Matching Items (17)

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Coupled Abiotic and Biotic Cycling of Nitrous Oxide

Description

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and an oxidant respired by a

diverse range of anaerobic microbes, but its sources and sinks are poorly understood. The overarching goal of

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and an oxidant respired by a

diverse range of anaerobic microbes, but its sources and sinks are poorly understood. The overarching goal of my dissertation is to explore abiotic N2O formation and microbial N2O consumption across reducing environments of the early and modern Earth. By combining experiments as well as diffusion and atmospheric modeling, I present evidence that N2O production can be catalyzed on iron mineral surfaces that may have been present in shallow waters of the Archean ocean. Using photochemical models, I showed that tropospheric N2O concentrations close to modern ones (ppb range) were possible before O2 accumulated. In peatlands of the Amazon basin (modern Earth), unexpected abiotic activity became apparent under anoxic conditions. However, care has to be taken to adequately disentangle abiotic from biotic reactions. I identified significant sterilant-induced changes in Fe2+ and dissolved organic matter pools (determined by fluorescence spectroscopy). Among all chemical and physical sterilants tested, γ - irradiation showed the least effect on reactant pools. Targeting geochemically diverse peatlands across Central and South America, I present evidence that coupled abiotic and biotic cycling of N2O could be a widespread phenomenon. Using isotopic tracers in the field, I showed that abiotic N2O fluxes rival biotic ones under in-situ conditions. Moreover, once N2O is produced, it is rapidly consumed by N2O-reducing microbes. Using amplicon sequencing and metagenomics, I demonstrated that this surprising N2O sink potential is associated with diverse bacteria, including the recently discovered clade II that is present in high proportions at Amazonian sites based on nosZ quantities. Finally, to evaluate the impact of nitrogen oxides on methane production in peatlands, I characterized soil nitrite (NO2–) and N2O abundances along soil profiles. I complemented field analyses with molecular work by deploying amplicon-based 16S rRNA and mcrA sequencing. The diversity and activity of soil methanogens was affected by the presence of NO2– and N2O, suggesting that methane emissions could be influenced by N2O cycling dynamics. Overall, my work proposes a key role for N2O in Earth systems across time and a central position in tropical microbial ecosystems.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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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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Hydrothermal organic reduction and deoxygenation

Description

Organic reactions in natural hydrothermal settings have relevance toward the deep carbon cycle, petroleum formation, the ecology of deep microbial communities, and potentially the origin of life. Many reaction

Organic reactions in natural hydrothermal settings have relevance toward the deep carbon cycle, petroleum formation, the ecology of deep microbial communities, and potentially the origin of life. Many reaction pathways involving organic compounds under geochemically relevant hydrothermal conditions have now been characterized, but their mechanisms, in particular those involving mineral surface catalysis, are largely unknown. The overall goal of this work is to describe these mechanisms so that predictive models of reactivity can be developed and so that applications of these reactions beyond geochemistry can be explored. The focus of this dissertation is the mechanisms of hydrothermal dehydration and catalytic hydrogenation reactions. Kinetic and structure/activity relationships show that elimination occurs mainly by the E1 mechanism for simple alcohols via homogeneous catalysis. Stereochemical probes show that hydrogenation on nickel occurs on the metal surface. By combining dehydration with and catalytic reduction, effective deoxygenation of organic structures with various functional groups such as alkenes, polyols, ketones, and carboxylic acids can be accomplished under hydrothermal conditions, using either nickel or copper-zinc alloy. These geomimetic reactions can potentially be used in biomass reduction to generate useful fuels and other high value chemicals. Through the use of earth-abundant metal catalysts, and water as the solvent, the reactions presented in this dissertation are a green alternative to current biomass deoxygenation/reduction methods, which often use exotic, rare-metal catalysts, and organic solvents.

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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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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Water and nitrogen in designed ecosystems: biogeochemical and economic consequences

Description

More than half of all accessible freshwater has been appropriated for human use, and a substantial portion of terrestrial ecosystems have been transformed by human action. These impacts are heaviest

More than half of all accessible freshwater has been appropriated for human use, and a substantial portion of terrestrial ecosystems have been transformed by human action. These impacts are heaviest in urban ecosystems, where impervious surfaces increase runoff, water delivery and stormflows are managed heavily, and there are substantial anthropogenic sources of nitrogen (N). Urbanization also frequently results in creation of intentional novel ecosystems. These "designed" ecosystems are fashioned to fulfill particular needs of the residents, or ecosystem services. In the Phoenix, Arizona area, the augmentation and redistribution of water has resulted in numerous component ecosystems that are atypical for a desert environment. Because these systems combine N loading with the presence of water, they may be hot spots of biogeochemical activity. The research presented here illustrates the types of hydrological modifications typical of desert cities and documents the extent and distribution of common designed aquatic ecosystems in the Phoenix metropolitan area: artificial lakes and stormwater retention basins. While both ecosystems were designed for other purposes (recreation/aesthetics and flood abatement, respectively), they have the potential to provide the added ecosystem service of N removal via denitrification. However, denitrification in urban lakes is likely to be limited by the rate of diffusion of nitrate into the sediment. Retention basins export some nitrate to groundwater, but grassy basins have higher denitrification rates than xeriscaped ones, due to higher soil moisture and organic matter content. An economic valuation of environmental amenities demonstrates the importance of abundant vegetation, proximity to water, and lower summer temperatures throughout the region. These amenities all may be provided by designed, water-intensive ecosystems. Some ecosystems are specifically designed for multiple uses, but maximizing one ecosystem service often entails trade-offs with other services. Further investigation into the distribution, bundling, and tradeoffs among water-related ecosystem services shows that some types of services are constrained by the hydrogeomorphology of the area, while for others human engineering and the creation of designed ecosystems has enabled the delivery of hydrologic ecosystem services independent of natural constraints.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010

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Watershed nitrogen transport, retention, and fate in dryland and urban ecosystems

Description

Nitrogen is an essential, often limiting, element for biological growth that can act as a pollutant if present in excess. Nitrogen is primarily transported by water from uplands to streams

Nitrogen is an essential, often limiting, element for biological growth that can act as a pollutant if present in excess. Nitrogen is primarily transported by water from uplands to streams and eventually to recipient lakes, estuaries, and wetlands, but can be modulated by biological uptake and transformation along these flowpaths. As a result, nitrogen can accumulate in aquatic ecosystems if supply is high or if biological retention is low. Dryland and urban ecosystems offer interesting contrasts in water supply, which limits transport and biological activity in drylands, and nitrogen supply that increases with human activity. In my dissertation, I ask: What is the relative balance among nitrogen retention, removal, and transport processes in dryland watersheds, and what is the fate of exported nitrogen? My dissertation research demonstrates that water is a major control on where and when nitrogen is retained and removed versus exported to downstream ecosystems. I used a mass-balance model based on synoptic surveys to study seasonal and spatial patterns in nitrate loading to a dryland stream network. I found that irrigation diversions transport nitrate from agricultural areas to the stream network year-round, even during dry seasons, and are an important driver of nitrate loading. I further explored how seasonal precipitation influences flood nutrient export in an intermittent desert stream by coupling long-term data of flood-water chemistry with stream discharge and precipitation data. I found that higher precipitation prior to a flood fills water storage sites in the catchment, leading to larger floods. In addition, higher antecedent precipitation stimulates biological nitrogen retention in the uplands, leading to lower nitrogen concentration in floods. Finally, I evaluated the consequences of nitrogen export from watersheds on how urban wetlands attenuate nitrate through denitrification that permanently removes nitrogen, and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) that retains nitrogen in another biologically reactive form. I found that DNRA becomes proportionally more important with low nitrate concentration, thereby retaining nitrogen as ammonium. Collectively, my dissertation research addresses how dryland and urban ecosystems can be integrated into models of watershed nitrogen cycling.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2019

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Theoretical and experimental studies of cryogenic and hydrothermal organic geochemistry

Description

This dissertation examines two topics of emerging interest in the field of organic geochemistry. The topic of the first portion of the dissertation is cold organic geochemistry on Saturn's moon

This dissertation examines two topics of emerging interest in the field of organic geochemistry. The topic of the first portion of the dissertation is cold organic geochemistry on Saturn's moon Titan. Titan has an atmosphere and surface that are rich in organic compounds. Liquid hydrocarbons exist on the surface, most famously as lakes. Photochemical reactions produce solid organics in Titan's atmosphere, and these materials settle onto the surface. At the surface, liquids can interact with solids, and geochemical processes can occur. To better understand these processes, I developed a thermodynamic model that can be used to calculate the solubilities of gases and solids in liquid hydrocarbons at cryogenic temperatures. The model was parameterized using experimental data, and provides a good fit to the data. Application of the model to Titan reveals that the equilibrium composition of surface liquids depends on the abundance of methane in the local atmosphere. The model also indicates that solid acetylene should be quite soluble in surface liquids, which implies that acetylene-rich rocks should be susceptible to chemical erosion, and acetylene evaporites may form on Titan. In the latter half of this dissertation, I focus on hot organic geochemistry below the surface of the Earth. Organic compounds are common in sediments. Burial of sediments leads to changes in physical and chemical conditions, promoting organic reactions. An important organic reaction in subsurface environments is decarboxylation, which generates hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide from simple organic acids. Fundamental knowledge about decarboxylation is required to better understand how the organic and inorganic compositions of sediments evolve in response to changing geochemical conditions. I performed experiments with the model compound phenylacetic acid to obtain information about mechanisms of decarboxylation in hydrothermal fluids. Patterns in rates of decarboxylation of substituted phenylacetic acids point to a mechanism that proceeds through a ring-protonated zwitterion of phenylacetic acid. In contrast, substituted sodium phenylacetates exhibit a different kinetic pattern, one that is consistent with the formation of the benzyl anion as an intermediate. Results from experiments with added hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide, and deuterated water agree with these interpretations. Thus, speciation dictates mechanism of decarboxylation.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Fluorescent Dissolved Organic Matter in Yellowstone National Park Hot Springs

Description

I present for the first time a broad-scale assessment of dissolved organic matter in the continental hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. The concentration of dissolved organic carbon in hot

