Matching Items (16)

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Modelling Geochemical and Geobiological Consequences of Low-Temperature Continental Serpentinization

Description

The hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks, known as serpentinization, produces some of the most reduced (H2 >1 mmolal) and alkaline (pH >11) fluids on Earth. Serpentinization can proceed even at

The hydrous alteration of ultramafic rocks, known as serpentinization, produces some of the most reduced (H2 >1 mmolal) and alkaline (pH >11) fluids on Earth. Serpentinization can proceed even at the low-temperature conditions (<50°C) characteristic of most of Earth’s continental aquifers, raising questions on the limits of life deep in the subsurface and the magnitude in the flux of reduced volatiles to the surface. In this work, I explored the compositions and consequences of fluids and volatiles found in three low-temperature serpentinizing environments: (1) active hyperalkaline springs in ophiolites, (2) modern shallow and deep peridotite aquifers, and (3) komatiitic aquifers during the Archean.

Around 140 fluids were sampled from the Oman ophiolite and analyzed for their compositions. Fluid compositions can be accounted for by thermodynamic simulations of reactions accompanying incipient to advanced stages of serpentinization, as well as by simulations of mass transport processes such as fluid mixing and mineral leaching. Thermodynamic calculations were also used to predict compositions of end-member fluids representative of the shallow and deep peridotite aquifers that were ultimately used to quantify energy available to various subsurface chemolithotrophs. Calculations showed that sufficient energy and power supply can be available to support deep-seated methanogens. An additional and a more diverse energy supply can be available when surfacing deep-seated fluids mix with shallow groundwater in discharge zones of the subsurface fluid pathway. Finally, the consequence of the evolving continental composition during the Archean for the global supply of H2 generated through komatiite serpentinization was quantified. Results show that the flux of serpentinization-generated H2 could have been a significant sink for O2 during most of the Archean. This O2 sink diminished greatly towards the end of the Archean as komatiites became less common and helped set the stage for the Great Oxidation Event. Overall, this study provides a framework for exploring the origins of fluid and volatile compositions, including their redox state, that can result from various low-temperature serpentinizing environments in the present and past Earth and in other rocky bodies in the solar system.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Biochemical Networks Across Planets and Scales

Description

Biochemical reactions underlie all living processes. Their complex web of interactions is difficult to fully capture and quantify with simple mathematical objects. Applying network science to biology has advanced our

Biochemical reactions underlie all living processes. Their complex web of interactions is difficult to fully capture and quantify with simple mathematical objects. Applying network science to biology has advanced our understanding of the metabolisms of individual organisms and the organization of ecosystems, but has scarcely been applied to life at a planetary scale. To characterize planetary-scale biochemistry, I constructed biochemical networks using global databases of annotated genomes and metagenomes, and biochemical reactions. I uncover scaling laws governing biochemical diversity and network structure shared across levels of organization from individuals to ecosystems, to the biosphere as a whole. Comparing real biochemical reaction networks to random reaction networks reveals the observed biological scaling is not a product of chemistry alone, but instead emerges due to the particular structure of selected reactions commonly participating in living processes. I perform distinguishability tests across properties of individual and ecosystem-level biochemical networks to determine whether or not they share common structure, indicative of common generative mechanisms across levels. My results indicate there is no sharp transition in the organization of biochemistry across distinct levels of the biological hierarchy—a result that holds across different network projections.

Finally, I leverage these large biochemical datasets, in conjunction with planetary observations and computational tools, to provide a methodological foundation for the quantitative assessment of biology’s viability amongst other geospheres. Investigating a case study of alkaliphilic prokaryotes in the context of Enceladus, I find that the chemical compounds observed on Enceladus thus far would be insufficient to allow even these extremophiles to produce the compounds necessary to sustain a viable metabolism. The environmental precursors required by these organisms provides a reference for the compounds which should be prioritized for detection in future planetary exploration missions. The results of this framework have further consequences in the context of planetary protection, and hint that forward contamination may prove infeasible without meticulous intent. Taken together these results point to a deeper level of organization in biochemical networks than what has been understood so far, and suggests the existence of common organizing principles operating across different levels of biology and planetary chemistry.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Thermodynamic Cartography in Basalt-Hosted Hydrothermal Systems

Description

Mantle derived basalts along the entirety of the Earth’s Mid-Ocean Ridge (MOR) spreading centers are continuously altered by seawater, allowing the hydrosphere to subsume energy and exchange mass with the

