Lab Reports

Fieldwork at Laguna Negra

31 March, 2017

10:09

Scott and Alex recently ventured back to Laguna Negra with Fernando Gomez for more sampling and mapping of the oncoids and stromatolites in the lake.

AGU 2016

30 December, 2016

21:56

The fall semester has wrapped up, and the last big event for everyone in the lab was attending the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco. A group from the lab, including Amanda, Scott, Derek, Harry, and Alex went to the meeting, where they each presented their work and met with colleagues from around the world. Back in St. Louis, winter is setting in and we’re gearing up for productive break and the start of spring semester. Happy New Year!

Fall Semester 2016

08 September, 2016

17:03

Fall semester is under way! Lots of good happenings this fall. Wil has left for Dartmouth where he is starting his own geobiology group. Derek is getting lots of great sulfur isotope results. Harry is getting data on the SIMS and will soon be off to Japan to participate in IODP 370. Amanda has finished up another round of plant leaf wax experiments Scott has been processing lots of stromatolite samples and is planning new round of field work. Ming has preliminary data from Estonian cores and is prepping for his quals. Lauren, Yuval, Sydney, and Sarah continue work on their undergraduate projects. And the fall field class has begun!

Geology Bootcampers indicate the dip direction of the St. Louis formation, just north of the city, as Professor Phil Skemer looks on
Geology Bootcampers indicate the dip direction of the St. Louis formation, just north of the city, as Professor Phil Skemer looks on

New EA up and running

16 May, 2016

16:27

The new EA in the lab is up and running! This instrument is a user facility operated in the Bradley lab, in collaboration with the Liu lab and the Fike lab. We’ll mostly be analyzing carbon and nitrogen of bulk materials on the EA, but also have a TC/EA capable of analyzing oxygen and hydrogen isotopes. Looking forward to getting lots of great new data.

TC/EA, EA, and Delta V Plus installed - with Brienne for good luck
TC/EA, EA, and Delta V Plus installed - with Brienne for good luck

Off to the OGU

28 March, 2016

11:33

Alex is off to spend a few weeks at the Organic Geochemistry Unit at the University of Bristol. Bristol has been at the forefront of organic geochemistry research since the OGU was founded in 1968. Looking forward to new science, collaborations, and friends!

Scott passed!

08 March, 2016

17:40

Scott Beeler passed his quals! Scott now formally advances to Ph.D. candidacy. Congratulations Scott!

Harry McClelland joins the lab

07 March, 2016

15:27

Harry McClelland has recently arrived from the United Kingdom, joining the lab as a new postdoctoral scholar. Harry completed his Ph.D. at Oxford, where he studied the interplay between biology and climate. At Washington University he will continue the study of biology and how it can produce geologically stable signals. He begins working on a project aimed at understanding elemental and isotopic variability in microbes, using the SIMS facility in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Derek Smith joins the lab

03 December, 2015

17:13

Derek Smith has arrived from Caltech to join the group as a new postdoctoral scholar. Derek brings extensive experience in cultivation of microbes and operation of chemostats, and will focus on a project understanding isotope fractionation during the process of sulfate reduction. Welcome Derek!

TC/EA arrives

25 November, 2015

15:44

A new TC/EA and Thermo Delta V Plus isotope-ratio-monitoring mass spectrometer have arrived at the Bradley Lab. These instruments, along with an elemental analyzer, will installed as part of a research collaboration with Xinyi Liu in the Department of Anthropology. This brings new analytical capabilities to our campus and we’re looking forward to making new measurements!

TC/EA and Delta V Plus in crates in Rudolph Hall, awaiting installation
TC/EA and Delta V Plus in crates in Rudolph Hall, awaiting installation

Midwest Geobiology 2015

11 October, 2015

12:23

A group of students, postdocs, and faculty has just returned from Bloomington, Indiana where they attended the 2015 Midwest Geobiology Symposium. Melanie, Wil, and Amanda all gave oral presentations, and Lauren, Scott, and Flavia presented posters. An informative and fun meeting for everyone!

Melanie Suess presenting work on hydrogen isotope fractionation at MWGB2015
Melanie Suess presenting work on hydrogen isotope fractionation at MWGB2015

Flavia arrives to WashU

06 October, 2015

09:51

Flavia Boidi, a student from Argentina working with Fernando Gomez, has arrived in St. Louis on a Fulbright fellowship to work for several months on the microbiology of Laguna Negra. She’ll be working closely with Scott to characterize the microbes inhabiting the microbial mats of this lake, and pair that analysis with organic biomarkers and isotopes. Welcome to the lab!

