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Current Areas of Research

Ecosystem-level Studies

This project couples analysis of particle transport with analysis of contaminant concentrations, basic geochemical parameters and physical dynamics of water flow, and determination of natural ecosystem recovery from contamination.

Remote Sensing of Coastal Environments

The Navy has a need to be able to remotely sense the littoral environment, encompassing rivers, estuaries, and the coastal ocean. Remote sensing can provide a large scale overview of geochemical parameters. In order to validate remote sensing algorithms of ocean color, phytoplankton abundance and productivity, and other critical data products derived from satellites, this work entails geochemical and spectroscopic ground-truthing of airborne and space-borne measurements. This project is in collaboration with NRL Remote Sensing group.

Nitroaromatic Energetic Compound Degradation

The military has a need to remediate highly energetic nitroaromatic compounds found in soil and groundwater at former ammunition manufacturing and storage depots. The fate of nitroaromatic compounds in coastal estuaries is being studied using radiolabelled energetics and natural bacterial assemblages.

Methane Hydrates

Work is being conducted in collaboration with a broad national and international research team. Code 6114 contribution to this research is analysis of the microbial influence on methane hydrate formation, stability, structure and lattice saturation. This research addresses ocean carbon cycling, global warming, coastal stability, coastal ocean geo-accoustical properties and hydrate mining.

Distributional of Methane Oxidizers

Approximately 300 Tg of methane per year is oxidized in situ in anaerobic marine sediments. This biogeochemical pathway provides the most significant control on export of methane to the hydrosphere. This project focuses on understanding the identity and global distribution of closely related species. High resolution molecular characterization of microbial communities in methane charged sediments is carried out using an adaptation of 454-pyrosequencing. Key metabolic genes involved in methane oxidation and micro-evolutionary patterns in genes are tracked to reconstruct the timing of dispersal of genes/phylotypes throughout oceanic sediments.

Fuel Energy Enhancement

A new development of Navy fuel is underway to the potential to enhance fuels with boron nanoparticles. Development will support tactical missions for air, sea and land based vehicles.

Environmental Dosimeters

Hair and other biological tissues can potentially serve to record the light stable isotope ratios (IRMS), heavy isotope ratios (TIMS, MC-ICP-MS), and major, minor and trace element concentrations and ratios (HR-ICP-MS) of the air, dust, water, and other materials inhaled, ingested, or contacted by an organism. Therefore results from the bio(geo)chemical analysis of biological tissues can be used to trace uptake into biota. These tissues can thereby serve as dosimeters for environmental exposure for the host organism and may be useful for tracking the migration and movement of the organism through different regions of the world.

Atmospheric Geochemistry and Microbiology in Arid Regions

In arid environments, winds, storms, and other physical disturbances can suspend surficial sands, silts, and clays as airborne dust that can be subsequently transported over distances from meters to hundreds of kilometers. This dust, particularly the silt/clay fraction, carries with it any organisms and inorganic or organic constituents that are associated with particle surfaces. Clay content and mineralogy may also play an important role in determining bacterial species richness and diversity on surficial sands and airborne dust in Northern Kuwait, Iraq, and other arid regions. Since the Navy and Marine Corps will be operating in such environments for the foreseeable future, understanding the linkages and interactions between clay content and mineralogy, geochemistry, and bacterial diversity is important to address questions related to the health, safety and efficacy of our forward deployed forces. Also, as human population grows, the climate changes, and desertification increases, arid regions will become more important globally.

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