During his PhD, Rob MacKenzie studied the atmospheric photochemistry of the mid-latitude boundary layer, including carrying out the first modelling study of the effect of biogenic volatile organic compounds (bVOCs) on ozone production downwind of a European city (MacKenzie et al., Atmos. Environ., 1991). This fascination with bVOCs and photochemistry returned when he took up a Lectureship (subsequently Senior Lectureship and Readership) at Lancaster University. He was deeply involved in the OP3 project to study the atmospheric composition over the tropical rainforest of Borneo, and the impact of land-use change on atmospheric chemistry (MacKenzie et al., Proc. Roy. Soc. B, 2011). The team were able to show for the first time the prodigious capacity for ozone production if bVOC-laden air from oil palm plantations picks up nitrogen oxides (either through mixing or by changes to agricultural practice)(Hewitt et al., PNAS, 2009).
Before joining Lancaster, Rob spent 10 years in the Centre for Atmospheric Science of the University of Cambridge as its Scientific Coordinator. During that time, Rob worked on issues related to the depletion of stratospheric ozone, particularly the behaviour of polar stratospheric clouds (reviewed in Lowe and MacKenzie, J. Atmos. Solar-Terrestr. Phys., 2008). He also became deeply involved in the use of high-altitude aircraft for atmospheric science, and was a core team member of most of the scientific deployments of the Geophysica aircraft (see, e.g., Stefanutti et al., 2004; Cairo et al., 2010). Latterly, the focus of research in the atmospheric composition affecting the ozone layer has focused to processes at the tropical tropopause. Rob’s work has included modeling studies of processes controlling the water budget at the tropical tropospause (Ren et al., ACP, 2007) and multi-aircraft campaigns to characterize transport and chemistry in the tropical tropopause region (Vaughan et al., BAMS, 2008).
In August 2011, Rob accepted a Chair in Atmospheric Science at the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. Here he continued his research into issues at the interface of air quality, global atmospheric chemistry, and climate, using models and field deployments, including the use of unmanned aircraft such as the NASA Global Hawk.
In November 2013, Rob was appointed inaugural Director of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research.