Collaborative Research: US GEOTRACES PMT: Sources and Rates of Trace Element and Isotope Cycling Derived from the Radium Quartet
The goal of the international GEOTRACES program is to understand the distributions of trace chemical elements and their isotopes in the oceans. Naturally occurring radioactive isotopes of the element radium can be used to measure the rates of important processes in the ocean. In turn, making these rate measurements at the same time as other trace element and isotope data are collected enables a more complete interpretation of these data. The investigators propose to measure the four isotopes of radium -- Ra-223, Ra-224, Ra-226, and Ra-228 -- on a U.S. GEOTRACES expedition from Alaska to Tahiti in 2018. The radium isotope data will be particularly useful in investigating trace element input and removal processes associated with ocean boundaries (rivers, continental shelves, and the ocean bottom) and with mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vents and the long-range dispersal of their neutrally buoyant plumes. The investigators will also investigate the processes controlling the internal cycling of the longest-lived isotope, Ra-226, compared to the element barium, which has a very similar chemistry to radium. The proposed work would address a number of key questions regarding trace element inputs from ocean boundaries and their potential impact on ocean productivity and biogeochemistry. As iron is an important nutrient for marine phytoplankton, the investigators will quantify the rates of lateral trace element transport from the Gulf of Alaska margin out to and including the offshore High Nutrient Low Chlorophyll region of the subarctic Northeast Pacific Ocean. In the ocean subsurface, they will seek to understand the trace element fluxes associated with high temperature hydrothermal venting, and the rate at which trace elements and isotopes are removed via scavenging along the hydrothermal plume. Lastly, the work will lead to an improved understanding of a marine carbonate sediment dating technique via an investigation of Ra-226 and barium fractionation processes in the upper ocean. The project will involve collaboration between two U.S. institutions and a partner in France who will analyze some of the samples. Two graduate students will participate in the project. Moore will supervise an undergraduate student through the South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation, and will encourage this student to develop a senior thesis based on their participation in this project.