Ronald P. Kiene, Ph.D.

Ronald P. Kiene, Ph.D.

Senior Marine Scientist III

Professor, University of South Alabama


Dr. Ron Kiene earned a B.S. in Biology with a minor in chemistry from St. John’s University in New York.  He obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from SUNY Stony Brook and carried out postdoctoral research at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami.  He spent five years on the faculty of the University of Georgia Marine Institute before joining the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  He currently holds the rank of Professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at USA and Senior Marine Scientist III at DISL.

Dr. Kiene is a chemical oceanographer and microbial biogeochemist who studies how natural compounds containing sulfur, carbon and nitrogen are produced and transformed in the oceans. In particular his research focuses on how microbial metabolisms affect the global cycles of elements and how they influence the Earth’s atmosphere through production of climate-active gases.  His research has been supported by numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and other agencies and has been carried out locally, in Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and all over the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.  He has spent a total of 293 days at sea conducting research and has been chief scientist for eight major research cruises.  His research and teaching experiences have led to a strong interest in global change processes, especially climate change.  He is interested in communicating his knowledge of these subjects to members of society across all levels.   

During his career, Dr. Kiene has authored or co-authored 136 peer-reviewed scientific publications and while at USA, he has mentored seven M.S. students and nine Ph.D. students.  He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography and the American Geophysical Union.  He serves as a handling editor for the journals Marine Chemistry and Marine Ecology-Progress Series and, in addition, he routinely reviews between 15 and 20 manuscripts per year for high profile journals, including Science, Nature, PNAS and others.  His honors include being named a Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology in 2015, receiving the USA National Alumni Association Outstanding Scholar Award in 2000 and again in 2014, College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecturer in 2014, and being named the.Phi Kappa Phi Scholar of the Year at USA in 2016.  He was recognized for one of the top 50 accomplishments in Research, Scholarly Activity and Creative works during the University of South Alabama’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2013.

Research Interest

My research focuses on the role of microorganisms in the cycling of organic matter and important elements such as sulfur and nitrogen in aquatic systems.

A major focus of my research program is the biogeochemistry and ecophysiology of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and its volatile degradation product, dimethylsulfide (DMS), in marine systems and specific organisms. We carry out this research in local waters but also on oceanographic cruises and other field sites all over the world. This field continues to broaden as we have discovered new and important roles for DMSP and its degradation products in the marine ecosystem. DMSP is produced by many, but not all, marine algae who use it as an osmotic solute and antioxidant. DMSP is degraded by microorganisms to volatile DMS which is a major source of sulfur to the atmosphere. This input of DMS to the atmosphere significantly affects atmospheric chemistry (especially the pH of precipitation) and also the global climate system because DMS is oxidized to sulfate aerosols (tiny crystals of salt). Sulfate aerosols affect climate by directly reflecting solar radiation back to space and by serving as cloud condensation nuclei, which in turn affect how clouds reflect solar radiation. Our work seeks to understand how and why DMS is produced, and what controls its ultimate emission from the ocean to the atmosphere. Through various collaborations we are studying how the DMSP/DMS cycling is connected to production of other important atmospheric trace gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), both of which are potent heat-trapping greenhouse gases involved in global warming.



  • 2014 - In Press

    Amrani, A., Said-Ahmad, W., Shaked, Y., & Kiene, R. P.. Sulfur isotope homogeneity of oceanic DMSP and DMS.

  • 2014 - Accepted

    Wilson, B. B. Mortazavi, and R. P. Kiene. Spatial and temporal variability in methane and carbon dioxide exchange at three coastal marhses along a salinity gradient in a Northern Gulf of Mexico estuary.

  • 2013

    Mohapatra, B., Rellinger, A. N., Kieber, D. J., & Kiene, R. P.. Comparative functional characteristics of dimethylsulfoniopropionate lyases extracted from polar and temperate Phaeocystis species.

  • 2012

    Magalhães, C., Kiene, R. P., Salgado, P., & Bordalo, A. A.. Influence of salinity on dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol formation in estuarine sediments and its side effect on nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Moran, M. A., Reisch, C. R., Kiene, R. P., & Whitman, W. B.. Genomic insights into bacterial DMSP transformations.

  • Lizotte, M., Levasseur, M., Michaud, S., Scarratt, M.G., Merzouk, A, Gosselin, M., Pommier, J., Rivkin, R.B. and Kiene, R.P.. Macroscale patterns of the biological cycling of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethylsulfide (DMS) in the Northwest Atlantic.