Ming Wu joins the lab

30 September, 2015

16:11

Ming Wu has begun the new semester at Washington University, where he is undertaking a Ph.D. in organic geochemistry. Ming arrives from the University of Tulsa, where he completed a M.S. in organic goechemistry. Prior to that he was a student at Nanjing University. Ming plans to undertake studies on the organic and isotope geochemistry of core material from the East European Platform. Welcome Ming!

Estonian cores

24 August, 2015

06:32

As the fall semester kicks off, Alex has just returned from a trip that included several days of sampling spectacular Estonian core material. The sampled rocks span the Ediacaran to the Silurian and will form the basis of a new project to understand carbon and sulfur cycling through these periods. This work will be spearheaded by incoming graduate student Ming Wu and involves collaborations with David Fike, Olle Hints and others.

A box of core at the Earth Science Centre in Särghaua, Estonia
A box of core at the Earth Science Centre in Särghaua, Estonia

Local fieldwork in Missouri

31 July, 2015

17:56

Missouri has lots of great carbonate outcrops, and is a great place to learn about this part of the world during the Paleozoic Era, as well as a fantastic laboratory for undertaking pilot studies, short field excursions, and working out methods that can be applied to outcrops around the world. This week a small group of students and faculty spent two days collecting carbonates at an outcrop near House Springs, MO. These rocks will be used to try to better understand the analytical precision of geochemical measurements made at high replication. Look for more on this soon!

An outcrop containing the fossil beds of the Ordovician Decorah Formation, not far from Washington University
An outcrop containing the fossil beds of the Ordovician Decorah Shale, not far from Washington University

Summer labwork

21 July, 2015

10:17

Summer is a productive time for processing samples and getting lots of data. This summer we’ve been busy at work collecting a lot of hydrogen isotope data on Amanda’s leaf wax experiment, Wil’s bacterial experiments, and Lauren’s work on a lake core from the Sierra Nevada.

Lauren Johnson, a rising sophomore at Washington University, performs chromatography on lipid extracts from a Sierra Nevada lake core
Lauren Johnson, a rising sophomore at Washington University, performs chromatography on lipid extracts from a Sierra Nevada lake core

IGGP in Dublin

20 May, 2015

12:01

Alex has just returned from Ireland where he taught a short course within the Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme on “Principles and Applications of Organic Geochemistry”, covering theoretical and practical aspects of organic geochemistry, with applications ranging from petroleum exploration to climate reconstruction. The course was hosted at Trinity College Dublin, in the heart of downtown Dublin. TCD has an active and growing Department of Geology that emphasizes geological field research combined with cutting-edge analytical techniques. The IGGP course included participants from programs around Ireland.

The Museum Building at Trinity College Dublin, home to the Department of Geology for 160 years
The Museum Building at Trinity College Dublin, home to the Department of Geology for 160 years

Microbial Sulfur Metabolism

20 April, 2015

17:55

Microbial sulfur metabolism is one of the core focuses of the laboratory, and of great interest to biogeochemists worldwide. Alex and Wil, along with David Fike have just returned from a workshop in Helsingør, Denmark where they conferred with European and American colleagues about new advances and approaches to the study of the sulfur cycle. The workshop was extremely informative and we plan on quickly putting to use much of what we have learned!

Kronborg castle in Helsingør, near the workshop location
Kronborg castle in Helsingør, near the workshop location

There will be oil!

26 February, 2015

21:30

Petroleum is always in the news, but it’s not all the same. It can differ in its density, viscosity, pour point, sulfur content, and all manner of geochemical characteristics such as its content of various biomarkers. While most of the world sees crude oil as potential fuel and feedstock, we see it as molecular fossils! Here we have four solvent-dissolved light crude oils in the early stages of chemical analysis. The leftmost one is a very light (43.2°) sweet Pennsylvania Grade oil, while the rightmost one is Basrah Light, an economically important light (33.7°) crude from Iraq. These are examples of just a small bit of the vast variations of crude oils.

Four oils samples being prepped for analysis
Four oils samples, ranging from very light to light, being prepped for analysis

There will be oil!

26 February, 2015

21:30

Petroleum is always in the news, but it’s not all the same. It can differ in its density, viscosity, pour point, sulfur content, and all manner of geochemical characteristics such as its content of various biomarkers. While most of the world sees crude oil as potential fuel and feedstock, we see it as molecular fossils! Here we have four solvent-dissolved light crude oils in the early stages of chemical analysis. The leftmost one is a very light (43.2°) sweet Pennsylvania Grade oil, while the rightmost one is Basrah Light, an economically important light (33.7°) crude from Iraq. These are examples of just a small bit of the vast variations of crude oils.

