Diaz Home Page

Robert J. Diaz

Faculty Emeritus

Retired: 2013
Department: Biological Sciences
Email: [[diaz]]
Interests: Benthic ecology, low dissolved oxygen
Web Page: {{, Wormcam}}
Web Page: {{, Dead Zones}}

Education and Honors
  • B.A., La Salle College
  • M.S., University of Virginia
  • Ph.D., University of Virginia
  • D.H.C., Göteborg University, Sweden
Research Interests

My research interests center around understanding the consequences of low dissolved oxygen (hypoxia) to ecosystem functioning and organism-sediment interactions (bioturbation).  In particular, how perturbations of functions and processes influence energy flow.  I am striving to estimate the relative resource value of the various estuarine and marine benthic habitat types and how hypoxia affects energy flows.  The goal is to quantify energy flow between habitats and develop environmentally sound management strategies.  In addition, I am also interested in the application of the statistical and numerical methods to biological data. I am broadly interested in the ecology and taxonomy of estuarine and marine invertebrates with specialization in oligochaetes.

Current Projects
  • Assessment of the ecological consequences of dead zones (hypoxia or areas of low dissolved oxygen) around the world.
  • Real-time in-situ observation of benthic processes to document rates of sediment transport and bioturbation.
  • Changes in secondary production and energy flow in Chesapeake Bay related to hypoxia.
  • Biogenic activity in deep-sea sediments.
  • Long-term benthic monitoring.
  • Invertebrate museum curation and collecting.
Selected Publications
  • Breitburg, D.L., D.W. Hondorp, L.W. Davias, and R.J. Diaz. 2009. Hypoxia, nitrogen and fisheries: Integrating effects across local and global landscapes. Annual Reviews in Marine Science 1:329–49.
  • Diaz, R.J. and R. Rosenberg. 2008. Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science 321:926-928.
  • Diaz, R.J., D.C. Rhoads, J.A. Blake, R.K. Kropp, and K.E. Keay. 2008. Long-term trends of benthic habitats related to reduction in wastewater discharge to Boston Harbor. Estuaries and Coasts. 31:1184-1197. doi: 10.1007/s12237-008-9094-z
  • Puente, A. and R.J. Diaz. 2008. Is it possible to assess the ecological status of highly stressed natural estuarine environments using macroinvertebrates indices? Marine Pollution Bulletin. 56:1880-1889.  doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.07.016
  • Brandt, A., A.J. Gooday, S.N. Brandao, S. Brix, W. Brökeland, T. Cedhagen, M. Choudhury, N. Cornelius, B. Danis, I. De Mesel, R.J. Diaz, D.C. Gillan, B. Ebbe, J.A. Howe, D. Janussen, S. Kaiser, K. Linse, M. Malyutina, J. Pawlowski, M. Raupach, and A. Vanreusel. 2007. First insights into the biodiversity and biogeography of the Southern Ocean deep sea. Nature 447:307-311.
  • Diaz, R. J. and J. H. Trefry. 2006. Comparison of sediment profile image data with profiles of oxygen and Eh from sediment cores. Journal of Marine Systems 62:164-172.
  • Lim, H.-S., R. J. Diaz, J.-S. Hong and L. C. Schaffner. 2006. Hypoxia and benthic community recovery in Korean coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 52:1517-1526.
  • Diaz, R. J., M. Solan, and R. M. Valente. 2004. A review of approaches for classifying benthic habitats and evaluating habitat quality. Journal of Environmental Management. 73:165–181.
  • Diaz, R. J. 2004. Biological and physical processes structuring deep-sea surface sediments in the Scotian and Weddell Seas, Antarctica. Deep-Sea Research II 51:1515-1532. Diaz, R. J., G. R. Cutter, Jr. and D. M. Dauer. 2003. A comparison of two methods for estimating the status of benthic habitat quality in the Virginia Chesapeake Bay. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.371-381.
  • Diaz, R. J., G. R. Cutter, Jr. and K. W. Able. 2003. The importance of physical and biogenic structure to juvenile fishes on the shallow inner continental shelf. Estuaries 26:12-20Diaz, R.J. 2001. Overview of Hypoxia Around the World. J. Environ. Qual. 30:275-281.
  • Cutter, R.G. and Diaz, R.J. 2000. Biological alteration of physically structured flood deposits on the Eel margin, northern California. Continental Shelf Research. 20:235-253.
  • Yozzo, D.J. and R.J. Diaz. 1999. Tidal freshwater wetlands: invertebrate diversity, ecology, and functional significance.  P. 889-918. In: D.P. Batzer, R.B. Rader and S.A. Wissinger (eds.), Invertebrates in Freshwater Wetlands of North America: Ecology and management.  John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  • Diaz, R.J. and A. Solow. 1999. Ecological and economic consequences of hypoxia. Topic 2. Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Assessment. NOAA Coastal Ocean Program Decision Analysis Series. NOAA, COP, Silver Springs, MD, 86 pp. Published on the www at:
  • Cutter, G.R. and R.J. Diaz. 1998. Novel optical remote sensing and ground-truthing of benthic habitat using the Burrow-Cutter-Diaz plowing sediment profile camera system (BCD sled). Journal of Shellfish Research. 17:1443-1444.
  • Nestlerode, J.A. and R.J. Diaz. 1998. Effects of periodic environmental hypoxia on predation of a thethered polychaete, Glycera americana: implication for trophic dynamics.  Marine Ecology Progress Series. 172:185-195.
  • Bonsdorff, E., R.J. Diaz, R. Rosenberg, A. Norkko and G.R. Cutter. 1996. Characterization of soft-bottom benthic habitats of the Åland Islands, northern Baltic Sea.  Marine Ecology Progress Series. 142:235-245.
  • Diaz, R. J. and R. Rosenberg. 1995. Marine benthic hypoxia - review of ecological effects and behavioral responses on macrofauna. Oceanography and Marine Biology, Annual Review. 33:245-303.
  • Diaz, R. J., G. R. Cutter and D. C. Rhoads. 1994. The importance of bioturbation to continental slope sediment structure and benthic processes off Cape Hatteras, NC. Deep-Sea Research II 41:719-734.

Ph.D. Advisees:

  • Kersey Sturdivant, current
  • Janet Nestlerode, 2003
  • Arron Bartholomew, 2001
  • Giancarlo Cicchetti, 1998
  • Robert Llanso, 1990
  • Linda Schaffner, 1987
  • Brian Meehan, 1984
  • Tom Fredette, 1983
  • Gary Gaston, 1983
  • Don Weston, 1982

M.A. Advisees:

  • Julie Beck, 2003
  • Eric Wooden, 1999
  • Amanda Maxemchuk-Daly, 1998
  • Robin Draheim, 1998
  • Randy Cutter, 1997
  • Beth Hinchey, 1996
  • Janet Nestlerode, 1995
  • Joe Neubauer, 1993
  • Eric Zobrist, 1988
  • Doug Huggett, 1987
  • Roberto Llanso, 1985
  • Mike Kravitz, 1983
  • Debra Penry, 1982
  • Daniel Alongi, 1981
Courses Taught
  • MS653  Marine Benthos
  • Ken Able, Rutgers
  • James Blake, ENSR, Wood Hole
  • Angel Borja, AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain
  • Denise Breitburg, Smithsonian Institution
  • Angelika Brandt, University of Hamburg
  • George Cutter, University of New Hampshire
  • Dan Dauer, Old Dominion University
  • Dom DiToro, University of Delaware
  • Pat Glibert, University of Maryland
  • Lisa Levin, Scripps Institute of Oceanography
  • Hans Nilsson, Gothenburg University
  • Mark Patterson, VIMS, College of William and Mary
  • Aracelie Puente, University of Cantabria
  • Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON
  • Rutger Rosenberg, Gothenburg University
  • Rochelle Seitz, VIMS, College of William and Mary
  • Martin Solan, University of Aberdeen
  • Tim Targett, University of Delaware
  • Anders Tengberg, University of Copenhagen