Biogeochemistry Lab

This laboratory specializes in biogeochemical analysis of water, soil, and rocks for the purpose of determining past changes in earth processes as well as current impacts of humans on critical biogeochemical cycles. This laboratory is directed by Dr. Filippelli and covers over 1000 sq. feet and includes a separate ICP room.

Instruments include standard wet trace metal chemistry equipment (fume hoods, Milli-Q water system, pH meters, microbalances), including a new Perkin Elmer 6100 ICP-AES with a CETAC ultrasonic nebulizer, a CEM Corp. microwave digestion system, a Shimadzu scanning UV-VIS Spectrophotometer, a Dionex CHNS system, multiple IC/LC instruments, and four Thermo 3500 pDR systems that can be used in PM2.5 or PM10 mode.

Biogeochemistry Lab Graduate Students

From left to right. Front row: Deborah (Morrison) Nichols, Quyen Vong, Christina Ho. Back row: Dr. Gabriel Filippeli, Jessica Adamic, Abbey Neff, Amber Rollings, Cindy Ho.

Primary Researcher:  Dr. Gabriel M. Filippelli.

Dr. Filippelli’s research focuses on biogeochemical cycling in the environment and the connections between geochemistry and the geologic record of climate change. Student projects involve field study, followed by detailed geochemical analyses in the biogeochemistry laboratory. The laboratory is equipped with a plasma emission spectrometer for elemental analyses, as well as specialized spectrometers for analysis of carbon, mercury, and phosphorous.

Dr. Filippelli has worked extensively on the chemistry and geologic history of nutrient cycling in the ocean and on land. Current research projects involve determining the controls on nutrient cycling on land during glaciation, examining the timing and driving forces of biological productivity in the ocean, assessing the content and distribution of the potentially harmful element mercury in coal resources of Indiana and examining the links between lead distribution and children's blood lead levels in urban areas.

Biogeochemistry Lab Graduate Students

  • Jessica Adamic. The purpose of my research is to investigate the presence of lead (Pb) in our environment and the affect that it has on urban society.  As Project Manager for the Safe Urban Gardening Initiative, I was able to interact with the local community and experience the challenges and successes of citizen science. Samples submitted through this initiative provide us with data used to explore spatial variability of Pb and other elements, potentially determine current sources of Pb to the environment, and help to understand the impact that educational initiatives (like the Safe Urban Gardening Initiative) can have on urban health.

  • Deborah (Morrison) Nichols. The core of my research interest draws across several disciplines including investigative/analytical epidemiological activities as well as the geosciences with a focus on determining the relationship between soil lead (Pb) and children’s blood Pb levels in addition to providing community outreach to those neighborhoods still being haunted by the legacy of Pb in their environment.

  • Amber Rollings. The focus of my current research is a long-term formative evaluation consisting of qualitative case examinations of volunteer families' experiences as part of a larger collaboration with Indianapolis/City as Living Laboratory (I/CaLL).  I/CaLL uses the city of Indianapolis as an informal science learning environment with emphasis on place-based environmental learning focused around the major waterways in Indianapolis.  Family interviews that are conducted will help to better understand how each family experiences and seeks out self-directed science learning.  The length of time for the study will also allow for evaluation of any changes longitudinally. 

Biogeochemistry Lab Undergraduate Students

  • Cindy Ho. I am a nursing major, I am working in the Earth Science department for experience. In mid-January, I am planning to do fieldwork, which requires me to go out and survey families. I will be working with Amber Rollings to ask the families about their interactions with the waterways/environment.
  • Christina Ho. My major is chemistry. I worked in the Earth Science department during high school for Project Seed and found it intriguing, that’s why I wanted to help out in college. For now, I am volunteering in Dr. Gabriel Filippelli lab. In the past, I assisted in determining the lead levels in Martindale Brightwood.

  • Abbey Neff. I am a senior Environmental Science B.S. major.  My current research under Dr. Gabriel Filipelli and the Center for Urban Health focuses on investigating the links between lead distribution and children's blood lead levels in urban Indianapolis areas.

  • Quyen Vong. I am a senior and major in Chemistry. My focus is to become an Environmental Chemist. Currently, I am working in Dr. Filippeli’s lab on a research about the amount of mercury in urban soils.

Past Research Projects

  • Jennifer C. Latimer (PhD. student) - Phosphorus and metal geochemistry in the Southern Ocean. L 
  • Robyn Atkins   - Lead in the Environment - Scientist's Apprentice Camp
  • Adam R. Boettner (Master's candidate) - Geochemistry and sedimentology of coastal and wetland sediments: southwest Florida.
  • Nancy L. Dollar (Master's candidate) - Chemical fractionation of metals in wetland sediments:  Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
  • Matthew Dagon (Master's candidate) - Geochemistry of the Sagamon soils, eastern Indiana
  • Debra Dawson (Master's candidate) - Phosphorus and carbon in the Santa Barbara Basin, California




Recent Publications

Filippelli, G., Morrison, D., Cicchella, D. (2012). Urban Metal Geochemistry and Human Health. Elements. 8:6. doi: 10.2113/gselements.8.6.439

Morrison, D., Lin, Q., Wiehe, S., Liu, G., Rosenman, M., Fuller, T., Wang, J., Filippelli, G. (2012) Spatial Relationships Between Lead Sources and Children’s Blood Lead Levels in the Urban Center of Indianapolis (USA). Environ Geochem and Health. doi: 10.1007/s10653-012-9474-y

Filippelli, G.M., Laidlaw, M.A.S., & Morrison. D. (2012). Redefining Ecosystems: Mapping the Hidden Ecologies of Environmental Injustice.  In Emerman, S.H., Bjornerud, J.S., & Levy, S.A., Liberation Science: Putting Science to Work for Social and Environmental Justice (pp. 14-29). Lulu Press: ISBN 978-1-300-43792-5

Center for Urban Health (2012). Garden Safe, Garden Well: An Urban Gardening Guide. Indianapolis, IN.  Available at: Documents/Horticulture/GardenSafeGardenWell.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency (2011). Brownfields and Urban Agriculture Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices (EPA 560ǀS-11ǀ001ǀSummer 2011). Chicago, IL. Available at: