The cutting-edge work done by Colgate geology students and faculty members is possible due to state-of-the-art facilities for both classroom instruction and scientific research.

Analytical Instrumentation

Atomic absorption spectrophotometer

Perkin Elmer AAnalyst 200 Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer

Atomic absorption spectrophotometry provides accurate quantitative analyses for metals in water, sediments, soils, or rocks. (Samples are analyzed in solution form, so solid samples must be leached or dissolved prior to analysis.)

Student using an atomic absorption photometer in a lab.
Student using an atomic absorption photometer in a lab.

Colgate’s system combines a double-beam Echelle optical system with a solid state detector. Both acetylene and nitrous oxide fuel mixtures can be used to allow for the analysis of a wide range of elements. Cordless LuminaTM lamps provide the element specific light. The system is run by WinLab 32TM operating software with touch-screen controls.

Schematic showing “computer with touchscreen control,” “element-specific lamp,” “burner,” “flame,” “aspirator,” and “detector.”
Schematic showing “computer with touchscreen control,” “element-specific lamp,” “burner,” “flame,” “aspirator,” and “detector.”

How it works

As shown in the schematic, atomic absorption units have four basic parts: interchangeable lamps that emit light with element-specific wavelengths, a sample aspirator, a flame or furnace apparatus for volatilizing the sample, and a photon detector. In order to analyze for any given element, a lamp that produces a wavelength of light that is absorbed by that element is chosen.

Sample solutions are aspirated into the flame. If any ions of the given element are present in the flame, they will absorb light produced by the lamp before it reaches the detector. The amount of light absorbed depends on the amount of the element present in the sample. Absorbance values for unknown samples are compared to calibration curves prepared by running known samples.

Related research

This lab has been used extensively to collect data for a wide variety of research. Some of the major projects include:

Critical Zone Exploration Network (CZEN) — Study on soil development and chemical weathering
National Science Foundation/Collaborative Research at Undergraduate Institutions (NSF/CRUI) — Study on acid deposition and calcium depletion in Adirondack soils

Broadband Seismometers

Colgate owns and operates six broadband seismometers, designed to record ground motion from local earthquakes as well as earthquakes across the globe.  The seismometers include five Nanometrics Meridian Compact Posthole Seismometers and one Streckeisen STS-2.5 seismometer paired with Quanterra Q330S+ digitizer.

Broadband seismometers measure ground motion across a broad range of frequencies, detecting not only earthquakes, but also storms, footsteps, loud noises, and even passing vehicles!  These instruments measure ground motion (as movement velocity) as small as micrometers per second, and in three dimensions.  Motion is recorded electronically as a suspended weight moves independently from the casing, passing a magnet through coiled wires, inducing an electrical current.  To collect meaningful information on ground motion, these broadband seismometers are buried in locations of geologic interest for periods of time ranging from months to several years.

Fluid inclusion microthermometric system

Fluid Inc. USGS-design Fluid Inclusion Microthermometric System

Fluid inclusion microthermometry is used to determine the crystallization temperatures of the minerals that contain them, and the salinity of fluids that were present in the formational setting during the time of crystallization.

Student using fluid inclusion microthermic system in lab.
Student using fluid inclusion microthermic system in lab.

The Fluid Inc. fluid inclusion system uses a United States Geological Survey–designed gas-heated and gas-cooled insulated stage. Observations for fluid inclusion work are performed using a Leica LaborluxS microscope and Hitachi HVD25 digital imaging system.

How it works

Small, mm-scale chips of crystalline minerals are mounted between thin glass plates in an area of the stage that contains a sensitive thermocouple and is surrounded by insulating material. Fluid inclusions, which are tiny bits of fluid trapped during crystal growth, are observed through the glass plates in the stage using a high-powered microscope. Samples are chilled or heated by passing heated or chilled gas, usually nitrogen, over them.

Crystals that grow in fluid-rich environments often trap a bit of the surrounding fluid in small inclusions within the grain. As the mineral cools, the liquid in the inclusion shrinks in volume and a vapor bubble appears. By heating the sample on a fluid inclusion stage until the bubble is reabsorbed, the "homogenization temperature" of the fluid inclusion is found.

This temperature represents the minimum temperature at which the inclusion was trapped and therefore can be used to estimate the minimum temperature of mineral crystallization.

Freezing and melting temperatures can be determined by chilling fluid inclusions. Because the freezing and melting temperatures of the fluid are controlled by its salt content, the composition of fluids in the inclusion that were involved in crystal growth can be constrained.

Geometrics 24-channel Geode Seismic Acquisition System

This seismic acquisition system measures ground motion to image the upper 10s to 100s of meters of the subsurface.  

Students us Geode seismic system in class
Students us Geode seismic system during a geophysics lab

The Geode seismic acquisition system includes 24 sensitive geophones that measure ground motion at very high frequencies at evenly-spaced distances.  Signals recorded by this system are typically from a man-made source, such as a weight-drop or the impact of a sledgehammer on a metal plate.  Timing of this signal is precisely synchronized with all 24 geophones to create records of how energy is transmitted through the ground, and how it reflects off of subsurface interfaces.

Geometrics G-857 Magnetometer

This instrument measures tiny deviations in the strength of the magnetic field, which are induced by changes in geology or by remnants of human activities.

The G-857 is a proton procession magnetometer, which measures magnetic fields to a sensitivity of tenths of a nanoTesla.  The sensor is filled with a fluid containing hydrogen atoms.  A strong magnetic field is created around the fluid, causing the protons of the hydrogen atoms to align within the field.  When the artificial magnetic field is released, the protons realign with the natural ambient magnetic field, creating an electrical current that is recorded by the instrument and converted to magnetic field strength.  By making measurements like this in many locations, we can create a map showing how the magnetic field varies spatially.  This can reveal changes in subsurface geology, buried objects containing small amounts of ferrous material, or even disturbed soils.

Inductively coupled plasma — mass spectrometer

Varian/Bruker 820-MS and Agilent HP4500

Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers (ICP-MS) measure the concentrations of trace and major elements in liquid or solid samples. The Varian 820-MS ICP-MS is set up to process data from solutions using the Cetac ASX-520 autosampler or solids using the New Wave UP 213nm laser ablation system. This laser ablation system allows researchers to get pinpoint, in situ data from solid samples like rocks, glass, and crystals. Both the Varian and Argilent instruments housed in this lab are quadrupole ICP-MS systems, so researchers can measure the majority of the periodic table in just seconds.

Instrument statistics

Download the Bruker 820-MS brochure.

View information about the laser ablation system.

Ion chromatography system

Metrohm 930 Compact single-channel ion chromatograph with cation and anion separation columns for water major ion analysis.

Scanning electron microscope

JEOL JSM636OLV Scanning Electron Microscope with Oxford X-max Silicon Drift X-ray Detector, Nordlys EBSD Detector, and Gatan Cathode Luminescence Detector

Purchased with grants from the National Science Foundation

This instrument is used for detailed, high-magnification, 3-D imaging and qualitative and semi-quantitative chemical analysis of solids

Student using electron microscope in lab.
Student using electron microscope in lab.

How it works

A beam of high-energy electrons is produced in the electron gun at the top of the column by applying high voltage to a tungsten filament and nearby anode. This beam is accelerated past the anode into the column, where it is condensed and aligned by a series of electromagnetic lenses and coils within the column. This focused beam continuously rasters back and forth across the sample. Interactions between the electron beam and the sample result in different types of emissions that are measured by a series of detectors located within the sample chamber. The types of emissions that are measured are: secondary electrons, backscattered electrons, x-rays, and cathode luminescence. X-ray data is sent to the x-ray system, where it is translated into elemental plots. The other three detectors are connected to a monitor where the signal produces a clear image of the sample. Secondary electron imaging provides good three-dimensional topographic views of the sample. Backscattered electron images show less-defined topography but clearly display differences in elemental compositions because higher-atomic-number elements appear brighter. Cathode luminescence imaging highlights chemical variations within individual grains due to trace element variations and zoning.

Instrument statistics

Colgate’s EDS system is run by Spirit software. The detector has a beryllium window. Quantitative analyses are performed at 20 kV using a 25mm working distance, 35 percent dead time, and are collected for 200 seconds of live time.

Select publications from work done at Colgate's SEM lab
* indicates collaborative research with students

Brown, L.L., McEnroe, S.A., Peck, W.H., Peterson, L.P. (2011). Anorthosites as Sources of Magnetic Anomalies, in Earth’s Magnetic Interior (E. Petrovský, D. Ivers, T. Harinarayana, and E. Herrero-Bervera, Eds.), Springer-Verlag, p. 321-342.

Wong, M.S., Peck, W.H., Selleck, B.W., *Catalano, J.P., *Hochman, S.D., and *Maurer, J.T. (2011). The Black Lake Shear Zone: A boundary between terranes in the Adirondack Lowlands, Grenville Province. Precambrian Research, v. 188, p. 57-72.

Peck, W.H., McLelland, J.M., Bickford, M.E., *Nagle, A.N., *Swarr, G.J (2010.) Mechanism of zircon overgrowth formation of a granulite-facies quartzite, Adirondack Highlands, Grenville Province, New York. American Mineralogist, v. 95, p. 1796-1806. 

Segall, K., Dioguardi, A.P., Fernandes, N., Mazo, J.J. (2009). Experimental Observation of Fluxon Diffusion in Josephson Rings. Journal of Low Temperature Physics, v. 154, 41-54. 

Cavosie, A.J., Kita, N.T., and Valley, J.W. (2009). Magmatic zircons from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: Primitive oxygen isotope signature. American Mineralogist, 94(7): 926-934. 

King, E.M., Trzaskus, A.P., and Valley, J.W. (2008). Oxygen isotope evidence for magmatic variability and multiple alteration events in the Proterozoic St. Francois Mountains, Missouri. Precambrian Research, Volume 165, Pages 49-60. 

Bickford, M.E., McLelland, J.M., Selleck, B.W., Hill, Barbara M., and Heumann, M.J. (2008). Timing of anatexis in the eastern Adirondack Highlands: Implications for tectonic evolution during ca. 1050 Ma Ottawan orogenesis. Geol. Soc. America Bulletin, v. 120. 

Carr, P., Selleck, B., Stott, M., Williamson, P. (2008). Native lead at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. Canadian Mineralogist, v. 46. 

Kelly, J.L., Fu, B., Kita, N.T., and Valley, J.W. (2007). Optically continuous silcrete quartz cements of the St. Peter Sandstone: High precision oxygen isotope analysis by ion microprobe. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71(15): 3812-3832. 

Heumann, M.J., Bickford, M., Hill, B.M., McLelland, J., Selleck, B., and Jercinovic, M.J.  (2006). Timing of anatexis in metapelites from the Adirondack lowlands and southern highlands: A manifestation of the Shawinigan orogeny and subsequent anorthosite-mangerite-charnockite-granite magmatism. Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 118, no. 8. 

Selleck, B., McLelland, J.M., and Bickford, M.E. (2005). Granite emplacement during tectonic exhumation, The Adirondack example. Geology, v. 33, p. 781-784. 

Peck, W.H., DeAngelis, M.T., Meredith, M.T.*, Morin, E. (2005). Polymetamorphism of marbles in the Morin terrane (Grenville Province, Quebec). Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 42, 
p. 1949-1965.
 

Stable isotope mass spectrometry

Delta Plus Advantage Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometer and Costech Elemental Analyzer

Funded by grant EAR-0216179 from the National Science Foundation

Measures isotope ratios of C, O, and N from geological and biological samples.

Student using stable isotope mass spectrometer in lab.
Student using stable isotope mass spectrometer in lab.

