Department of Earth Sciences Receives More than $2.8 Million in Awards to Fund a Wide Range of Research and a New X-ray Diffraction Facility

Release Date: 
Oct 13 2014

INDIANAPOLIS-- Faculty from the Department of Earth Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) have been awarded more than ten grants this year, seven from the NSF, totaling $2.8 million. These projects span diverse topics, ranging from studying glacial deposits in Antarctica, sediments in high altitude lakes of Tibet and Columbia, arc magmatism in the North pacific and California Sierra mountains, to investigating the Eagle Creek watershed in Central Indiana.

“This is an incredible year of funding for the entire Department of Earth Sciences, which is indicative of the high quality research underway and the significant impact that our faculty are making,” said Kevin Mandernack, professor and department chair.

Award details:

Expedition 351

Andrew Barth, Chancellor's Professor

$57,147, Consortium for Ocean Leadership

The goal of Expedition 351 is to sample ocean crust layers 1 and 2 forming the sedimentary cover and basement of the Izu‐Bonin‐Mariana (IBM) arc at a single site in the Amami Sankaku Basin, located south of Japan in the North Pacific Ocean. Most recently we have proposed that a comparatively complete record of arc evolution over tens to hundreds of millions of years is recorded in the average trace element composition of zircons in arc‐derived sedimentary rocks.


A detrital zircon record of California Arc magmatism (collaborative research)

Andrew Barth, Chancellor's Professor

$77,343 awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)

Zircon is an accessory mineral in a wide variety of igneous rocks, and is resistant to recrystallization during hydrothermal alteration and sedimentation. Detrital zircon can yield time-integrated records of magmatic systems. Zircon from in situ igneous rocks and detrital zircons derived from them together have the capability of recording both precise ages and variations in melt compositions in a long-lived magmatic environment. In fact, when paired with studies of in situ igneous rock suites, detrital zircon records may provide a relatively more complete and detailed understanding of vertical and secular variations in partially eroded and incompletely exhumed magmatic systems. The impact of this project will be broadened through a central focus on undergraduate student education and training in all aspects of the proposed research, thereby continuing ongoing efforts to provide authentic research experiences in the earth sciences.


An EAGER proposal to assess the deep drilling potential of Laguna de Tota, Colombia, with a seismic reflection survey (collaborative research)

Broxton Bird, assistant professor

$53,151 awarded by the NSF

This project will allow for conducting a comprehensive high-resolution geophysical survey of Laguna de Tota, Colombia, using a small single-channel air gun seismic reflection system and a CHIRP sub-bottom profiler. Results from this survey will be used to characterize the sediments and sequences contained within Tota’s basin, including a determination of their maximum thickness and the identification of depositional center(s) and structures. Tota has been identified by the paleoclimate community as having great potential for advancing our understanding of the global climate system and a priority for deep lake drilling.


Indian Summer Monsoon Variability Reconstructed from Tibetan Lake Sediments  (collaborative research)

Broxton Bird, assistant professor

$373,797 awarded by the NSF

This research will investigate Indian summer monsoon (ISM) variability during the Holocene with decadally resolved sediment records from four alpine lakes on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. The proposed research builds on our previous NSF-supported work in the Nyainqentanglha Mountains, which are a major center of action in the ISM system and a primary gateway for moisture entering the Tibetan Plateau. This project will directly contribute to our understanding of hydroclimate variability in a densely population region that depends heavily on the ISM. Providing quantitative constraints on Holocene ISM variability during changing climate boundary conditions is important for climate modeling efforts that seek to simulate this system’s response to a range of abrupt and long the proposed research will strengthen international scientific relationships through our collaboration with Chinese scientific institutions, scientists and students.


MRI: Acquisition of an Advanced X-Ray Diffraction System to Support Interdisciplinary Research and Education

Greg Druschel, associate professor

$374,989 awarded by the NSF

This grant was awarded to purchase an advanced X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) system, through the Major Research Instrumentation Program. The XRD system, which will be housed in and maintained by the Integrated Nanosystems Development Institute (INDI) in collaboration with the Department of Earth Science, enhances IUPUI’s shared instrumentation profile, and supports faculty and students across many schools and departments by providing capabilities for a range of interdisciplinary scientific discovery and workforce training. This powerful instrumentation will increase the ability of investigators at IUPUI to characterize the properties of solid materials, especially of nanoscale-size, for fundamental research projects that provide the basis for applications in earth sciences, nanotechnology and biophysical research.


