Matching Items (20)

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Molybdenum biogeochemistry in an evolutionary context: nitrogen assimilation, microbial storage and environmental budgets

Description

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105 nM), its concentration is low (<5 nM) in most freshwaters

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105 nM), its concentration is low (<5 nM) in most freshwaters today, and it was scarce in the ocean before 600 million years ago. The use of Mo for nitrogen assimilation can be understood in terms of the changing Mo availability through time; for instance, the higher Mo content of eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic nitrate reductase may have stalled proliferation of eukaryotes in low-Mo Proterozoic oceans. Field and laboratory experiments were performed to study Mo requirements for NO3- assimilation and N2 fixation, respectively. Molybdenum-nitrate addition experiments at Castle Lake, California revealed interannual and depth variability in plankton community response, perhaps resulting from differences in species composition and/or ammonium availability. Furthermore, lake sediments were elevated in Mo compared to soils and bedrock in the watershed. Box modeling suggested that the largest source of Mo to the lake was particulate matter from the watershed. Month-long laboratory experiments with heterocystous cyanobacteria (HC) showed that <1 nM Mo led to low N2 fixation rates, while 10 nM Mo was sufficient for optimal rates. At 1500 nM Mo, freshwater HC hyperaccumulated Mo intercellularly, whereas coastal HC did not. These differences in storage capacity were likely due to the presence in freshwater HC of the small molybdate-binding protein, Mop, and its absence in coastal and marine cyanobacterial species. Expression of the mop gene was regulated by Mo availability in the freshwater HC species Nostoc sp. PCC 7120. Under low Mo (<1 nM) conditions, mop gene expression was up-regulated compared to higher Mo (150 and 3000 nM) treatments, but the subunit composition of the Mop protein changed, suggesting that Mop does not bind Mo in the same manner at <1 nM Mo that it can at higher Mo concentrations. These findings support a role for Mop as a Mo storage protein in HC and suggest that freshwater HC control Mo cellular homeostasis at the post-translational level. Mop's widespread distribution in prokaryotes lends support to the theory that it may be an ancient protein inherited from low-Mo Precambrian oceans.

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Date Created
2011

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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, oceanography, and anthropology. Black carbon is best described using a

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.

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Date Created
2013

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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 Titan. Titan has an atmosphere and surface that are rich

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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Date Created
2012

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Synthesis of redox-cycling therapeutic agents

Description

Cellular redox phenomena are essential for the life of organisms. Described here is a summary of the synthesis of a number of redox-cycling therapeutic agents. The work centers on the synthesis of antitumor antibiotic bleomycin congeners. In addition, the synthesis

Cellular redox phenomena are essential for the life of organisms. Described here is a summary of the synthesis of a number of redox-cycling therapeutic agents. The work centers on the synthesis of antitumor antibiotic bleomycin congeners. In addition, the synthesis of pyridinol analogues of alpha-tocopherol is also described. The bleomycins (BLMs) are a group of glycopeptide antibiotics that have been used clinically to treat several types of cancers. The antitumor activity of BLM is thought to be related to its degradation of DNA, and possibly RNA. Previous studies have indicated that the methylvalerate subunit of bleomycin plays an important role in facilitating DNA cleavage by bleomycin and deglycobleomycin. A series of methylvalerate analogues have been synthesized and incorporated into deglycobleomycin congeners by the use of solid-phase synthesis. All of the deglycobleomycin analogues were found to effect the relaxation of plasmid DNA. Those analogues having aromatic C4-substituents exhibited cleavage efficiency comparable to that of deglycoBLM A5. Some, but not all, of the deglycoBLM analogues were also capable of mediating sequence-selective DNA cleavage. The second project focused on the synthesis of bicyclic pyridinol analogues of alpha-tocopherol. Bicyclic pyridinol antioxidants have recently been reported to suppress the autoxidation of methyl linoleate more effectively than alpha-tocopherol. However, the complexity of the synthetic routes has hampered their further development as therapeutic agents. Described herein is a concise synthesis of two bicyclic pridinol antioxidants and a facile approach to their derivatives with simple alkyl chains attached to the antioxidant core. These analogues were shown to retain biological activity and exhibit tocopherol-like behaviour.

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Date Created
2011

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Photo-chemical and microbial degradation of dissolved organic carbon in the Colorado River system

Description

The focus of this thesis is to study dissolved organic carbon composition and reactivity along the Colorado and Green Rivers. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in large-scale, managed rivers is relatively poorly studied as most literature has focused on pristine unmanaged

The focus of this thesis is to study dissolved organic carbon composition and reactivity along the Colorado and Green Rivers. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in large-scale, managed rivers is relatively poorly studied as most literature has focused on pristine unmanaged rivers. The Colorado River System is the 7th largest in the North America; there are seventeen large dams along the Colorado and Green River. DOC in rivers and in the lakes formed by dams (reservoirs) undergo photo-chemical and bio-degradation. DOC concentration and composition in these systems were investigated using bulk concentration, optical properties, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The riverine DOC concentration decreased from upstream to downstream but there was no change in the specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254). Total fluorescence also decreased along the river. In general, the fluorescence index (FI) increased slightly, the humification index (HIX) decreased, and the freshness index (β/α) increased from upstream to downstream. Photo-oxidation and biodegradation experiments were used to determine if the observed changes in DOC composition along the river could be driven by these biogeochemical alteration processes.

In two-week natural sunlight photo-oxidation experiments the DOC concentration did not change, while the SUVA254 and TF decreased. In addition, the FI and ‘freshness’ increased and HIX decreased during photo-oxidation. Photo-oxidation can explain the upstream to downstream trends for TF, FI, HIX, and freshness observed in river water. Serial photo-oxidation and biodegradation experiments were performed on water collected from three sites along the Colorado River. Bulk DOC concentration in all samples decreased during the biodegradation portion of the study, but DOC bioavailability was lower in samples that were photo-oxidized prior to the bioavailability study.

The upstream to downstream trends in DOC concentration and composition along the river can be explained by a combination of photo-chemical and microbial degradation. The bulk DOC concentration change is primarily driven by microbial degradation, while the changes in the composition of the fluorescent DOC are driven by photo-oxidation.

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Date Created
2015

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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 pathways involving organic compounds under geochemically relevant hydrothermal conditions have

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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2018

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Multi-scale Investigation of Biosignature Preservation and Post-depositional Alteration in Three Siliceous Hot Springs

Description

The ability to find evidence of life on early Earth and other planets is constrained by the current understanding of biosignatures and our ability to differentiate fossils from abiotic mimics. When organisms transition from the living realm to the fossil

The ability to find evidence of life on early Earth and other planets is constrained by the current understanding of biosignatures and our ability to differentiate fossils from abiotic mimics. When organisms transition from the living realm to the fossil record, their morphological and chemical characteristics are modified, usually resulting in the loss of information. These modifications can happen during early and late diagenesis and differ depending on local geochemical properties. These post-depositional modifications need to be understood to better interpret the fossil record. Siliceous hot spring deposits (sinters) are of particular interest for biosignature research as they are early Earth analog environments and targets for investigating the presence of fossil life on Mars. As silica-supersaturated fluids flow from the vent to the distal apron, they precipitate non-crystalline opal-A that fossilizes microbial communities at a range in scales (μm-cm). Therefore, many studies have documented the ties between the active microbial communities and the morphological and chemical biosignatures in hot springs. However, far less attention has been placed on understanding preservation in systems with complex mineralogy or how post-depositional alteration affects the retention of biosignatures. Without this context, it can be challenging to recognize biosignatures in ancient rocks. This dissertation research aims to refine our current understanding of biosignature preservation and retention in sinters. Biosignatures of interest include organic matter, microfossils, and biofabrics. The complex nature of hot springs requires a comprehensive understanding of biosignature preservation that is representative of variable chemistries and post-depositional alterations. For this reason, this dissertation research chapters are field site-based. Chapter 2 investigates biosignature preservation in an unusual spring with mixed opal-A-calcite mineralogy at Lýsuhóll, Iceland. Chapter 3 tracks how silica diagenesis modifies microfossil morphology and associated organic matter at Puchuldiza, Chile. Chapter 4 studies the effects of acid fumarolic overprinting on biosignatures in Gunnuhver, Iceland. To accomplish this, traditional geologic methods (mapping, petrography, X-ray diffraction, bulk elemental analyses) were combined with high-spatial-resolution elemental mapping to better understand diagenetic effects in these systems. Preservation models were developed to predict the types and styles of biosignatures that can be present depending on the depositional and geochemical context. Recommendations are also made for the types of deposits that are most likely to preserve biosignatures.

