COURSE SUMMARY: This course is graduate and advanced undergraduate level and is an overview of the use of isotopic variations to study earth and environmental problems. The course begins with a short introduction to nuclear properties and processes, and builds upon those foundations to study radiogenic and stable isotope systems. Topics include geochronology, cosmogenic isotope studies of surficial processes, radiocarbon dating, thermochronology, stable isotopes of water in the hydrologic cycle, stable isotopes in the Critical Zone, isotope studies of deep earth materials and processes.
TEXTBOOKS: Chart of the Nuclides, Lockheed Martin Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry, A.P. Dickin
Problem Sets (5) 40% Midterm Exam 25% Final Exam (take-home) 20% Presentation 15% Total 100%
PROBLEM SETS: There will be problem sets assigned approximately every two weeks and they will be due the following week. You are welcome to collaborate in groups on these, but your work must be your own.
EXAMS: The midterm exam will be taken in-class and open-note. You may use your course notes, problem sets and the texts assigned for the course. You may not use any electronic resource, or discussion with anyone during the exam. The final exam will be take-home and will be assigned on the last day of class, and will be due approximately one week later. You may use any resources you choose on the final exam, but you may not discuss it with your classmates or anyone else.
PRESENTATION: Each student will research a topic related to isotope geochemistry of their choosing, and give a 20-minute presentation on their topic during the final exam period for the course. During the semester, we will circulate a sign-up list so there is no duplication of topics. Each student is encouraged to research and present on a topic they find interesting and/or is relevant to their research.
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE:
WeekTopic
1 Introduction to isotope geochemistry Nuclear properties, binding energy
2 Quantum mechanics relevant to Isotope Geochemistry Radioactive decay modes, arithmetic of radioactive production and decay
3 The Chart of the Nuclides Nuclear reactions, neutron capture, fission, fusion, neutron activation
4 Nucleosynthesis, stellar evolution, elemental and isotopic abundances 14C systematics and dating
5 Cosmogenic nuclides Cosmogenic nuclides and their application in earth science
6 Introduction to radiogenic systems and geochronology, decay constants Rb-Sr geochronology
7 K-Ar and Ar/Ar geochronology U-Pb and U-series geochronology
8 Diffusion theory, introduction to thermochronology and (U-Th)/He Introduction to stable isotope geochemistry, thermodynamic equilibrium
9 Hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes in the hydrologic cycle Hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes in the hydrologic cycle (cont’d)