Determining Pathways of Diagenetic Sulfurization of Organic Matter Using Compound-Specific Sulfur Isotopic Analysis (collaborative research)

Bill Gilhooly, assistant professor

$171,627 awarded by the NSF

Sulfur is an essential element for all living organisms because it plays a critical role in transferring biochemical energy, enzymatic reactions, and protein synthesis. Organic sulfur deposited in sedimentary environments is of particular interest due to its impact on petroleum formation and refining and its relationship to microbial sedimentary processes, organic carbon accumulation and the overall interpretation of environmental records. Despite the importance, little is known about organic sulfur in the natural environment in part because there is a wide variety of organic sulfur compounds and a number of different ways these compounds form. New advancements in sulfur isotope analysis have tremendous potential for understanding past changes in elemental cycling, metabolic and ecologic changes, as well as changes in past climatic and environmental conditions.


Conservation tillage project through the National Integrated Water Quality (NIWQ) program

Pierre-Andre Jacinthe, associate professor and principal investigator; Lin Li, associate professor; Lixin Wang, assistant professor; Pam Martin, associate professor

$660,000 awarded by the USDA

Using the Eagle Creek watershed in Central Indiana, we will investigate the effect of tillage management on nutrient cycling, water budget and crop productivity during drought years, and identify the socio-economic barriers to the adoption of conservation practices. A central tenet of this research is that soil quality and soil health are essential to achieving sustainable water quality in agricultural watersheds, especially in drought-affected landscapes. It is well documented that conservation tillage can lead to significant improvement in soil quality attributes which, in turn, could contribute to water quality production.


Deglacial ice dynamics in the Weddell Sea embayment using sediment provenance

Kathy Licht, associate professor

$197,147 awarded by the NSF

This project’s goal has been to complete a provenance study of glacial deposits in Antarctica to provide the first broad scale geo- and thermochronologic survey of detrital minerals in till to help characterize bedrock beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet and constrain Antarctica’s glacial history. Together these allow us to better understand earth’s history of mountain building, erosion and glaciation and together contribute to making better predictions of the impacts of future climate changes.


Fluvial Erosion Hazard Mapping; An Indiana Silver Jackets Initiative to Protect Indiana Communities through Interagency Cooperation

Pam Martin, associate professor and director of Center for Earth and Environmental Science

$836,700 awarded by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs

Within Indiana, damages resulting from inundation of floodwaters can lead to substantial losses—and inundation-related damages are not the only flood-related hazard associated with rivers, streams, and floodplains. The fluvial erosion hazard (FEH), the hazard caused by the erosion of stream and riverbanks and floodplains during floods, also represents a significant concern in areas where human development and infrastructure are established in close proximity to natural waterways. This FEH program fills a critical gap in hazard planning and mitigation for Indiana. The purpose of this mitigation activity is to benefit low- to moderate-income communities in the 82 Indiana counties. Because FEH is a significant risk to nearly every Indiana community—either through threats to housing and business or through threats to the transportation and utility infrastructure—nearly every low to moderate income community in the state will benefit from the program.


US-Namibia Planning Visit: Building a Research Collaboration on the Effects of Non-rainfall Input on Dryland Ecosystem Functions

Lixin Wang, assistant professor

$67,348 awarded by the NSF

The project team will conduct planning meetings and collect and analyze preliminary data to develop a project that will assess the effects of non-rainfall water input on dryland ecosystem functions. The planning visit, preliminary data collection and future research efforts will take place in the Namib Desert, Namibia. The research effort that will result from this planning visit will test the hypothesis that non-rainfall moisture contributes significantly to desert ecosystem function. Equally importantly, the research will attempt to identify the source areas of fog/dew using stable isotope analyses and will assess how much fog and dew contribute to ecosystem function. 


The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The school is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy.