For years, scientists have used mineral, sediment and ice layers, deposited intermittently throughout geologic time, to track the global climate record. These can come from caves, lakes, the oceans and ice sheets. But over the course of the last decade a new method has been developed that presents an opportunity for geoscientists to assess global climate history in almost any arid landscape.
A new study from geoscience researchers has important implications for studies of Mesoamerica and North America prior to the arrival of European settlers. Using isotope geochemistry, scientists at Pennsylvania's Dickenson College and the University of Arizona are trying to identify if turquoise mineral specimens record the signature of their parent ore deposits.
Hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas extraction method known popularly as fracking, has been controversial in large part to the concern about groundwater contamination by the fluids used in the process, especially the so-called flowback fluids that re-emerge at the surface from fracking wells and are usually disposed of by waste water fluid injection into other formations. Now, researchers have developed a geochemical method of identifying fracking fluids in the environment. The tool could be used to identify hazardous spills in the future and may even lead to better use and disposal of fracking wastewater.
Last fall, EARTH caught up with geochemistry grad student Jeremy Jacquot as he was about to embark on the first U.S.-led GEOTRACES cruise across the Atlantic, where he and 32 researchers were hoping to measure and track concentrations of various trace elements and isotopes. This month, in "Tracking Trace Elements and Isotopes in the Oceans," we follow up with Jacquot as he details the highs, lows and initial findings from the cruise, which was unfortunately cut short due to a ship malfunction.
In a feature story posted to Geotimes online, a geoscientist reports on her team's contribution to diabetes research using techniques that help unlock the mysteries of the human body. Read more about the application of stable isotope geochemistry to questions of blood sugar regulation within the human body, in "Geologists Weigh in on Diet and Disease," available in print and online this month.