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Date Created
2021

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Experimental constraints on Fe concentrations in biomass burning aerosols

Description

Atmospheric deposition of iron (Fe) can limit primary productivity and carbon dioxide uptake in some marine ecosystems. Recent modeling studies suggest that biomass burning aerosols may contribute a significant amount of soluble Fe to the surface ocean. Existing studies of

Atmospheric deposition of iron (Fe) can limit primary productivity and carbon dioxide uptake in some marine ecosystems. Recent modeling studies suggest that biomass burning aerosols may contribute a significant amount of soluble Fe to the surface ocean. Existing studies of burn-induced trace element mobilization have often collected both entrained soil particles along with material from biomass burning, making it difficult to determine the actual source of aerosolized trace metals.

In order to better constrain the importance of biomass versus entrained soil as a source of trace metals in burn aerosols, small-scale burn experiments were conducted using soil-free foliage representative of a variety of fire-impacted ecosystems. The resulting burn aerosols were collected in two stages (PM > 2.5 μm and PM < 2.5 μm) on cellulose filters using a high-volume air sampler equipped with an all-Teflon impactor. Unburned foliage and burn aerosols were analyzed for Fe and other trace metals using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Results of this analysis show that less than 2% of Fe in plant biomass is likely mobilized as atmospheric aerosols during biomass burning events. The results of this study and estimates of annual global wildfire area were used to estimate the impact of biomass burning aerosols on total atmospheric Fe flux to the ocean. I estimate that foliage-derived Fe contributes 114 ± 57 Gg annually. Prior studies, which implicitly include both biomass and soil-derived Fe, concluded that biomass burning contributes approximately 690 Gg of Fe. Together, these studies suggest that fire-entrained soil particles contribute 83% (576 Gg) of Fe in biomass burning emissions, while plant derived iron only accounts for at most 17%.

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Date Created
2019

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Modeling aqueous organic chemistry in experimental and natural systems

Description

In many natural systems aqueous geochemical conditions dictate the reaction pathways of organic compounds. Geologic settings that span wide ranges in temperature, pressure, and composition vastly alter relative reaction rates and resulting organic abundances. The dependence of organic reactions on

In many natural systems aqueous geochemical conditions dictate the reaction pathways of organic compounds. Geologic settings that span wide ranges in temperature, pressure, and composition vastly alter relative reaction rates and resulting organic abundances. The dependence of organic reactions on these variables contributes to planetary-scale nutrient cycling, and suggests that relative abundances of organic compounds can reveal information about inaccessible geologic environments, whether from the terrestrial subsurface, remote planetary settings, or even the distant past (if organic abundances are well preserved). Despite their relevance to planetary modeling and exploration, organic reactions remain poorly characterized under geochemically relevant conditions, especially in terms of their reaction kinetics, mechanisms, and equilibria.

In order to better understand organic transformations in natural systems, the reactivities of oxygen- and nitrogen-bearing organic functional groups were investigated under experimental hydrothermal conditions, at 250°C and 40 bar. The model compounds benzylamine and α-methylbenzylamine were used as analogs to environmentally relevant amines, ultimately elucidating two dominant deamination mechanisms for benzylamine, SN1 and SN2, and a single SN1 mechanism for deamination of α-methylbenzylamine. The presence of unimolecular and bimolecular mechanisms has implications for temperature dependent kinetics, indicating that Arrhenius rate extrapolation is currently unreliable for deamination.

Hydrothermal experiments with benzyl alcohol, benzylamine, dibenzylamine, or tribenzylamine as the starting material indicate that substitution reactions between these compounds (and others) are reversible and approach metastable equilibrium after 72 hours. These findings suggest that relative ratios of organic compounds capable of substitution reactions could be targeted as tracers of inaccessible geochemical conditions.

Metastable equilibria for organic reactions were investigated in a natural low-temperature serpentinizing continental system. Serpentinization is a water-rock reaction which generates hyperalkaline, reducing conditions. Thermodynamic calculations were performed for reactions between dissolved inorganic carbon and hydrogen to produce methane, formate, and acetate. Quantifying conditions that satisfy equilibrium for these reactions allows subsurface conditions to be predicted. These calculations also lead to hypotheses regarding active microbial processes during serpentinization.

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Date Created
2017

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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 deep, slowly cooling Earth. Compositional heterogeneities inherent to these basalts—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