Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Zachary Decker

Research Interests

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder and a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the Cooperative Institute of Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). I'm interested in research at the interface of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

As a member of the Tropospheric Chemistry group at NOAA, I utilize and develop multi-channel cavity ringdown instruments to measure NOx, NO3, N2O5, NOy, and O3 simultaneously on a one-second time scale. These instruments can and have been implemented on various platforms such as the NOAA P-3 aircraft, Twin-Otter aircraft, and the NOAA CSL Mobile-lab (ground vehicle).

Visit my personal website for up to date information about my research:

Current Research

I am currently investigating the dark chemistry of wildfire smoke plumes. That is, the chemistry that occurs without sunlight whether it be after sunset, or in the center of a thick and dark smoke plume. Specifically the reactions, and evolution, of the nitrate radical (NO3) with biomass burning volatile organic compounds in smoke plumes as they are aged and transported. 

Research into dark smoke plume chemistry is incredibly important for understanding air quality impacts to nearby and far away towns and cities. Yet, it is severely understudied.  Most smoke is emitted through the evening and into the night. This means that most smoke plumes will eventually be subject to some, if not all, of dark chemistry. This chemistry determines the impact the smoke will have on air quality in populated regions.

I am studying dark smoke plume chemistry through the data we gathered during the NASA/NOAA joint FIREX-AQ campaign in 2019. During FIREX-AQ I worked with the Joel Thornton group from the University of Washington to operate an Iodide Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer aboard the NOAA Twin Otter aircraft. I am using a suite of methods to support this research such as box modeling and positive matrix factorization.