How it works

Oxygen, carbon, or nitrogen must be separated from samples by some chemical method (such as combustion, dissolution in acids, or fusing with a laser in the presence of an oxidizer). Gases are then purified in a vacuum line (glass trellis-work in picture) or within the elemental analyzer. The purified gases are then introduced into the mass spectrometer, either by using the dual-inlet system or continuous flow mode, where they are bombarded by electrons and ionized. The ions travel down a flight tube and are separated according to mass by an electromagnet. The ions are then detected in Faraday cups at the end of the flight tube. The isotope ratio is calculated from the charge of the ions at the end of the flight tube. See Finnigan's brochure for instrument and analytical statistics.

 Image of stable isotope mass spectrometry lab.
Image of stable isotope mass spectrometry lab.

Although the differences in mass between the isotopes of the light gases are small (~11 percent between 16O and 18O), the isotope ratio is very sensitive to geological processes. Stable isotopes are commonly used in studies to determine paleoclimate, water-rock interaction, and metamorphic temperatures in rocks, and trophic level and paleodiet in fossils.

Research projects

The lab is used for class projects in geology and other departments (e.g., ENST 100 Earth and Environmental Processes, FSEM 124 Forensic Geology, GEOL 310 Economic Geology, GEOL 415 Marine Geology, GEOL 411 Isotope Geology, BIOL 476 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Ecology). Class projects have investigated plant physiology, lake sediments near Hamilton, N.Y., the origin of Pb-Zn ore deposits, and adulteration of maple syrup. Many students have used the lab for independent study projects and senior theses, and several have presented their projects at regional and national meetings.

 Glass tubing in Colgate’s stable isotope mass spectrometry lab.
Glass tubing in Colgate’s stable isotope mass spectrometry lab.

Papers from the isotope lab

* indicates collaborative research with students

Peck, W.H., *Cummings, E.E., *Van Slyke, E. (2018). Carbon isotope composition of birch syrup. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, v. 71, p. 25-27.

Peck, W.H., *Shramko, M.F., and Verbeek, E.R. (2016). Carbon and oxygen isotopes of secondary carbonates at Franklin and Sterling Hill. The Picking Table, v. 57, p. 29-38.

Peck, W.H. (2016). Protolith carbon isotope ratios in cordierite from metamorphic and igneous rocks. American Mineralogist, v. 101, p. 2279-2287.

Peck, W.H., and *Tubman, S.C. (2010). Changing carbon isotope ratio of atmospheric carbon dioxide: Implications for food authentication. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, v. 58(4), p. 2364–2367

Peck, W.H., Volkert, R.A., *Mansur, A., *Doverspike, B.A. (2009). Stable isotope and petrologic evidence for the origin of regional marble-hosted magnetite deposits and the zinc deposits at Franklin and Sterling Hill, New Jersey Highlands. Economic Geology, v. 104, p. 1037-1054.

Peck, W.H., and *Tumpane, K.P. (2007). Low carbon isotope ratios in apatite: An unreliable biomarker in igneous and metamorphic rocks. Chemical Geology, v. 245, p. 305-314.

Peck, W.H., Volkert, R.A., *Meredith, M.T., and *Rader, E.L. (2006). Calcite-graphite carbon isotope thermometry of the Franklin Marble, New Jersey Highlands. Journal of Geology, v. 114, p. 485-499.

Peck, W.H., *DeAngelis, M.T., *Meredith, M.T., *Morin, E. (2005). Polymetamorphism of marbles in the Morin terrane (Grenville Province, Quebec). Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 42, p. 1949-1965.

Abstracts from the isotope lab

* indicates collaborative research with students

Dunn, S.R., *Kotikian, M., *Achenbach, K., *Nesbit, J., *Montanye, B., Peck, W., and Markley, M. (2017). Calcite-graphite isotope thermometry in the Western Central Metasedimentary Belt, Grenville Province, Ontario. Geological Association of Canada/Mineralogical Association of Canada 2017 Meeting Abstracts with Programs, Abstract #295.

*Katz, S., and Peck, W.H. (2016). Mineralogy and stable isotopes of Dutchess and Litchfield county metasedimentary rocks. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 48(2), doi: 10.1130/abs/2016NE-272777.