  • Motard-Côté, J., Levasseur, M., Scarratt, M. G., Michaud, S., Gratton, Y., Rivkin, R. B., Keats, K., Gosselin, M., Tremblay, J.-É., Kiene, R. P., and Lovejoy, C.,. Distribution and phylogenetic affiliation of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) -degrading bacteria in northern Baffin Bay/Lancaster Sound.

  • Herrmann, M., Najjar, R. G., Neeley, A. R., Vila-Costa, M., Dacey, J. W. H., DiTullio, G. R., Kieber, D.J., Kiene, R.P., Matrai, P.A., Simó, R., Vernet, M.. Diagnostic modeling of dimethylsulfide production in coastal water west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

  • Husband, J. D., Kiene, R. P., & Sherman, T. D.. Oxidation of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in response to oxidative stress in Spartina alterniflora and protection of a non -DMSP producing grass by exogenous DMSP+acrylate.

  • Rinta-Kanto, J. M., Sun, S., Sharma, S., Kiene, R. P., & Moran, M. A.. Bacterial community transcription patterns during a marine phytoplankton bloom.

  • Del Valle, D. A., Kiene , R. P., & Karl, D. M.. Effect of visible light on dimethylsulfoniopropionate assimilation and conversion to dimethylsulfide in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

  • 2011

    Howard, E., Sun, S., Reisch, C. R., Del Valle, D. A., Kiene, R. P., & Moran, M. A.. Changes in DMSP demethylase gene assemblages in response to an induced phytoplankton bloom.

  • Del Valle, D.A., Slezak, D., Smith, C.M., Rellinger, A.N., Kieber, D.J., Kiene, R.P.,. Effect of acidification on preservation of DMSP in seawater and phytoplankton cultures: evidence for rapid loss and cleavage of DMSP in samples containing Phaeocystis sp.

  • Magalhães, C., Kiene, R. P., Buchan, A., Machado, A., Wiebe, W. J., & Bordalo, A. A.. Methanethiol accumulation exacerbates release of N2O during denitrification in estuarine sediments and bacterial cultures.

  • Luce, M., M. Levasseur, M.G. Scarratt, S. Michaud, R. Kiene, C. Lovejoy, M. Gosselin, M. Poulin, Y. Gratton.. Distribution and microbial metabolism of dimethylsulfoniopropionate and dimethylsulfide during the 2007 Arctic ice minimum.

  • Harada, H., & Kiene , R. P.. Assessment and characteristics of DMSP lyase activity in seawater and phytoplankton cultures.

  • 2010

    Magalhães, C., Kiene, R. P., Buchan, A., Machado, A., Teixeira, C., Wiebe, W. J., et al.. A novel inhibitory interaction between dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and the denitrification pathway.

  • Damm, E., Helmke, E., Thoms, S., Schauer, U., Nöthig, E., Bakker, K., and Kiene, R. P.,. Methane production in aerobic oligotrophic surface water in the central Arctic Ocean.

  • Royer, S.-J., Levasseur, M., Lizotte, M., Arychuk, M., Scarratt, M. G., Wong, C. S., . . . Kiene, R. P.. Microbial dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) dynamics along a natural iron gradient in the northeast subarctic Pacific.

  • Rinta-Kanto, J. M., Burgmann, H., Gifford, S. M., Sun, S., Sharma, S., Del Valle, D. A., et al.. Analysis of Sulfur -Related Transcription by Roseobacter Communities Using a Taxon -Specific Functional Gene Microarray.

  • 2009

    Spiese, C.E., Kieber, D.J., Nomura, C.T. and Kiene, R.P.,. Reduction of dimethyl sulfoxide to dimethyl sulfide by marine phytoplankton.

  • Rellinger, A.N., Kiene, R.P., Slezak, D., del Valle, D.A., Harada, H., Bisgrove, J., Kieber, D.J., Brinkley, J.,. Occurrence and turnover of DMSP and DMS in the deep waters of the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

  • Kieber, D. J., Toole, D. A., and Kiene, R. P.,. Chromophoric dissolved organic matter cycling during a Ross Sea Phaeocystis antarctica bloom. In: Neale, P. J. (Ed.), Smithsonian at the Poles.