Mantle derived basalts along the entirety of the Earth’s Mid-Ocean Ridge (MOR) spreading centers are continuously altered by seawater, allowing the hydrosphere to subsume energy and exchange mass with the deep, slowly cooling Earth. Compositional heterogeneities inherent to these basalts—the result of innumerable geophysical and geochemical processes in the mantel and crust—generate spatial variation in the equilibrium states toward which these water-rock environments cascade. This alteration results in a unique distribution of precipitate assemblages, hydrothermal fluid chemistries, and energetic landscapes among ecosystems rooted within and above the seafloor. The equilibrium states for the full range of basalt compositional heterogeneity present today are calculated over all appropriate temperatures and extents of reaction with seawater, along with the non-equilibrium mixtures generated when hydrothermal fluids mix back into seawater. These mixes support ancient and diverse ecosystems fed not by the energy of the sun, but by the geochemical energy of the Earth. Facilitated by novel, high throughout code, this effort has yielded a high-resolution compositional database that is mapped back onto all ridge systems. By resolving the chemical and energetic consequences of basalt-seawater interaction to sub-ridge scales, alteration features that are globally homogeneous can be distinguished from those that are locally unique, guiding future field observations with testable geochemical and biochemical predictions.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Uranium isotope variations in nature: mechanisms, applications, and implications

Description

Historically, uranium has received intense study of its chemical and isotopic properties for use in the nuclear industry, but has been largely ignored by geoscientists despite properties that make it

Historically, uranium has received intense study of its chemical and isotopic properties for use in the nuclear industry, but has been largely ignored by geoscientists despite properties that make it an intriguing target for geochemists and cosmochemists alike. Uranium was long thought to have an invariant 238U/235U ratio in natural samples, making it uninteresting for isotopic work. However, recent advances in mass spectrometry have made it possible to detect slight differences in the 238U/235U ratio, creating many exciting new opportunities for U isotopic research. Using uranium ore samples from diverse depositional settings from around the world, it is shown that the low-temperature redox transition of uranium (U6+ to U4+) causes measurable fractionation of the 238U/235U ratio. Moreover, it is shown experimentally that a coordination change of U can also cause measurable fractionation in the 238U/235U ratio. This improved understanding of the fractionation mechanisms of U allows for the use of the 238U/235U ratio as a paleoredox proxy. The 238U/235U ratios of carbonates deposited spanning the end-Permian extinction horizon provide evidence of pronounced and persistent widespread ocean anoxia at, or immediately preceding, the extinction boundary. Variable 238U/235U ratios correlated with proxies for initial Cm/U in the Solar System's earliest objects demonstrates the existence of 247Cm in the early Solar System. Proof of variable 238U/235U ratios in meteoritic material forces a substantive change in the previously established procedures of Pb-Pb dating, which assumed an invariant 238U/235U ratio. This advancement improves the accuracy of not only the Pb-Pb chronometer that directly utilizes the 238U/235U ratio, but also for short-lived radiometric dating techniques that indirectly use the 238U/235U ratio to calculate ages of Solar System material.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2011

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Hydrothermal habitats: measurements of bulk microbial elemental composition, and models of hydrothermal influences on the evolution of dwarf planets

Description

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments include hydrothermal systems, spatially-confined systems where hot aqueous fluid circulates through rock by convection. I sought to characterize hydrothermal microbial communities, collected in hot spring sediments and mats at Yellowstone National Park, USA, by measuring their bulk elemental composition. To do so, one must minimize the contribution of non-biological material to the samples analyzed. I demonstrate that this can be achieved using a separation method that takes advantage of the density contrast between cells and sediment and preserves cellular elemental contents. Using this method, I show that in spite of the tremendous physical, chemical, and taxonomic diversity of Yellowstone hot springs, the composition of microorganisms there is surprisingly ordinary. This suggests the existence of a stoichiometric envelope common to all life as we know it. Thus, future planetary investigations could use elemental fingerprints to assess the astrobiological potential of hydrothermal settings beyond Earth.

Indeed, hydrothermal activity may be widespread in the solar system. Most solar system worlds larger than 200 km in radius are dwarf planets, likely composed of an icy, cometary mantle surrounding a rocky, chondritic core. I enhance a dwarf planet evolution code, including the effects of core fracturing and hydrothermal circulation, to demonstrate that dwarf planets likely have undergone extensive water-rock interaction. This supports observations of aqueous products on their surfaces. I simulate the alteration of chondritic rock by pure water or cometary fluid to show that aqueous alteration feeds back on geophysical evolution: it modifies the fluid antifreeze content, affecting its persistence over geological timescales; and the distribution of radionuclides, whose decay is a chief heat source on dwarf planets. Interaction products can be observed if transported to the surface. I simulate numerically how cryovolcanic transport is enabled by primordial and hydrothermal volatile exsolution. Cryovolcanism seems plausible on dwarf planets in light of images recently returned by spacecrafts. Thus, these coupled geophysical-geochemical models provide a comprehensive picture of dwarf planet evolution, processes, and habitability.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Application of isoleucine epimerization to assess terrestrial contamination and constrain the duration and effects of aqueous alteration of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites

Description

Carbonaceous chondrites (CCs) present a unique opportunity for learning about the earliest organic chemistry that took place in our Solar System. The complex and diverse suite of meteoritic organic material

Carbonaceous chondrites (CCs) present a unique opportunity for learning about the earliest organic chemistry that took place in our Solar System. The complex and diverse suite of meteoritic organic material is the result of multiple settings and physicochemical processes, including aqueous and thermal alteration. Though meteorites often inform origin-of-life discussions because they could have seeded early Earth with significant amounts of water and pre-biotic, organic material, their record of abiotic, aqueous, and organic geochemistry is of interest as well.