Peck, W.H., and *Dawson, T.L. (2015). Carbon isotope investigation of channel carbon dioxide in ring silicates: Cordierite and beryl. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 47(7), p. 762.

*Montanye, B.R., and Peck, W.H. (2012). Carbon isotope thermometry in the Central Metasedimentary Belt Boundary Thrust Zone, Grenville Province, Ontario. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 44(2), p. 115.

*Rathkopf, C.A., Peck, W.H. (2010). Stable isotope geochemistry of marble-hosted Zn deposits, Central Metasedimentary Belt, Grenville Province, Ontario. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 42(1), p. 110.

*Halfhide, T.M., Peck, W.H. (20100. Calcite-graphite thermometry of marbles in the Sharbot Lake domain (Grenville Province, Ontario). Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 42(1), p. 160.

*Tortorello, R.D., Peck, W.H. (2010). Calcite-graphite thermometry of marbles in the Frontenac terrane (Grenville Province, Ontario). Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 42(1), p. 160.

April, R.H., *Coplin, A.L. (2008). The isotopic composition of organic carbon in Adirondack Spodosols. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 72, Issue 12, p. A30.

*Eppich, G.R., and Peck, W.H. (2006). Stable isotope geochemistry of the Kilmar magnesite deposits, Grenville Province, Quebec. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.38, n. 2, p. 26.

Goldstein, A.G., Peck, W.H., and Selleck, B.W., *King, M., *Coliacomo, E., Kita, N.T., Valley, J.W. (2006). High-resolution stable isotope thermometry of Taconic strain fringes. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 38, n. 7, p. 18.

*Kinsman, N., Goldstein, A., Peck, W., and Selleck, B. (2006). Stable isotopes of strain fringes in Aptian slates near Lourdes, France. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.38, n. 2, p. 26.

*King, M., *Coliacomo, E., Goldstein, A., Peck, W., and Selleck, B. (2006). Stable isotopes in strain fringes from the Taconic Mountains, Vermont. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.38, n. 2, p. 26.

*Meredith, M.T., *Doverspike, B.A., Peck, W.H. (2003). Stable isotope geochemistry of the Franklin Marble (Grenville Province, New Jersey). Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.35, n. 3, p. 96.

*Nowak, R. (rnowak09@wooster.edu), Peck, W.H., Pollock, M. (2009). Protolith determination of the Hyde School garnet-sillimanite marginal gneisses, Adirondack Lowlands, NY. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41(4), p. 52.

Peck, W.H., *DeAngelis, M.T., *Meredith, M.T., *Morin, E. (2004). Metamorphism of marbles in the Morin terrane (Grenville Province, Quebec). Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.36, n. 5, p. 460.

Peck, W.H., and *Tumpane, K.P. (2006). Low carbon isotope ratios in high-temperature apatite: Implications for use as a biomarker. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 38, n. 7, p. 46.

Peck, W.H., Volkert, R.A., *Mansur, A.T., Doverspike, B.A. (2008). Stable isotope constraints on the origin of Mesoproterozoic marble-hosted zinc and iron deposits, New Jersey Highlands. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40(2), p. 61.

Peck, W.H., Volkert, R.A., *Mansur, A.T., *Eppich, G.R. (2008). A Stable Isotope Perspective on Sedimentation, Ore Genesis, and Metamorphism in the Southern Grenville Province. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40(6), p. 234.

Selleck, B.W., Peck, W.H., McLelland, J.M., *Bergman, M., *Ellis, A., *Conti, C. (2008). Late Ottawan (ca. 1035 Ma) hydrothermal signatures in the southeastern Adirondack Lowlands: New geochronological, stable isotope and fluid inclusion results. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40(2), p. 61.

*Tubman, S.C., Peck, W.H. (2008). Carbon isotopes of maple syrup: A record of atmospheric and environmental change. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40(2), p. 18.

