Biomolecular Tools in Earth Sciences
Spring 2012

Peter deMenocal
Pratigya Polissar
William D'Andrea

Course description:

The sedimentary record contains organic compounds derived from a variety of biological sources. New technological developments have facilitated the identification, isolation and quantification of these biomolecules (or biomarkers), making them valuable tools for understanding Earth History. This graduate level reading seminar will meet once a week to discuss theoretical and practical applications of biomarkers toward understanding past environments.

Topics covered will include 1) the sources and fate of organic matter in sedimentary archives, 2) diagenetic alteration of organic molecules, 3) understanding the wide variety of biomarkers found in sedimentary archives and their paleoenvironmental significance, 4) biomarker-based paleothermometry, 5) compound-specific stable isotopes, and 6) the instrumentation used in various biomarker analyses.

The first two or three class meetings will consist of informational sessions to provide students with the basic foundation in organic geochemistry needed to understand and critically evaluate published research. After the initial informational meetings, the class format will be student-led discussions of scientific literature.

Format: 1 hr 15 min discussion
Meeting time: Wednesday 9:45-11:00am
Location: LDEO Geoscience Building Rm. 205

Jan 25: Origin and preservation of organic matter - Chapter 1 of the Biomarker Guide

Feb 1: Organic Chemistry - Chapter 2 of the Biomarker Guide

Feb 8: Organic Chemistry - continued

Feb 15: Biochemistry of biomarkers - Chapter 3 of the Biomarker Guide

Feb 22: Early earth biomarkers- Brocks et al., 1999

Feb 29: Instruments: Theory and Lab Tour
               Reading 1 An introduction to Chromatographic Methods (Chapter 26 of Analytical Chemistry)
               Reading 2 Applications of Chromatography (Chapter 27 of Analytical Chemistry)
               Reading 3 Isotope-ratio detection for gas chromatography (Session, 2006)

Mar 7: Molecular records of evolution: The Rise of the Rhizosolenid Diatoms Sinninghe-Damsté et al., 2004

Mar 14: No Class -- Spring Recess

Mar 21: Extraterrestrial Organic Geochemistry - Engel & Macko, 1997 (Paper - News & Views - Comment)
Mar 28: Sea ice proxy IP25, Müller et al., 2011

Apr 4: Archea in sediments Lipp et al., 2008 (Paper - News & Views)
Apr 11: Compound specific carbon isotopes, Feakins et al., 2005

Apr 18: Compound specific hydrogen isotopes, Huang et al., 2007

Apr 25: TBD