The Earth is a dynamically active and fascinating planet, and the only known planet to harbor and sustain complex life. Understanding how the Earth works and what implications those processes have for humans is in a sense the broad goal of geology. The facet to which I am most interested is utilizing geochemical tracers to elucidate information about the timescales, pathways, and components involved in Earth processes. Isotopes provide a powerful set of geochemical tools that allow us to distinguish between different deep Earth reservoirs. By analyzing certain relevant isotopic tracers that act as fingerprints, we can utilize “forensic” methods to understand various Earth processes since these tracers allow us to overcome the obstacles of distance, mass, and time inherent in those processes.
The applicability and versatility of isotopic tracers has allowed me to study a diverse group of problems ranging from the environmental fate and transport of contaminants in aqueous systems to identifying source contributions to continental arc lavas, the latter of which is where my current research interest resides. Subduction zones are important because they have helped seed and grow continental crust, fertilized the upper mantle, produced the strongest recorded earthquakes (i.e. Chile, 1961) and some of the most violent volcanic eruptions (i.e. Mt. Pinatubo, 1991), and aid in the formation of many of the world’s precious metal deposits. Due to their ability to both create crust and to destroy civilizations, processes controlling continental arc volcanic complexes deserve significant attention. Together with trace elements, I am using Sr-Nd-Pb-Hf isotopic ratios to constrain the source(s) and contribution(s) of subducted slab-derived components to the Tatara-San Pedro Complex in southern Chile in order to decipher how and by which processes continental arc volcanoes operate.