CC materials previously resided on asteroidal parent bodies, relic planetesimals of Solar System formation which never accreted enough material to develop long-lived, large-scale geological processes. These bodies were large enough, however, to experience some degree of heating due to the decay of radiogenic isotopes, and the meteorite record suggests the existence of 100-150 parent bodies which experienced varying degrees of thermal and aqueous alteration for the first several 10 Myr of Solar System history.

The first chapter of this dissertation reviews literature addressing aqueous alteration as an essential participant in parent body geochemistry, organic synthesis, or both (though papers which address both are rare). The second chapter is a published organic analysis of the soluble organic material of Bells, an unclassified type 2 chondrite. Analytical approaches to assess terrestrial contamination of meteorite samples are also reviewed in the first chapter to allow introduction in chapter 3 of kinetic modeling which rules out certain cases of contamination and constrains the timing of thermal and aqueous alteration. This is the first known application of isoleucine epimerization for either of these purposes. Chapter 4 is a kinetic study of D-allo-isoleucine epimerization to establish its behavior in systems with large, relative abundances of alloisoleucine to isoleucine. Previous epimerization studies for paleontological or geological purposes began with L-isoleucine, the only protein amino acid of the four isoleucine stereoisomers.

Kinetic model calculations using isoleucine stereoisomer abundances from 7 CR chondrites constrain the total duration of the amino acids' residence in the aqueous phase. The comparatively short timescales produced by the presented modeling elicit hypotheses for protection or transport of the amino acids within the CR parent body.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Early Solar System Processes and Parent Body Relationships Recorded by Chromium and Titanium Isotopes in Meteorites

Description

Meteorites and their components can be used to unravel the history of the early Solar System. Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites that originated from undifferentiated parent bodies that formed within a

Meteorites and their components can be used to unravel the history of the early Solar System. Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites that originated from undifferentiated parent bodies that formed within a few million years of the beginning of the Solar System. These meteorites contain calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), which are the oldest dated solids in the Solar System at ~4.567 billion years old and thus preserve a record of the earliest stage of Solar System formation. The isotopic compositions of CAIs and bulk carbonaceous chondrites can be used to identify the sources of material inherited by the protoplanetary disk, assess the degree of mixing in the disk, and evaluate sample origins and potential genetic relationships between parent bodies. In particular, mass-independent Cr and Ti isotopic compositions have proven to be especially useful for these purposes.

In this work, I first developed new methods for the chemical separation of Cr and Ti, improving the reliability of existing methods to ensure consistent yields and accurate isotopic measurements. I then measured the Cr and Ti isotopic compositions of CAIs from CV and CK chondrites to determine the extent of isotopic heterogeneity in the CAI-forming region and assess the role of CAIs in the preservation of planetary-scale isotopic anomalies. My results show that all measured CAIs originated from a common isotopic reservoir that incorporated material from at least three distinct nucleosynthetic sources and preserved limited isotopic heterogeneity. These results also suggest that planetary-scale isotopic anomalies cannot be attributed solely to the transport of CAIs from one part of the solar nebula to another. I finally measured the Cr and Ti isotopic compositions of bulk CM, CO, and ungrouped chondrites to evaluate the relationship between CM and CO chondrites, which have been suggested to originate from either distinct but related parent bodies or a common compositionally heterogeneous parent body. My results suggest that CM, CO, and related ungrouped chondrites originated from distinct parent bodies that formed from similar precursor materials in nearby formation regions. These results may have implications for asteroid samples returned by the OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2 missions.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Refining Earth’s Ocean Oxygenation History using Molybdenum and Thallium Isotopes

Description

Isotope ratios of some trace metals have proven useful for tracking Earth’s ocean oxygenation history. As the limitations of some of these isotope systems are realized, it becomes increasingly important

Isotope ratios of some trace metals have proven useful for tracking Earth’s ocean oxygenation history. As the limitations of some of these isotope systems are realized, it becomes increasingly important to develop new and complementary systems. This dissertation examines the utility of molybdenum (98Mo) and thallium (205Tl) isotope compositions preserved in ancient marine shales to track past ocean oxygenation. My approach is as follows: (1) as an initial exercise, apply the well-established Mo isotope system to a set of ancient shales; (2) validate the use of the newly developed Tl isotope system; and finally (3) examine the potential of applying Mo and Tl isotopes in tandem.

