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Summertime research in the lab

June 12, 2013


Summer is in full swing and this summer is all about lab work. An undergraduate researcher and I are in the midst of extracting the terrigenous (land-derived) sediment from marine sediment. We are interested in the grain-size and compositional characteristics of the terrigenous component to better understand the history of a long-lived oceanic current that transported the sediment. Isolating the terrigenous material means we have to get rid of the other components, namely the biogenic (marine microfossils made of carbonate and opal) and authigenic (metalliferous oxyhydroxides that formed in place) material. We are using this method with some tweaks from a helpful collaborator.

I have >1,000 samples from IODP Expedition 342 (see this post for more about that expedition) that will eventually be processed in this way. But, because we have not done this before and are still getting the lab fully equipped, we are currently using ‘practice’ sediment (a chunk from one of the core catchers) to fine-tune the methodology. That is, when we make a mistake — which is inevitable when learning something new — we won’t be sacrificing a ‘real’ sample. This training will pay off in a couple weeks as we ramp up and start processing samples in batches.

While we work on that two of my graduate students are busy crushing, grinding, sawing, drilling, etc. rock samples for their respective Ph.D. projects. We’ve got mineral separation underway for bedrock thermochronology, sample preparation for stable isotope measurement of carbonate rocks, and thin sections being made.


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