Modern and ancient mantle chemistry

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The mantle is a significant part of the total Earth system comprising the vast bulk of the silicate rock fraction of our planet and forming the deep roots of the continents. The chemistry of the mantle has changed throughout geologic time, initially as result of early planetary formation more than 4.5 billion years ago and then throughout geologic history by the extraction of continental crust and the recycling of material in subduction zones.

Using new isotopic and chemical methods applied to the study of mantle rocks and minerals ranging in age from more than 3.8 billion years, to just months old, we can track the changing composition revealing ancient and modern global events. From this work we are beginning to unravel the complex chemical linkages between the deep Earth and crustal environments.

There are a number of student projects available as part of this research, most of them based on the direct study of mantle rocks using leading edge analytical methods with three examples listed here.

One project is investigating the petrology and geochemistry of our recently discovered ancient mantle samples (3.8 billion year old rocks from southwest Greenland) and related basalts to determine processes of planetary differentiation on the early Earth.

A second project (so-supervised with Dr. Honda) is to measure the nitrogen isotopic composition of mantle rocks through time to investigate atmosphere evolution and mantle-crust linkages. A third project (jointly with Dr. Norman) is using the petrology and chemistry of peridotite xenoliths (upper mantle rocks) carried to the surface in modern Hawaiian plume basalts to reveal deep Earth chemistry.

The emphasis of the various projects can be tailored to the background and interests of the student, but all will involve a significant laboratory component using a range of analytical techniques, including leading edge isotopic approaches. We can break the research into suitable size projects for interns, honours, masters and PhD work.

This research will appeal to students who want to use the details preserved in the record to look at global questions in Earth evolution and are willing to become experts in some aspects of geochemistry.

Contact me for more information or other possible projects, or if you have some ideas of your own to discuss as possible projects.

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