  • Lizotte, M., Levasseur, M., Kudo, I., Suzuki, I., Tsuda, A., Kiene, R.P., Scarratt, M.G.,. Iron -induced alterations of bacterial DMSP metabolism during SEEDS II.

  • del Valle, D.A., Kieber, D.J., Toole, D.A., Brinkley, J. and Kiene, R.P.,. Biological consumption of dimethylsulfide (DMS) and its importance in DMS dynamics in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

  • del Valle, D.A., Kieber, D.J., Toole, D.A., Bisgrove, J. and Kiene, R.P.,. Dissolved DMSO production via biological and photochemical oxidation of dissolved DMS in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

  • 2008

    Merzouk, A., Levasseur, M., Scarratt, M., Michaud, S., Lizotte, M., Rivkin, R.B., Kiene, R.P.,. Bacterial DMSP metabolism during the senescence of the spring diatom bloom in the Northwest Atlantic.

  • Vila-Costa, M, R. P. Kiene and R. Simó.. Seasonal variability of the dynamics of dimethylated sulfur compounds in a coastal northwest Mediterranean site.

  • Damm, E., Kiene, R., Schwarz, J.N., Falck, E. and Dieckmann, G.S.,. Methane cycling in Arctic shelf water and its relationship with phytoplankton bloom and DMSP.

  • Bailey K. E., Toole D. A., Blomquist B., Najjar R. G., Heubert B., Kieber D. J., Kiene R. P., Matrai P., Westby G., and Del Valle D. A.. Dimethylsulfide production in Sargasso Sea Eddies.

  • Gabric, A.J., Matrai, P., Kiene, R.P., Cropp, R., Dacey, J., DiTullio, G., Najjar, R., Simo, R., Toole, D.A., del Valle, D. A., and Slezak, D.,. Factors determining the vertical profile of dimethylsulfide in the Sargasso Sea during summer.

  • 2007

    Husband, J.D. and R. P. Kiene.. Occurrence of dimethylsulfoxide in leaves, stems and roots of Spartina alterniflora (Loisel.).

  • Kieber, D.J., D.A. Toole, J.J. Jankowski, R. P. Kiene, G. Westby, D.A. del Valle and D. Slezak.. Chemical light meters" for photochemical and photobiological DMS and DMSP studies.""hemical "light meters" for photochemical and photobiological DMS and DMSP""emical "light meters" for photochemical and photobiological DMS ""mical "light meters" for photochemical and photobiologic""ical "light meters" for photochemical and photobi""cal "light meters" for photochemical and ph""al "light meters" for photochemical an""l "light meters" for photochemical"" "light meters" for photochemic"""light meters" for photochemi""light meters" for photochemi""ight meters" fo""ght"

  • Sievert, S.M., R. P. Kiene and H. N. Schulz-Vogt.,. The Sulfur Cycle.

  • del Valle, D.A., Kieber, D.J., Bisgrove, J. and Kiene, R.P.,. Light -stimulated production of dissolved DMSO by a particle -associated process in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

  • Kiene, R.P., D.J. Kieber, D. Slezak, D.A. Toole, D. A. del Valle, Bisgrove, J. Brinkley, A. Rellinger.. Distribution and cycling of dimethylsulfide, dimethylsulfoniopropionate, and dimethylsulfoxide during spring and early summer in the Southern Ocean south of New Zealand.

  • del Valle, D. A., D. J. Kieber, and R. P. Kiene.. Depth -dependent fate of biologically -consumed dimethylsulfide in the Sargasso Sea.

  • Slezak, D., Kiene, R.P., Toole, D.A., R. Simo, and Kieber, D.J.. Effects of solar radiation on the fate of dissolved DMSP and conversion to DMS in seawater.

  • Sunda, W. G., R. P. Kiene, R. Hardison, E. Bucciarelli, and H. Harada. The effects of nitrogen limitation on cellular DMSP and DMS release in marine phytoplankton: climate feedback implications. Aquatic Sciences. DOI -10.1007/s00027 -007 -0887 -0. Pages 341 -351.

  • 2006

    Kiene, R.P. and Slezak, D.,. Low dissolved DMSP concentrations in seawater revealed by small volume gravity filtration and dialysis sampling.

  • Toole D.A., D. Slezak, R.P. Kiene, D.J. Kieber, and D.A. Siegel.. Effects of solar radiation on dimethylsulfide cycling in the Western Atlantic Ocean.

