Graduate students, post-doctorate researchers and scientists from academic institutions, government agencies, and industry conduct various types of research projects using samples requested from our collection and also using data and images generated in our lab using core scanners. Supporting very diverse research interests, from geological to geochemical to geophysical to geobiological, is a central and impactful role of the geological collections.

The geological collections are internationally accessible repositories of rock, sediment and microfossil samples. Although the majority of research is conducted at SIO by investigators from SIO, we also do a lot of work with investigators from outside of SIO, i.e. other UC schools, the USGS, CISESE, Indiana State University, and more. 

Examples of the types of projects samples from our collections and our facilities are used for follow here: Dredged rock samples are used in studies that track plate tectonic movement, isotope fractionation in samples and what it tells us about the source and history of the material of which the rock is made, changes in the magnetism of rocks overtime, what the chemical environment was like at the time of rock formation, thin sections from rocks help to identify the mineralogy associated with rocks, and much more. Sediment cores are used in paleoceanography studies that attempt to reconstruct past climates, track changes in ocean chemistry, reveal tectonic movement, investigate the nature of fluid flow through the subseafloor, differentiate between pre- and post-sedimentation alteration of sediments, and much more.  Studies using microfossils investigate past changes in climate, changes in the acidity of the ocean, ecological adaptations made through geological history, and more. Investigators are also interested in using samples other than rocks, sediment cores and microfossil, for example, corals are also of great interest to scientists interested in studying climate change and changes in ocean acidity through time. Our Avaatech XRF and GeoTek x-ray imaging core scanners are also available for use both by investigators inside of and outside of SIO. Analyses can be conducted both on samples from our collection at SIO, and on samples that are housed in outside locations.

Here are a few examples of research projects that are currently going on in our lab, with collections’ samples, and/or with data and images generated using the Avaatech and GeoTek core scanners in our lab:

Graduate student Liz Johnstone is XRF scanning jumbo piston cores in our collection that were taken from offshore Papua New Guinea. They were taken from an area that is influenced by 5 different fluvial systems from the surrounding landmasses. She is working to find variations in terrestrial inputs and what the implications of these variations have for past changes in climate.

Graduate student Niko Westphal is working to reconstruct past changes in ocean acidity and chemical environment by x-raying and UV (ultraviolet) imaging corals. He is looking for signs of secondary alteration that may have been caused by increases in ocean acidity. 

Dr. Pincelli Hull is a graduate from Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s PhD program and currently a post doctoral associate at Yale, has worked on XRF scanning core sections from the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). She scanned cores from the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans. She worked to determine the variations in ocean export productivity at the KT (Cretaceous-Paleogene) boundary . She published a paper on this work, with head curator, Dr. Richard Norris, in 2011:

Diverse patterns of ocean export productivity change across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary: New insights from biogenic barium, Paleoceanography(2011), vol.26, issue 3, page P3205.

Jason Addison, a research geologist at the USGS in Menlo Park, studies paleocenography and is particularly interested in how past climates have affected ocean ecosystems in the high-latitude North Pacific Ocean. With the scanning efforts of collections manager Alex Hangsterfer and the use of our Avaatech XRF, we scanned numerous core sections Jason collected from two SE Alaska fjords, one oxic and one that was primarily anoxic, and collected millimeter and sub millimeter measurements on the oxic and anoxic cores, respectively. This work has resulted in the following publication:

Addison, J. A., Finney, B. P., Jaeger, J. M., Stoner, J. S., Norris, R. D., and Hangsterfer, A., submitted, Integrating satellite observations and modern climate measurements with the recent sedimentary record: an example from Southeast Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans. doi:10.1029/2012JC008738.