*Tumpane, K.P., and Peck, W.H, (2006). Large carbon isotope fractionations in apatite. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v.38, n. 2, p. 26.

X-ray diffractometer

Philips PW3040 X-ray Diffractometer with X'Pert Software

Purchased with a grant from the National Science Foundation
X-ray diffraction is used to determine the identity of crystalline solids based on their atomic structure.

Student using x-ray diffractometer in lab
Student using x-ray diffractometer in lab.

Colgate’s system uses Cu Kα radiation that has a wavelength of 1.54Å. Analyses are commonly run using a 40kV 45mA x-ray tube voltage, a 0.04° soller slit, 1° divergence and antiscatter slits, and a 1/2° (for powder) or 1/4° (for clays) receiving slit.

How it works

During x-ray diffraction analysis, x-ray beams are reflected off the parallel atomic layers within a mineral over a range of diffraction angles. Because the x-ray beam has a specific wavelength, for any given 'd-spacing' (distance between adjacent atomic planes) there are only specific angles at which the exiting rays will be 'in phase' and therefore rays will be picked up by the detector producing a peak on the 'diffractogram.' Like a human fingerprint, every mineral has its own distinct set of diffraction peaks that can be used to identify it.

Related research

This system has been used extensively to collect data for a wide variety of research. Some of the major projects include:
CZEN — Critical Zone research on soil development and chemical weathering
NSF/CRUI — Study on acid deposition and calcium depletion in Adirondack soils
ILWAS — Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study — study of the effects of acid deposition on three Adirondack lakes
RILWAS — Regional Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study: a study of the effects of acid deposition on lakes in the Adirondacks and various other locations across the United States, Canada, and Europe
ALBIOS — Aluminum Biogeochemistry Study: a study of the effects of aluminum on forested ecosystems
IFS — Integrated Forest Study, an international effort to study the effects of acid deposition on forest ecosystems throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe
DOE — study of the distribution of Cesium-137 in lake-bottom sediments

X-ray fluorescence spectrometer

Philips PW2404 X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer with Super Q Software

Purchased with a grant from the National Science Foundation

X-ray fluorescence provides accurate quantitative data on the chemical composition of geologic samples.

 X-ray fluorescence spectrometer in lab.
x-ray-fluorescence-spectrometer-1.jpg

Samples for major element analysis are powdered and mixed with lithium tetraborate flux in a 9:1 flux:sample ratio, then melted to produce a glass disc using a Claisse Fluxy Fluxer. For trace element analysis, powered samples are mixed in approximately a 5:1 sample:flux ratio with Copolywax flux, then formed into a pressed pellet using an hydraulic press. Major element calibration curves are based on a set of 60 standards. A set of 30 standards is used for trace element analyses.

How it works

Each chemical element is composed of a nucleus along with a specific number of orbiting electrons. During x-ray fluorescence analysis, high-energy x-ray photons produced in the x-ray tube bombard the sample, causing the ejection of electrons from their orbitals. Fluorescence occurs when energy is given off as outer shell electrons drop down to replace inner shell electrons that have been ejected. The amount of energy lost as a result of each such electron transition, along with its related wavelength, are specific to each particular element.

Within the x-ray spectrometer, a crystal with a known lattice spacing is used as a diffraction grating that allows through only one x-ray wavelength at any given diffraction angle. Because the x-ray wavelengths produced by fluorescence are unique to each element, this diffraction restricts all energy except for that of the element of interest from reaching the detector. Therefore, any signal that is picked up by the detector can be attributed to the element of interest. The more there is of that element in a sample, the more electron transitions that can occur, and the more signal that will be produced. The amount of signal that is received is compared to calibration curves, which are plots of the amount of energy received vs. weight percentage for standards with known compositions.

