Freshwater and sediment environmental chemistry and hydrology
Our department has pioneered the use of chemical and isotopic markers to characterize the deposition of sediments and the effects of human development on these systems. We also are involved in characterizing sources, transport, and degradation of pollutants in surface and groundwater environments, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), common solvents, fuel products and additives, and other petroleum hydrocarbons.
Rensselaer is actively involved in monitoring and resolving environmental issues within the region. The institute is part of the Rivers & Estuaries Center on the Hudson River.
My research covers the fields of solar and solar-terrestrial physics, ocean and environmental informatics, computational and computer science, distributed semantic data frameworks, digital humanities and exploratory large-scale visualization. The results are applied to large-scale distributed scientific repositories addressing the full life-cycle of data and information within specific science and engineering disciplines as well as among disciplines.
Geochemistry of the Earth's Interior
Research in inorganic geochemistry in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences focuses on chemical equilibria and transport phenomena in solid-Earth systems (and to some extent in other terrestrial planets and meteorites). This umbrella takes in a wide range of systems, spanning the realm from core-mantle interactions to climate proxies.
Prof. Bruce Watson's group uses mainly experimental approaches-coupled in some cases with numerical modeling-to characterize processes that operate in and on the Earth to redistribute the chemical elements on scales ranging from micrometers to kilometers. This overarching interest involves specific studies of several types, including: 1) partitioning of trace elements between minerals, silicate melts and fluids; 2) atomic and molecular diffusion in crystals, grain boundaries, silicate melts and supercritical water; 3) equilibrium and kinetic properties of low-abundance minerals that sequester geochemically-important isotopes and trace elements; 4) wetting behavior of fluids and melts in rocks; 5) permeability of (and bulk diffusion in) polyphase materials consisting of crystals and fluid; and 6) dissolution and growth kinetics of minerals, in particular as the latter might bear on non-equilibrium uptake of elements and isotopes. The primary application areas of current research include "environmental" conditions on earliest Earth (as these might bear on the origin of life), time-temperature evolution of igneous and metamorphic systems, and the underlying thermodynamic/kinetic basis of climate proxies.
Metamorphic Petrology and Thermochemistry
Our department is instrumental in providing some of the most powerful computational tools and evaluation techniques required to interpret the complicated nature of metamorphic reactions within the earth. We are evaluating the thermodynamics of common metamorphic mineral assemblages, characterizing crystal growth and compositional changes, and developing analytical techniques to determine the ages of metamorphic events. These constrain the geologic history of a number of regions, including New England, the Adirondacks of New York, the Caledonides of Norway, and Greece.
Paleoceanography and Micropaleontology
My area of expertise is in paleoceanography and micropaleontology. Much of my work utilizes assemblage and geochemistry changes in the marine microfossil group benthic foraminifera, integrated with biostratigraphy, lithology, geophysical well logging, and seismic profile studies. I apply these integrated tools to a broad spectrum of reconstructions from the marine geological record, such as past ocean and climate conditions, paleobathymetry and sea level change, and the geological carbon cycle.
Seismic characterization and processing
Our department is at the forefront of using new seismological techniques to resolve the structure of the crust and mantle,and their dynamics. Through careful and novel manipulation of seismic data, we are providing new insights into the composition and heterogeneity of the Earth, and the underlying structure of the deep subsurface. We are applying these techniques to a number of diverse areas, including the Tien Shan Mountains (China), the San Andreas Fault, the Adirondacks, Yucca Mountain, Taiwan, and Central Asia.
In the face of a changing climate, it is important to understand and characterize Earth’s past climate states, and the complex interactions between Earth’s systems that are intertwined with changes in climate. These observations are critical to informing our predictions about a dynamic future climate. In the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences we apply experimental and isotope geochemistry, and micropaleontology to these problems to reconstruct past Earth surface conditions and paleoclimates across a wide range of timescales.