  • Vila-Costa, M., del Valle, D.A., González, JM., Slezak, D., Kiene, R.P., Sánchez, O., and Simó, R.. Phylogenetic identification and metabolism of marine DMS -consuming bacteria.

  • Merzouk, A. M. Levasseur, M. G. Scarratt, S. Michaud, R. B.. Rivkin, M. S. Hale, R. P. Kiene, N. M. Price and W. K.W. Li.. DMSP and DMS dynamics during a mesoscale iron fertilization experiment in the Northeast Pacific. Part II. Bacterial cycling.

  • Howard E., Henriksen J. R., Buchan A., Reisch C., Buergmann H., Welsh R., Ye W., González, J. M., Remington K., Mace K., Joye S. B., Kiene R. P., Whitman W. B., and Moran M. A.. Identification of bacterial taxa limiting the flux of DMS from the ocean.

  • Vila-Costa, M, R. Simó, H. Harada, J. M . Gasol, D. Slezak, R. P. Kiene.. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) uptake by marine phytoplankton.

  • 2005

    Pinhassi J, R. Simó, J.M. González, M. Vila,.L. Alonso-Sáez, R.P. Kiene, M. A. Moran and C. Pedrós-Alió.. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate turnover linked to the composition and dynamics of the bacterioplankton assemblage during a microcosm phytoplankton bloom.

  • Malmstrom, R.R., R. P. Kiene, M. Vila and D. L. Kirchman.. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) assimilation by Synechococcus in the Gulf of Mexico and Northwest Atlantic Ocean.

  • 2004

    Moran, M.A., A. Buchan, J. M. González, J. F. Heidelberg., W. B. Whitman., R. P. Kiene, J. R. Henriksen, G. M. King, R. Belas, C. Fuqua, L. Brinkac, M. Lewis, S. Johri, B. Weaver, G. Pai, J. A. Eisen, E. Rahe, W. M. Sheldon, W.Ye, T. R. Miller, J Ca. Genome Sequence of Silicibacter pomeroyi reveals unique adaptations to the marine environment.

  • Zubkov, M, L. J. Linn, R. Amann and R. P. Kiene.. Temporal patterns of biological dimethylsulfide (DMS) consumption during laboratory -induced phytoplankton bloom cycles.

  • Harada, H, M-A. Rouse, W. Sunda and R. P. Kiene.. Latitudinal and vertical distributions of particle -associated DMSP lyase activity in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

  • Miley, G.A. and R. P. Kiene.. Sulfate reduction and pore water chemistry in a gulf coast Juncus roemerianus (needlerush) marsh.

  • Malmstrom, R R., R. P. Kiene and D. L. Kirchman.. Identification and enumeration of marine bacteria assimilating dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in the north Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

  • Keller, M.D., P.M. Matrai, R.P. Kiene, and W. K. Bellows.. Responses of coastal phytoplankton populations to nitrogen additions: Dynamics of cell -associated dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), glycine betaine (GBT) and homarine.

  • Stets, E G, M. E. Hines and R. P. Kiene.. Thiol methylation potential in anoxic, low pH wetland sediments and its relationship dimethylsulfide production and organic carbon cycling.

  • Malmstrom, R R., R. P. Kiene, M. Cottrell and D. L. Kirchman.. Contribution of SAR11 bacteria to C, N, and S cycling in the North Atlantic Ocean.

  • Vila, M., R. Simó, R.P. Kiene, J. Pinhassi, J.M. González, M. A. Moran, and C. Pedrós-Alió.. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate incorporation by bacterioplankton taxa studied by microautoradiography and fluorescence in situ hybridization.

  • Toole, D.A. D.J. Kieber, R.P. Kiene, E.M. White, J. Bisgrove, D.A. del Valle, D. Slezak.. High dimethylsulfide photolysis rates in nitrate -rich Antarctic waters. 2004.

  • 2003

    González, J. M., J. S. Covert, W. B. Whitman, J. Henricksen, F. Mayer, B. Scharf, R. Schmitt, A. Buchan, J. A. Fuhrman, R. P. Kiene, and M. A. Moran.. Silicibacter pomeroyi sp. nov. and Roseovarius nubinhibens sp. nov., two DMSP demethylating bacteria from marine environments.

  • Toole, D.A., D. J. Kieber, R. P. Kiene, D. A. Siegel, and N.B. Nelson.. Photolysis and the dimethylsulfide (DMS) summer paradox in the Sargasso Sea.

