Metal Isotopes in Marine Sediments

The Oxford-Shell Metal Isotopes project aims to track changes in the marine environment through Earth’s history that were conducive to the formation of potential petroleum rich source rocks. The main research themes of the project are:

  1. Tracing the extent of low-oxygen environments in the world’s oceans during discrete intervals of geological time.
  2. Tracing the impact of seawater nutrient cycling on the production of potential petroleum source rocks.
  3. Test the use of metal isotopes to assess the presence of hydrocarbons in rocks of the same age but at different locations.
  4. Development of new techniques for applying isotope measurements to shallow marine, carbonate-rich rocks equivalent in age to major petroleum source rocks.

Topics currently under investigation by the metal isotopes group include:

  1. Development of analytical techniques for measuring isotope systems in marine carbonates.
  2. Calibration of isotope systems (Cd, Zn) in present day marine environments.
  3. Application of molybdenum isotope stratigraphy to known carbon burial events in the geological past.
  4. Stratigraphic characterization of shallow- and deep-marine deposits spanning critical carbon burial events in the Jurassic and Cretaceous.
  5. Integration of isotope-based nutrient tracers and carbon flux indicators.
  6. Generation of long-term records of regional and global ocean deoxygenation.

The Metal Isotope project benefits from the substantial research expertise offered by the principal investigators (Hugh Jenkyns, Gideon Henderson, Don Porcelli, and Steve Hesselbo) and a post-doctoral researcher (Alex Dickson). The project is also facilitated by input from Shell geochemists (Sander van den Boorn, Erdem Idiz, and Andy Bishop). World-class laboratory facilities are available for the project at Oxford and at Shell’s offices in the Netherlands, and include a trace-metal free clean laboratory suite for the chemical preparation of sample materials, several Nu-Plasma multi-collector isotope mass spectrometers for the analysis of isotopic ratios, and Shell’s organic geochemistry laboratory for the analysis of biomarkers. The group will be recruiting a DPhil student in Autumn 2013 and will be offering a second DPhil studentship in the coming months.