Biogeochemistry is a rapidly growing subdiscipline within the geological and environmental sciences. Research in biogeochemistry is inherently multidisciplinary, reflecting complex process at the intersection of biology, geology and chemistry .
Professor Lisa M. Pratt is Chair of the Department, and Director of a new NASA ASTEP project entitled, "Shallow-Borehole array for measuring Greenland Emission of trace gases as an analogue for methane on Mars (GETGAMM)." Her collaborative research with Tullis Onstott (Princeton) on radiolysis of water as a source of subsurface energy for microbial growth has been highlighted by NSF under the caption Radiation Eaters. She has active field campaigns in arctic permafrost and in saline-alkaline lakes on the Oregon Basalt Plateau to study sulfate reducing and sulfide oxidizing microbial communities.
Deciphering and understanding biogeochemical processes and their evolution over geological time requires investigation of sedimentary records that preserve chemical clues of biological activity. Professor Simon Brassell explores the characteristics, abundances, and isotopic compositions of discrete molecules – biomarkers– as tools for assessment of microbial communities and processes, biological productivity, and episodes of perturbations of the carbon cycle related to environmental and evolutionary change, and as paleoclimate proxies.
Laura Wasylenki is a biogeochemist investigating metal chemistry in the earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Specifically she examines stable isotope fractionation of transition and post-transition metals in order to develop new tools for tracing chemical reactions that involve metals.
Stable isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in organic materials are used by Arndt Schimmelmann to understand which environmental conditions lead to certain stable isotopic signatures in modern biological materials and in fossils (for example, bones). Some of Schimmelmann's research requires oceanographic cruises to collect marine organic matter from the water column and from sediments. Similar isotopic techniques are applied to characterize the origin and thermal maturation of coal, petroleum and natural gas.
Peter Sauer uses tree-rings and sediments from lakes and oceans to study paleoclimate. He uses organic biomarkers and stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen to develop proxies of past environmental conditions. His projects range from late Paleozoic paleoceanography to late Holocene climate variability and the detection of anthropogenic climate change.
Our state-of-the-art instrumentation can be viewed on an illustrated tour of the Biogeochemical Laboratories. Contact our technical staff about questions relating to the use of our facilities. Read about current graduate students and post-docs and their research projects, and about recent graduates and the titles of their theses. A list of selected recent publications is also available.
Email: Arndt Schimmelmann
Email: Peter Sauer
Department of Geological Sciences
1001 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405-1405