Marine Isotope Geochemistry

Course Overview

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What and how you will learn

The objective of this course is to develop a conceptual, quantitative, and thorough understanding of principles of marine isotope geochemistry, its systematics and its application to the study of the behavior and history of the oceans within the earth system. The emphasis is on developing the underlying concepts and theory as well as proficiency in working with practical isotope systems. This will not be a comprehensive survey of isotope geochemistry literature but rather the building of foundational knowledge and skills in working with isotope systems. Reference will be made to recent theories, developments, and key papers. In addition to 21 lectures, there will be 4 problem solving sessions aimed at hands-on development of key skills. Each session begins a problem set assignment due ~10 days after. A final exam will be given.

The course is divided into four sections covering (1) Nuclear systematics, (2) Earth formation and evolution, (3) Stable isotopes, and (4) Applications to the ocean system. Each of these sections are described in the web pages listed on the left of this screen. Lecture slides will be published in PDF format prior to each lecture (with two slides per page), and the student is encouraged print these up prior to the lecture to use for annotation. Links to ancillary materials associated with each lecture will be posted on these pages as necessary.

We will start our journey with the basics of nuclear systematics that control the cosmic abundances of the elements and isotopes, nucleosynthesis, and nuclear stability. We will go into quantitative details about the mechanics and systematics of radioactive decay and how they apply to radioactive dating. Next, we will show how isotope distributions can constrain the nature and timing of formation of the solar system, the earth, and its atmosphere and oceans. We discuss what isotopes reveal about the structure and evolution of the earth. Stable isotopes, their measurement, fractionation and systematics will be investigated, including recent developments in and applications of mass-independent fraction and clumped isotope systems. In the final section of the course we investigate applications of isotope systems to numerous processes in the ocean, including particle scavenging, seimentary processes, long term elemental balances, redox processes, and air-sea exchange.


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Last updated August 10, 2012
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