Taxonomy term


Stable isotopes offer novel methods of disease detection

Stable isotope techniques developed by geoscientists are being applied to studies of human health, and one in particular has shown promise as an improved way to determine bone loss, a problem for astronauts, as well as those on bed rest and aging populations here on Earth. 
08 Jan 2018

The path to gypsum is four steps long

Drywall and plasters made from both natural and manufactured gypsum are commonly used in home and building construction around the world, in part because of gypsum’s widespread availability. Despite its abundance, and its seemingly simple makeup, however, relatively little is known about how the calcium sulfate mineral forms in nature. In a recent study, researchers have shed new light on the multi-stage process by which gypsum grows — and the findings could help develop more efficient ways to manufacture the material.

08 Nov 2016

Cave dripwater records wildfires

Water seeps through soil and bedrock before dripping from the roof of a cave and carries with it elements of the outside world and its climate history. That is why speleothems, cave structures formed via precipitation, can be studied as climate proxies. New research suggests that the chemistry of the cave dripwater can also contain the signature of wildfires that burned outside the cave, on the ground above the cave’s roof, yielding a more complex picture of the past.

27 Oct 2016

Zircons hold clues to early Earth

Not much is known about the first 500 million years of Earth’s history, between 4.5 billion and 4 billion years ago. We know the interior of the planet was hotter than it is today, and that Earth’s surface experienced intense meteorite bombardment, which left the surface pocked with magma-filled craters. But with no rock record available from this period — the oldest rocks are 4.04 billion years old — scientists must look to the composition of tiny grains of the mineral zircon to provide clues about Earth during the Hadean Eon. But where did the zircons come from?

09 Sep 2016

Did crustal chemistry buoy Western Plains?

The mighty mountains of the American West may captivate artists and adventurers with their rugged allure, but it’s the humble High Plains that intrigue certain geologists. For decades, scientists have puzzled over the origins of this vast plateau, which stretches for more than 500 kilometers east of the Rockies.
12 Jul 2015

New nationwide soil map available online

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed a seven-year soil-mapping project detailing the mineralogy and geochemistry of soils across the lower 48 U.S. states. Bill Cannon, an emeritus scientist at the USGS in Reston, Va., and co-author of the report, which was published in 2014, discussed the effort last October at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C.

13 Feb 2015

Searching for evidence of ancient subduction

For billions of years, portions of Earth’s rigid surface have dipped and sunk along plate boundaries to be recycled back into the mantle below. Determining when the process of subduction began — a fundamental step in Earth’s physical, and possibly biological, evolution — has proved difficult for geoscientists due to the challenges of interpreting evidence from the few remnants of early Earth that remain. In a recent study, researchers have now proposed a new approach for identifying ancient subduction zones that could help tackle the longstanding question.

06 Jul 2014

Down to Earth With: Naomi Levin

Stable isotope geochemist Naomi Levin, a native New Yorker, says she could easily imagine alternate career paths that would have been more in line with her urban roots. But the hands-on nature of both fieldwork and lab work lured her to geology and anthropology. And after working with a string of prominent geochemists — including Jay Quade, Thure Cerling and John Eiler — as a graduate student and post-doctoral researcher, Levin has quickly moved to the top of her field.

09 Jan 2014

Benchmarks: Sept. 26, 1912: Birth of Preston Cloud, geologist who deciphered banded iron formations

Banded iron formations (BIFs) represent some of the earliest, and most controversial, evidence that the early Earth was devoid of oxygen. These deposits were recognized for their economic value in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s when Preston Cloud focused his intellect on  the origins of (BIFs).

26 Sep 2013

Down to Earth With: Terry Plank

“You’re a genius! Now here’s half a million dollars to use however you please.”

That, in essence, was what geochemist and volcanologist Terry Plank was told when she received a surprising phone call early last October. The voice on the other end of the line was that of Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, who was calling to inform her that she’d been selected to receive one of the foundation’s 23 fellowships — the so-called “genius grants” — for 2012. The prestigious, “no strings attached” grants award $500,000 over five years to innovative individuals to allow them the flexibility to pursue creative, often otherwise out-of-reach interests.

18 Feb 2013