Related research

This system has been used extensively to collect data for a wide variety of research. Some of the major projects include:

CZEN — Critical Zone research on soil development and chemical weathering 

NSF/CRUI -— Study on acid deposition and calcium depletion in Adirondack soils

ILWAS — Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study: a study of the effects of acid deposition on three Adirondack lakes

RILWAS — Regional Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study: a study of the effects of acid deposition on lakes in the Adirondacks and various other locations across the United States, Canada, and Europe

ALBIOS — Aluminum Biogeochemstry Study a study of the effects of aluminum on forested ecosystems

IFS -— Integrated Forest Study: an international effort to study the effects of acid deposition on forest ecosystems throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe

Hand-held x-ray fluorescence spectrometer

Thermo Fisher Niton XL3t ULTRA X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)

This instrument is used to determine the chemical composition of rocks, sediments, and soils in the field or in the lab. It can be used for both reconnaissance analysis of most elements, and it can also be standardized for quantitative analysis of specific elements in particular materials.

Using the same principle of Colgate’s laboratory x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, this hand-held unit uses high-energy x-ray photons to analyze geologic samples. The energy of secondary x-rays emitted by the sample during analysis is specific to each particular element, which can be used to determine its chemical composition.

Sample Preparation and Analytical Labs

Geochemistry lab

The "geochem lab" accommodates a variety of soil, sediment, rock, and water sample preparations and analyses. It is fully equipped with centrifuges, balances, spectrometers, pH meters, titration apparatus, hoods, sieves, settling tubes, desiccators, field equipment, sonifiers, a convection oven, muffle furnace, waterbath, shaker table, and nutator, as well as all the necessary labware. The geochem lab is used for student and faculty research throughout the summer and academic year.

This lab has been used extensively to collect data for a wide variety of research projects including:

Students preparing samples in the geochemistry lab
Students preparing samples for analysis in the Geochem Lab

CZEN — Critical Zone research on soil development and chemical weathering 
NSF/CRUI — Study on Acid Deposition and Calcium Depletion in Adirondack Soils
DOE study of the distribution of Cesium-137 in lake bottom sediments
IFS — Integrated Forest Study: an international effort to study the effects of acid deposition on forest ecosystems throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe
ALBIOS — Aluminum Biogeochemistry Study - a study of the effects of aluminum on forested ecosystems
RILWAS — Regional Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study - a study of the effects of acid deposition on lakes in the Adirondacks and various other locations across the United States, Canada, and Europe
ILWAS — Integrated Lake Watershed Acidification Study - a study of the effects of acid deposition on three Adirondack lakes

Seismology & geophysics lab

The Geophysics lab at Colgate specializes in using passive source seismology to characterize and image the Earth’s crust and mantle.  The lab is equipped with desktop computers as well as a powerful Linux server for remote computations.  Seismic data collection is conducted using broadband seismometers.  Six seismometers are owned and maintained by Colgate University, and the lab includes equipment to build and maintain solar power systems for the seismometers. For larger projects, these instruments are supplemented by instruments from a national pool and partner institutions.  The broadband seismometers have been deployed in the Adirondack Mountains, southern Alaska, Tanzania, and on Colgate’s campus to measure ground motions in those locations.  In addition to solid earth seismic equipment, the geophysics lab is equipped with equipment for studying the shallow subsurface, including a 24-channel seismic acquisition system and a portable magnetometer.

Micropaleontological and microscopy labs

A student working in the micropaleontological and microscopy lab
A student working in the micropaleontological and microscopy lab

The micropaleontological laboratory at Colgate is fully equipped to prepare quantitative diatom slides using the standard random settling method and to measure biogenic silica by spectrophotometric analysis. Microscopes in this lab and the nearby microscopy lab include Olympus Research Stereozoom Model SZX12 with PMC350X photography system and Olympus BX50 and Olympus BX60 infinity corrected microscopes, both with BX-FLA reflected light fluorescence attachments for epi-fluorescence microscopy. The BX60 is attached to a Hitachi Digital Camera with Flashpoint digital imaging software. In addition, four research-quality Nikon E400 epi-fluorescence microscopes are available (via an NSF/RUI award); all equipped with SPOT color CCD cameras and image acquisition software from Diagnostic Imaging.

