The National Science Foundation has awarded Stony Brook a $1,200,000 grant to support the project “MRI-R2: Acquisition of Mass Spectrometers for Earth Systems Science Research” under the direction of co-PI’s J. Kirk Cochran, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; E. Troy Rasbury, Department of Geosciences; and N. Gary Hemming from Queens College, who is an adjunct professor in Stony Brook’s Department of Geosciences. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Stony Brook is providing $529,000 in cost-sharing, making the total project about $1.7M.
With this funding, a state-of-the-art mass spectrometry laboratory will be built at Stony Brook, which includes a thermal ionization mass spectrometer and a multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer that will greatly enhance the research infrastructure at Stony Brook. The new instruments will serve ongoing interdisciplinary research and broaden the scope of research tools available to faculty, as well as foster collaborative links with nearby institutions.
“These two mass spectrometry systems represent a great leap forward for isotope geochemistry at Stony Brook,” said Cochran. “In addition to a refined capability to work with uranium, lead, and strontium isotopes, we will now have the ability to pursue research in lithium, iron, neodymium, plutonium, radium, and other isotope systems.”
The new instrumentation will be applied to a diversity of Earth systems applications in areas including (but not limited to) marine geochemistry, paleoceanography, environmental geochemistry, hydrogeochemistry, paleoclimatology, paleontology, toxicology, geochronology, and igneous petrology.
The co-PI’s want to establish a center that will encourage innovative applications of isotope geochemistry, facilitate interdisciplinary research, and establish a self-sustaining analytical facility. Isotope geochemistry provides one of the few direct links between modern processes and those of the geologic past. Advancement in isotope geochemistry requires much ground-truthing and development of new techniques, as well as recognizing new research avenues that are sparked by innovations in the tools. However, the new mass spectrometers will open other avenues for future research directions as well.
The new facility will serve faculty, students, and visiting collaborators in the Departments of Geosciences, Anatomical Sciences, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Long Island Groundwater Research Institute, Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Turkana Basin Institute, and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The lab will also be available to visiting scientists and faculty researchers from other institutions in the New York Metropolitan area.
Students at all levels will have the opportunity to participate in the process of planning, installing, and testing the instruments. By providing the analytical tools for future research in a wide range of geologic and environmental applications, the new facility will help address societal concerns regarding such important topics as global warming and policies to deal with it, the fate of contaminants in the environment and the bioavailability of these contaminants, as well as helping to better understand how the Earth system works.