  • Moran, M. A., J. M. González, and R. P. Kiene.. Linking a bacterial taxon to organic sulfur cycling in the sea: studies of the marine Roseobacter group.

  • 2002

    Roesler, C.S., C.W. Culbertson, S.M. Etheridge, R. Goericke, R.P. Kiene, L. G. Miller and R.O. Oremland.. Distribution, production, and ecophysiology of a Picocystis strain ML in Mono Lake, CA..

  • Zubkov, M. V., B. M. Fuchs, S. D. Archer, R. P. Kiene, R. Amann and P. H. Burkill.. Rapid turnover of dissolved DMS and DMSP by defined bacterioplankton communities in the stratified euphotic zone of the North Sea.

  • Duddleston, K. N., M. A. Kinney, R. P. Kiene, and M.E. Hines.. Anaerobic microbial biogeochemistry in a northern bog: acetate as a dominant metabolic end product.

  • González, J. M., R. P. Kiene, S. B. Joye, D. Yu. Sorokin, and M. A. Moran.. Oxidation of organic and inorganic sulfur compounds by aerobic heterotrophic marine bacteria.

  • Sunda, W., D. J. Kieber, R. P. Kiene and S. Huntsman.. An antioxidant function for DMSP in marine algae.

  • 2001

    Hines, M. E., K. N. Duddleston and R. P. Kiene.. Carbon flow to acetate and C1 compounds in high latitude wetlands.

  • Zubkov, M, B. M. Fuchs, S.D. Archer, R. P. Kiene, R. Amann and P. Burkhill.. Linking the composition of bacterioplankton to rapid turnover of dissolved dimethylsulphoniopropionate in an algal bloom in the North Sea.

  • 2000

    Kiene, R. P. and L. Linn.. The fate of dissolved dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in seawater: Tracer studies using 35S -DMSP.

  • Kiene, R. P. and L. J. Linn.. Turnover of dissolved DMSP and its relationship with bacterial production in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Kiene, R. P., L. J. Linn and J. A. Bruton.. New and important roles for DMSP in marine microbial communities.

  • 1999

    Kiene, R.P., and L.J. Linn.. Filter type and sampling handling affect determination of organic substrate uptake by bacterioplankton.

  • Kettle, A.J. (and many others, including R.P. Kiene).. A global database of sea surface dimethylsulfide (DMS) measurements and a procedure to predict sea surface DMS as a function of latitude, longitude, and month.

  • Keller, M.D., R. P. Kiene, P. A. Matrai and W.K. Bellows.. Production of glycine betaine and dimethylsulfoniopropionate in marine phytoplankton. II. N -limited chemostat cultures.

  • Keller, M.D., P.A. Matrai and R. P. Kiene.. Production of glycine betaine and dimethylsulfoniopropionate in marine phytoplankton. I. Batch cultures.

  • González, J., R. P. Kiene and M. Moran.. Transformations of sulfur compounds by an abundant lineage of marine bacteria in the a -subclass of the Proteobacteria.

  • Kiene, R.P., L. Linn, J. Gonzalez, M. Moran and J. Bruton.. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate and methanethiol are important precursors of methionine and protein -sulfur in marine bacterioplankton.

  • 1998

    Kiene, R... Choline uptake by microorganisms in seawater and its conversion to glycine betaine.

  • Kiene, R., L. Hoffmann Williams, and J. Walker.. Sea water microorganisms have a high affinity glycine betaine uptake system which also recognizes dimethylsulfoniopropionate.

  • 1996

    Kiene, R.P., P.T. Visscher, G.O. Kirst and M.D. Keller. Biological and Environmental Chemistry of DMSP and related sulfonium compounds.

Who We Are

Graduate Students:

Alison Rellinger
Jessie Motard-Côté
Molly Miller (co-advisee)
Bradley Myer

Interns/Post Docs/Summer Students:

Erin McParland (REU)
Luke Swider (REU)
Thomas Kinsey (Undergrad Intern)
Bidyut Mohapatra (Post Doc)

Former Students (recent):

Daniela del Valle, Ph.D.
Hyakabun Harada, Ph.D.
J. Daniel Husband, Ph.D.
Casey M. Smith (Schine)
Justin Liefer, Ph.D. (co-advisee)
Lucy Novaveska, Ph.D. (co-advisee)

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