Four oils samples being prepped for analysis
Four oils samples, ranging from very light to light, being prepped for analysis

Gas and liquid flow!

25 February, 2015

20:22

Wil has been building a chemostat in the laboratory to be used to conduct a variety of experiments with sulfate reducing bacteria and methanogens. It’s now nearly complete and we’ll begin experiments soon.

Wil puts the finishing touches on the chemostat
Wil puts the finishing touches on the chemostat

EPS 496 local field trip

23 February, 2015

22:03

EPS 496 took a field trip yesterday to the local outcrops near Eureka, Missouri where we examined the Plattin, Decorah, and Kimmswick limestones. Phil Skemer and Alex led the group in preparation for an upcoming field excursion to Italy focusing on the geology of the Apennines. Despite the cold, the trip was a great success!

Alex tries to explain geology to cold students
Alex tries to explain geology to cold students

AGU 2014

21 December, 2014

13:09

Alex and Wil have spent the last week in San Francisco, attending the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Alex presented some preliminary work on the controls of D/H ratios in microbial lipids, while Wil discussed enzyme-level controls on sulfur isotope fractionation during sulfate reduction. Altogether, a productive meeting, and looking forward to 2015!

Sampling Laguna Negra

12 December, 2014

10:32

Scott and Alex, along with David Fike and Fernando Gomez have just returned from the Andes of Argentina, where they have been collecting samples at Laguna Negra, on the route to the summit of Monte Pissis. This lake is a high altitude hypersaline lake in which we see the development of modern oncoids and stromatolites, as well as abundant microbial mats. Our objective is to characterize the carbon and sulfur cycling in the mats and carbonates, and draw comparisons to similar structures that can be seen in ancient carbonates.

In addition to sampling the lake, we surveyed Cambrian, Ordovician, and Triassic deposits in the Argentine Precordillera. Some of these are the focus of upcoming geological and geochemical work.

Scott at the overlook above Laguna Negra
Scott at the overlook above Laguna Negra

Oncoids and stromatolites in the lake
Oncoids and stromatolites in the lake

Fernando sampling a stromatolite
Fernando sampling a stromatolite

Scott measuring water chemistry
Scott measuring water chemistry

Graduate Opportunities

25 November, 2014

21:27

Our lab group is seeking one or two new graduate students to join the group in the fall of 2015. Prospective students would work on projects in the fields of organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and/or geobiology and projects could be collaborative across research groups.

Applications should be submitted through the graduate school to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, or to the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, as appropriate for each student’s background and interests. Please contact Alex with any questions.

Alex and Wil at Agouron meeting

02 November, 2014

15:17

Alex and Wil have just returned from a five day conference on The Sulfur Cycle, sponsored by the Agouron Institute. Alex discussed recent chemostat experiments designed to investigate the relationship of sulfur isotope fractionation to sulfate concentrations. Wil discussed his Ph.D. work measuring the sulfur isotope fractionation imposed by the enzyme dissimilatory sulfite reductase.

Amanda presents at PMB retreat

10 October, 2014

11:53

Amanda Bender presented her plant wax isotope research today at the annual PMB retreat at Tyson Research Center. Amanda discussed results relating to differences in the structural and isotopic content of leaf waxes among 76 introgression lines between Solanum lycopersicum and Solanum penellii.

Amanda presents at PMB retreat
Amanda presents at PMB retreat

Midwest Geobio 2014

26 September, 2014

18:45

The Bradley, Fike, and Catalano labs have caravaned up to Chicago for the Midwest Geobiology Symposium 2014! This year’s conference is hosted at Chicago’s Field Museum, and includes fifteen attendees from Washington University. We look forward to an exciting weekend of science, socializing, and building new collaborations with our colleagues from across the midwest. Special thanks are due to the Agouron Institute, for their generous and ongoing support of the conference and to the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences for generous travel support to WashU students.

Lauren Johnson joins the lab

05 September, 2014

10:30

Lauren Johnson is starting as a freshman at WashU and has already plunged into science, beginning work in the laboratory. Lauren is interested in planetary science and is studying a Mars analogue site in White Sands, New Mexico, in order to better understand what sorts of biosignatures can be preserved, as well as to compare lab-based geochemical methods to rover-based instrumentation.

Scott Beeler arrives

18 August, 2014

16:04

Scott Beeler has arrived to begin his Ph.D. studies in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University. Scott arrives from the University of Tennessee, and will begin work studying the organic geochemistry of microbialites in a high-altitude lake, in a collaboration with Fernando Gomez.

Wil Leavitt arrives at WashU!