Planetary and surface environments lab

A drone-focused remote sensing lab supporting visible, near-infrared, and thermal imaging. Drone measurements are supported by a collection of soil physical and hydrological properties sensors for field and lab use (e.g., networked micrometeorology, hydraulic conductivity, thermal properties, etc.).

The “Clean lab”

A student in the “Clean lab”
A student in the “Clean lab”

The clean lab is part of a two-room suite designed to minimize the potential for even trace amounts of contamination to samples that are being prepared for analysis in the adjacent ICP-MS lab. HEPA filters in the ceiling vents provide purified air to the facility. Air pressure within the rooms is set at a high positive pressure, while the vestibule entry to the lab suite is set at a negative pressure, causing any incoming dust to be blown out as someone enters the lab. All gas tanks used for ICP-MS analysis are contained in a separate, external gas closet in order to eliminate the possibility of any contaminants being carried in on gas tanks or transport carts. Ultrapure water is provided by a Millipore Milli-Q Integral water purification system. This lab is also outfitted with two HEPA filter hoods and one perchloric hood used for dissolving rocks and preparing solutions for ICP analysis.

The “Rock room”

Students in the “Rock room”
Students in the “Rock room”

The "rock room" is actually a set of sample preparation rooms where field samples are processed, and thin sections, glass discs, and pressed pellets are made. The 'dirty' rooms contain an extensive collection of sieves, rock crushers, diamond-tipped slab and rock saws, a series of grinding wheels, grit plates, polishing wheels, and Vibromet vibrating polishers, along with MicroTrim seven-sample and MicroTec Mark II single-sample thin section machines, a shatterbox assembly, hydraulic rock corer, and an hydraulic splitting maul. The 'clean' room in this facility houses a three-sample Claisse Fluxy fluxer and the large rock saw for preparation of glass discs, a Carver 12-ton hydraulic press for production of pressed pellets, and muffle furnaces. These rooms are actively used by both students and professors for a wide variety of research projects.

Student working in ventilation hood
Student performing mineral separations in the Thermochronology lab

Thermochronology sample preparation lab

The structural geology lab is a fully functional facility that is used to separate minerals for a wide variety of geochronologic and thermochronologic analyses. The lab is equipped with a Frantz LB-1 magnetic barrier separator, a heavy liquids separation facility, a petrographic microscope with digital camera, and a picking microscope. Some examples of the application of the lab include separation of zircon for U-Pb geochronology, separation of hornblende, mica, and K-feldspar for 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and thermochronology, and the separation of apatite for low temperature (U-Th)/He thermochronologic analyses.
 

Paleontology Research Collection

The Geology Department at Colgate University has an extensive fossil collection, largely made up of identified invertebrate fossils from the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group. 

Middle Devonian rocks in New York State are largely marine and represent shallow coastal environments to the east and deeper basinal environments to the west. Most of the fossils at Colgate are from within a 30 km radius of Hamilton, NY, and represent a shallow midshelf fauna rich in brachiopods and bivalves. High sediment influx and variable salinity produced conditions that were distinctly different from the normal marine to anoxic environments in the western part of the state. 

Colgate has about 5000 lots (185 drawers) of identified Hamilton Group fossils. These are from the upper Marcellus, Skaneateles, Ludlowville, and Moscow formations. In addition, there are 750 lots of western New York Hamilton Group fossils, which include many corals, 500 lots of Lower and Upper Devonian fossils, and 200 lots of eurypterids from the Bertie Waterlime. 

The Robert M. Linsley Collections at Colgate comprise an impressive set of identified Tertiary and modern molluscs with around 4000 lots of gastropods and 1300 lots of bivalves. Part of the modern collections are from Albert Bickmore, who collected in the Netherlands East Indies and southwest Pacific in 1865. 

In addition to the teaching collection, there are 250 drawers of non-Devonian invertebrate and plant fossils. 160 drawers are an identified and diverse invertebrate collection spanning the Phanerozoic, 60 drawers are Cenozoic marine molluscs from Florida, and 30 drawers contain Upper Paleozoic and Cenozoic plant fossils.