Increasingly heavier 98Mo are found in shales deposited during the Neoarchean (2,800 to 2,500 million years ago, or Ma), which would be a predicted consequence of progressive ocean oxygenation across this timeframe. Increasingly heavier 205Tl across a well-documented Mesozoic Oceanic Anoxic Event (~94 Ma), on the other hand, would be a predicted consequence of progressive ocean de-oxygenation. An anti-correlation in the first combined application of Mo and Tl isotopes in ancient shales provides a strong fingerprint for previously unrecognized levels of ocean oxygenation at ~2,500 Ma. Lastly, neither 98Mo or 205Tl behave as predicted in shales deposited during three Ediacaran Ocean Oxygenation Events (~635 Ma, ~580 Ma, and ~560 Ma). These unexpected trends are due, at least in part, to local-scale overprints that must be taken into consideration when pairing together Mo and Tl isotopes in shales.

The ability of the Mo and Tl isotope systems to track changes in past ocean oxygenation is confirmed in this dissertation. Both isotope systems have the potential to track these changes independently, but their combined utility is particularly powerful. Under ideal conditions, their combined application can provide an even more robust fingerprint for changes in past ocean oxygenation. Even under non-ideal conditions, their combined application makes it possible to decipher local-scale overprints from signals of past ocean oxygenation. It is therefore ideal, whenever possible, to measure both 98Mo and 205Tl in the same shale samples to assess past changes in ocean oxygenation.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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New methods for biological and environmental protein fingerprinting: from traditional techniques to new technology

Description

A new challenge on the horizon is to utilize the large amounts of protein found in the atmosphere to identify different organisms from which the protein originated. Included here is

A new challenge on the horizon is to utilize the large amounts of protein found in the atmosphere to identify different organisms from which the protein originated. Included here is work investigating the presence of identifiable patterns of different proteins collected from the air and biological samples for the purposes of remote identification. Protein patterns were generated using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Patterns created could identify high-traffic and low-traffic indoor spaces. Samples were collected from the air using air pumps to draw air through a filter paper trapping particulates, including large amounts of shed protein matter. In complimentary research aerosolized biological samples were collected from various ecosystems throughout Ecuador to explore the relationship between environmental setting and aerosolized protein concentrations. In order to further enhance protein separation and produce more detailed patterns for the identification of individual organisms of interest; a novel separation device was constructed and characterized. The separation device incorporates a longitudinal gradient as well as insulating dielectrophoretic features within a single channel. This design allows for the production of stronger local field gradients along a global gradient allowing particles to enter, initially transported through the channel by electrophoresis and electroosmosis, and to be isolated according to their characteristic physical properties, including charge, polarizability, deformability, surface charge mobility, dielectric features, and local capacitance. Thus, different types of particles are simultaneously separated at different points along the channel distance given small variations of properties. The device has shown the ability to separate analytes over a large dynamic range of size, from 20 nm to 1 μm, roughly the size of proteins to the size of cells. In the study of different sized sulfate capped polystyrene particles were shown to be selectively captured as well as concentrating particles from 103 to 106 times. Qualitative capture and manipulation of β-amyloid fibrils were also shown. The results demonstrate the selective focusing ability of the technique; and it may form the foundation for a versatile tool for separating complex mixtures. Combined this work shows promise for future identification of individual organisms from aerosolized protein as well as for applications in biomedical research.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2011

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The chemical composition of exoplanet-hosting binary star systems

Description

A significant portion of stars occur as binary systems, in which two stellar components orbit a common center of mass. As the number of known exoplanet systems continues to grow,

A significant portion of stars occur as binary systems, in which two stellar components orbit a common center of mass. As the number of known exoplanet systems continues to grow, some binary systems are now known to harbor planets around one or both stellar components. As a first look into composition of these planetary systems, I investigate the chemical compositions of 4 binary star systems, each of which is known to contain at least one planet. Stars are known to vary significantly in their composition, and their overall metallicity (represented by iron abundance, [Fe/H]) has been shown to correlate with the likelihood of hosting a planetary system. Furthermore, the detailed chemical composition of a system can give insight into the possible properties of the system's known exoplanets. Using high-resolution spectra, I quantify the abundances of up to 28 elements in each stellar component of the binary systems 16 Cyg, 83 Leo, HD 109749, and HD 195019. A direct comparison is made between each star and its binary companion to give a differential composition for each system. For each star, a comparison of elemental abundance vs. condensation temperature is made, which may be a good diagnostic of refractory-rich terrestrial planets in a system. The elemental ratios C/O and Mg/Si, crucial in determining the atmospheric composition and mineralogy of planets, are calculated and discussed for each star. Finally, the compositions and diagnostics of each binary system are discussed in terms of the known planetary and stellar parameters for each system.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013