02 July, 2014

12:36

Wil Leavitt has just arrived in St. Louis to join the growing geobiology research group at WashU. Wil arrives after completing a Ph.D. in stable isotope geochemistry at Harvard, and will work among several groups at WashU to pursue studies in microbial biogeochemistry. Wil is the department’s second Steve Fossett Postdoctoral Fellow.

Summer 2014

12 June, 2014

09:24

The summer is in full swing, and we have two new lab members to welcome. Brandon Tran has joined up with the lab to work on a project involving the regulation of lipids in Methylobacterium, while Claire Wallace joins as a NASA Space Grant fellow to work on a project involving the environmental controls on sulfur isotope fractionation in Desulfovibrio. Welcome to Claire and Brandon!

Seeking a summer student

14 May, 2014

17:08

We now have an opening for an undergraduate student to participate in a research project involving study of hydrogen isotopes in leaf waxes. Leaf waxes are a widely used paleoclimate proxy in geochemistry, and we are investigating biological sources of variability. This position is open part- or full-time during the summer, for credit or pay, with the option to develop an undergraduate research or thesis project. Please contact Alex if you are interested.

End of Spring Semester

12 May, 2014

08:17

Spring semester has ended and we are looking forward to a productive summer of research. Several new people will be joining the lab and we’ll be kicking off some new projects. We should have more updates soon!

Amanda passed!

26 March, 2014

14:26

Amanda Bender passed her quals! Amanda now formally advances to Ph.D. candidacy. Congratulations Amanda!

Greenhouse Sampling

25 February, 2014

16:49

Yesterday afternoon, several members of the lab went on a sampling trip in the greenhouses at the Danforth Plant Science Center. We are collaborating with Dan Chitwood on a project using tomato introgression lines to understand genetic loci underlying variations in leaf wax production.

Melanie, Claire, and Amanda sampling the ILs
Melanie, Claire, and Amanda sampling the ILs

Amanda examining a specimen
Amanda examining a specimen

Claire joins the lab

06 February, 2014

15:18

Claire Mai, an undergraduate EES major at WashU, has joined the lab. Claire will be helping out with the leaf wax project spearheaded by Amanda Bender. Welcome Claire!

Spring Semester 2014

18 January, 2014

16:35

Spring semester at Washington University is underway! The semester kicked off this past week, and we have a great enrollment in EPS 323: Biogeochemistry.

Michael Bereisha, a junior Biochemistry major, joins the laboratory this semester, and will be delving into the world of molecular biology and cloning. Welcome Michael!

We are all looking forward to a busy and productive semester!

Postdoctoral Opportunities

01 November, 2013

14:31

The Washington University Department of Planetary Sciences is offering the Steve Fossett Postdoctoral Fellowship. This is a fantastic opportunity to receive two years of full funding. Our laboratory is seeking postdocs to work on projects in the fields of organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and/or geobiology and projects could be collaborative across research groups.

Salary is $58,000 per year, applications are due January 15, 2014.

Graduate Student Opportunities

03 October, 2013

11:25

Our lab group is growing! We are seeking one or two new graduate students to join us in the Fall of 2014. Prospective students would work on projects in the fields of organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and/or geobiology and projects could be collaborative across research groups.

Applications should be submitted through the graduate school to the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, or to the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, as appropriate for each student’s background and interests. Please contact Alex with any questions.

Midwest Geobiology 2013

26 September, 2013

20:40

This weekend, most of our laboratory is off to Indianapolis for the 2nd annual Midwest Geobiology Symposium. We are excited to catch up with the local geobiology community, present our current research, and see what everyone has been up to since our last meeting in September 2012.

A group of fourteen scientists from Washington University will be attending, including those from our lab. WashU will be represented by two undergraduates, and several graduate students, research scientists, and faculty.

IMOG 2013

13 September, 2013

08:45

The 26th IMOG (International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry) is underway next week, and we are headed off to see what’s new in the broader world of organic geochemistry. Our laboratory will be presenting some preliminary work that we’ve done to try to start to get a better handle on the origin of D/H ratios in microbial lipids.

Fall Semester begins

03 September, 2013

16:15

The fall 2013 semester is underway at Washington University, and there are some new faces in the laboratory. Sophomore Max Lyons has joined us, and will be working on isotope fractionation during the process of sulfate reduction. Sydney Kapp is also a new member of the lab and will be working on a genetics project in Methylobacterium. Welcome to both Sydney and Max!

New website

30 July, 2013

13:40

Our new laboratory website is up and running… and here it is! We’ve aimed for a simpler system that will make it easier to update, and include things like a news feed.