Geochemistry

Geochemistry at Utrecht University focuses on the geochemistry of the Earth surface. We combine field data with experimental, modeling and theoretical approaches to elucidate biogeochemical cycles and mineral transformations along the aquatic continuum, e.g. from weathering of rocks to biogeochemistry of deep-sea sediments. We have access to world-class facilities, including fully equipped isotope and organic geochemistry laboratories and nano-scale mass spectrometry. We investigate (bio)geochemical processes from the nanometer to the global scale and utilize the geological record to better project Earth surface conditions in the future. 

Research

Environmental and aquatic geochemistry

This research line focuses on the interactions between water, Earth materials and micro-organisms. These interactions are key to understanding, predicting or engineering a range of geochemical processes, including:

  • the formation and dissolution of Earth materials (minerals, rocks),
  • the associated speciation, transformation, sequestration or release and transport of various elements in Earth’s surface environment,
  • (fresh) water quality,
  • the impact of microbial life on the above.

We investigate these geochemical processes from the atomic to the field scale, combining laboratory experiments, field sampling and advanced analytical techniques (such as synchrotron X-ray spectroscopy and scattering) with state of the art computational approaches.

Faculty involved

Reactive-Transport modeling

We develop and apply modeling tools to quantitatively describe the coupling of (bio)geochemical reactions to transport processes in the various compartments of the hydrosphere. Assessing the response of Earth surface environments to anthropogenic and natural perturbations is a key focus.

Examples of modeling tools we use include 1D-biogeochemical models to understand carbon and nutrient processes in aquatic sediments, 3D-biogeochemical models of the ocean, 3D models of groundwater systems and other porous media (including the pore scale) and spatially-explicit global models of carbon and nutrient transport at the land-ocean interface.

Faculty involved

 Further information can be found on the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre website.

Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemistry involves the study of biological, chemical and physical processes that govern the cycling of matter at the Earth surface. We integrate observational, experimental, modeling and theoretical studies to elucidate the functioning of modern and past ecosystems. We combine microanalytical techniques (e.g.  microsensors and nanoSIMS) with state-of-the-art bulk analyses (elemental, molecular and isotopic) and various types of modeling tools to elucidate processes from the cellular level to regional and global scales. Biogeochemistry of sediments in coastal and open ocean settings is our key focus.

Faculty involved

Past and Future Oceans

The oceans play a major role in moderating climate change by absorbing most of the heat and about 25% of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide. However, these services to mankind come at the expense of ocean acidification, de-oxygenation and warming, each of which has major impact on ocean chemistry and biology.  We investigate the causes, mechanisms and consequences of ocean acidification and de-oxygenation on marine ecosystems. We integrate process studies of modern systems, with experimental studies of future systems and detailed reconstructions of past oceans using a wide variety of approaches (e.g. organic and inorganic geochemical proxies; rate measurements). Anoxic marine systems in the past (e.g. Mesozoic) and modern systems such as the Baltic and Black Seas are areas of present focus.

Faculty involved

Further information can be found on the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre website.

Education

Members of the Geochemistry group teach Bachelor and Master courses in inorganic and organic geochemistry, biogeosciences, reactive-transport modeling and paleoceanography. We also supervise a number of MSc and BSc projects on a wide variety of subjects.

Bachelor's courses

Master's courses

Research projects

Please contact one of the group members if you are interested in doing a BSc or MSc research project with us. You have the option to join our exciting ongoing research projects or to explore your own ideas if you can convince a staff member to guide you. You can apply to the schuilingfonds@uu.nl to obtain support for self-initiated independent research.

 

Lab facilities

GeoLab

The GeoLab is the main laboratory facility of the Faculty of Geosciences. The main research area of the Faculty is the changes of the Earth system with and without stress. The human impact is a specific area of interest. The GeoLab carries out research in close cooperation with the scientists and students.

We have a wide range of lab facilities available for measuring bulk rock geochemistry, bulk rock stable isotopes (H, C, N, S), in situ stable and radiogenic isotopes (U,Pb-dating), in situ major and trace elements and crystallography.

Please contact one of the lab supervisors for more information or inquiries.