Deep-Sea Research I, 62: 111-122.
  • Condon, R. H., D. K. Steinberg,  P. A. del Giorgio, T. C. Bouvier, D. A. Bronk, H. W. Ducklow (2011). Jellyfish blooms result in a major microbial respiratory sink of carbon in marine systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015782108.
  • Saba, G. K., D. K. Steinberg, D. A. Bronk (2011). The relative importance of sloppy feeding, excretion, and fecal pellet leaching in the release of dissolved carbon and nitrogen by Acartia tonsa copepods. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 404: 47-56.
  • Steinberg, D.K., B. A. S. Van Mooy, K. O. Buesseler, P. P. Boyd, T. Kobari, and D. M. Karl.  2008. Bacterial vs. zooplankton control of sinking particle flux in the ocean's twilight zone.  Limnology and Oceanography.  53 (4): 1327-1338.
  • Goldthwait, S. A., and  D.K. Steinberg. 2008.  Elevated Biomass of Mesozooplankton and Enhanced Fecal Pellet Flux in Cold-Core and Mode-Water Eddies in the Sargasso Sea. Deep-Sea Research II   55 (10-13): 1360-1377.
  • Wilson, S.E.,  D.K. Steinberg, and K.O. Buesseler (2008) Changes in fecal pellet characteristics with depth as indicators of zooplankton repackaging of particles in the mesopelagic zone of the subtropical and subarctic North Pacific Ocean. Deep-Sea Research II  55(14-15): 1636-1647.
Students and Post-Doctoral Associates
Current Students
  • Brandon Conroy, Ph.D. student, Zooplankton community structure and grazing in the Amazon River plume and western tropical North Atlantic
  • Joshua Stone, Ph.D. student, Gelatinous zooplankton population dynamics in the Chesapeake Bay and Saragasso Sea and their role in carbon export
  • Miram Gleiber, M.S. student, Long-term change in copepod community structure in the Western Antarctic Peninsula: Linkage to climate and implications for trophic interactions and carbon export
Past Students
  • Lori Garzio (née Price) M.S. awarded 2012, Microzooplankton community composition and grazing impact along the western Antarctic Peninsula (currently Research Associate/ data analyst at MedAvante, Inc.)
  • Kate Ruck, M.S. awarded 2012, Zooplankton prey quality and feeding dynamics along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (currently a Fisheries Observer, Alaska)
  • Jeanna Hudson, M.S. awarded 2012, Trophic Ecology of Mesopelagic Myctophids (Family Myctophidae) from the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Iceland to the Azores). Currently a Laboratory and Research Specialist at VIMS.
  • Grace Saba, Ph.D. awarded 2009, The role of copepods and heterotrophic dinoflagellates in the production of dissolved organic matter and inorganic nutrients (currently Assistant Research Professor, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University)
  • Stephanie Wilson, Ph.D. awarded 2009, Mesopelagic zooplankton feeding ecology and effects on particle repackaging and carbon transport in the subtropical and subarctic North Pacific Ocean  (currently Research Lecturer/ faculty, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK)
  • Rob Condon, Ph.D. awarded 2008, Impacts of gelatinous zooplankton on dissolved organic matter cycling and bacterioplankton communities in the York River estuary (currently Assistant Professor University of North Carolina, Wilmington)
  • Bethany Eden, M.S. awarded 2008, Zooplankton community structure in a cyclonic and mode-water eddy in the  Sargasso Sea (currently a marine science teacher–Chesapeake Bay Governor's School, VA)
  • Astrid Schnetzer, Ph.D. awarded 2001, (University of Austria, Vienna), Zooplankton vertical migration and POM transport in the Sargasso Sea.  (currently Associate Professor at North Carolina State University)
Past Post-Docs
  • Dr. Kim Bernard, Antarctic mesozooplankton grazing, and use of acoustics to measure zooplankton distribution (currently Assistant Professor at Oregon State University)
  • Dr. Sarah Goldthwait, Zooplankton and biogeochemical cycling in mesoscale eddies
Courses Taught
  • MSCI 501: Fundamentals of Marine Science, Biological Oceanography
  • MSCI 652: Marine Plankton Ecology
  • MSCI 660: Zooplankton Ecology
  • MSCI 698: Special Topics (various)- e.g., Dissolved Organic Matter in Aquatic Systems, with Deborah Bronk; Respiration in Aquatic Ecosystems, with Elizabeth Canuel
  • 2012 - Sverdrup Award lecture, Ocean Sciences, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • 2011 - Elected to the governing council of The Oceanography Society (TOS)
  • 2007 - Winner of William and Mary Raft Debate
  • 2006 - Dean's Prize for Advancement of Women in Marine Science
  • 2005 - College of William & Mary Term Distinguished Professor of Marine Science
  • 2005 - Elected to the Board of Trustees, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Inc.
  • 2001 - Elected Secretary, Ocean Sciences section, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • 1987 - National Science Foundation Antarctic Service Award
Professional Memberships
  • American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • The Oceanography Society (TOS)
  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)