I present for the first time a broad-scale assessment of dissolved organic matter in the continental hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. The concentration of dissolved organic carbon in hot springs is highly variable, but demonstrates distinct trends with the geochemical composition of springs. The dissolved organic carbon concentrations are lowest in the hottest, most deeply sourced hot springs. Mixing of hydrothermal fluids with surface waters or reaction with buried sedimentary organic matter is typically indicated by increased dissolved organic carbon concentrations. I assessed the bulk composition of organic matter through fluorescence analysis that demonstrated different fluorescent components associated with terrestrial organic matter, microbial organic matter, and several novel fluorescent signatures unique to hot springs. One novel fluorescence signature is observed exclusively in acidic hot springs, and it is likely an end product of thermally-altered sedimentary organic matter. This acid-spring component precipitates out of solution under neutral or alkaline conditions and characterization of the precipitate revealed evidence for a highly condensed aromatic structure. This acid-spring component serves as a reliable tracer of acidic, hot water that has cycled through the subsurface. Overall, dissolved organic carbon concentrations and fluorescent features correlate with the inorganic indicators traditionally used to infer spring fluid mixing in the subsurface. Further, the fluorescence information reveals subtle differences in mixing between fluid phases that are not distinguishable through classic inorganic indicator species. My work assessing dissolved organic carbon in the Yellowstone National Park hot springs reveals that the organic matter in hydrothermal systems is different from that found in surface waters, and that the concentration and composition of hot spring dissolved organic matter reflects the subsurface geochemical and hydrological environment.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Investigations of water-bearing environments on the Moon and Mars

Description

Water is a critical resource for future human missions, and is necessary for understanding the evolution of the Solar System. The Moon and Mars have water in various forms

Water is a critical resource for future human missions, and is necessary for understanding the evolution of the Solar System. The Moon and Mars have water in various forms and are therefore high-priority targets in the search for accessible extraterrestrial water. Complementary remote sensing analyses coupled with laboratory and field studies are necessary to provide a scientific context for future lunar and Mars exploration. In this thesis, I use multiple techniques to investigate the presence of water-ice at the lunar poles and the properties of martian chloride minerals, whose evolution is intricately linked with liquid water.

Permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) at the lunar poles may contain substantial water ice, but radar signatures at PSRs could indicate water ice or large block populations. Mini-RF radar and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC) products were used to assess block abundances where radar signatures indicated potential ice deposits. While the majority of PSRs in this study indicated large block populations and a low likelihood of water ice, one crater – Rozhdestvenskiy N – showed indirect indications of water ice in its interior.

Chloride deposits indicate regions where the last substantial liquid water existed on Mars. Major ion abundances and expected precipitation sequences of terrestrial chloride brines could provide context for assessing the provenance of martian chloride deposits. Chloride minerals are most readily distinguished in the far-infrared (45+ μm), where their fundamental absorption features are strongest. Multiple chloride compositions and textures were characterized in far-infrared emission for the first time. Systematic variations in the spectra were observed; these variations will allow chloride mineralogy to be determined and large variations in texture to be constrained.

In the present day, recurring slope lineae (RSL) may indicate water flow, but fresh water is not stable on Mars. However, dissolved chloride could allow liquid water to flow transiently. Using Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) data, I determined that RSL are most likely not fed by chloride-rich brines on Mars. Substantial amounts of salt would be consumed to produce a surface water flow; therefore, these features are therefore thought to instead be surface darkening due to capillary wicking.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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Soot black carbon dynamics in arid/urban ecosystem

Description

Black carbon (BC) is the product of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels. It is found ubiquitously in nature and is relevant to studies in atmospheric science, soil science,

Black carbon (BC) is the product of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels. It is found ubiquitously in nature and is relevant to studies in atmospheric science, soil science, oceanography, and anthropology. Black carbon is best described using a combustion continuum that sub-classifies BC into slightly charred biomass, char, charcoal and soot. These sub-classifications range in particle size, formation temperature, and relative reactivity. Interest in BC has increased because of its role in the long-term storage of organic matter and the biogeochemistry of urban areas. The global BC budget is unbalanced. Production of BC greatly outweighs decomposition of BC. This suggests that there are unknown or underestimated BC removal processes, and it is likely that some of these processes are occurring in soils. However, little is known about BC reactivity in soil and especially in desert soil. This work focuses on soot BC, which is formed at higher temperatures and has a lower relative reactivity than other forms of BC. Here, I assess the contribution of soot BC to central AZ soils and use the isotopic composition of soot BC to identify sources of soot BC. Soot BC is a significant (31%) fraction of the soil organic matter in central AZ and this work suggests that desert and urban soils may be a storage reservoir for soot BC. I further identify previously unknown removal processes of soot BC found naturally in soil and demonstrate that soil soot BC undergoes abiotic (photo-oxidation) and biotic reactions. Not only is soot BC degraded by these processes, but its chemical composition is altered, suggesting that soot BC contains some chemical moieties that are more reactive than others. Because soot BC demonstrates both refractory and reactive character, it is likely that the structure of soot BC; therefore, its interactions in the environment are complex and it is not simply a recalcitrant material.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013