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The School of Geosciences at UL Lafayette acquires a new portable instrument to unlock the chemistry of rocks and soils

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CO2 levels now higher than any time in the last 23 million years

One of the most pressing messages that climate scientists attempt to convey to the public is how today’s CO2 levels compare to those of the Geologic past. Such comparisons can provide public context for current CO2 rise, as well as important information on the response of global temperatures to rising CO2. A new study published in Geology suggests that present-day CO2 levels (412 ppmv) are now likely higher than at any time in at least the last 23 million years!

In this newly published study, a team led by Brian Schubert, Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, used the remains of dead plants to produce a new record of atmospheric CO2 that spans 23 million years of uninterrupted Earth history. Their findings relied on the nearly continuous record of terrestrial photosynthesis provided by organic matter accumulated from partially decomposed plants.

“When plants grow, the relative amount of the two stable isotopes of carbon, carbon-12 and carbon-13, changes in response to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,” says Schubert. “One can therefore measure the relative amount of these two isotopes and calculate the CO2 concentration under which the plants grew.”

The remains of land plants can be used to calculate the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere. Photo credit: A. Hope Jahren

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Two Graduate Students win the GSA Graduate Research Grant

Please join us in congratulating two of our graduate students who recently won a GSA Graduate Research Grant for 202

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The School of Geosciences wins prestigious Field Camp Award

As our 2020 virtual field camp is kicking off today, our School has just been informed that we are this year's recip

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The Geology Program has purchased a hand-held X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument for reading the chemistry of rocks, soils, or other solid materials in-situ or using samples prepared in the laboratory.  The purchase was made possible by a $42,000 donation from the Lafayette Geological Society.

“The XRF instrument will give our students and faculty another great tool for doing research” says David Borrok, Director of the School of Geosciences.  Applications for the instrument range from the analysis of rock core and cuttings for petroleum exploration to the evaluation of polluted soils and sediments.  “These instruments are also frequently used in paleontology, archeology, and in the analysis of manufactured materials”, adds Borrok.

Dr. Rajith Mukundan in the Environmental Science program is using the instrument for one of his projects.  He says, “The XRF offers a rapid, nondestructive method for analysis of soils and sediments that I can use for my stream sediment source fingerprinting (tracing) studies”.  Dr. Tim Duex in Geology plans on using the instrument as part of his mineralogy course.  “The XRF can help with mineral identification and will teach students about the different elemental compositions of minerals”, says Tim.