Environmental geochemistry: element cycling through Earth's surface systems
The BRG use several isotopic and elemental tools to study Earth's surface process at the intersection of the hydrosphere-atmosphere-lithosphere systems. Particular emphasis is on understanding the surface cycling of ultra-trace elements (e.g., W, Mo, Tl, REE+Y) present at sub-microgram/gram levels through soils, sediment, and river waters. The use of these tracers extends the utility of more traditional methods (e.g., major ion abundances in waters) and provides a better understanding of our modern surface environment and its connection with geology, hydrology, and people, but also helps us to "calibrate" the signatures observed in the ancient sedimentary rock record. Many of these ultra-trace elements are on Canada's "critical minerals" list; understanding how they are distributed in Earth's surface environment also helps with exploring for new ore deposits, tracing anthropogenic contamination sources/processes, and establishing provenance of samples to specific environments.