A Washington State University researcher helps dig deeper into the earth, as trapped gases and volcanic activity become topics of discussion among researchers from universities across the nation.
Michael Rowe, a volcanic geochemist and research associate in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, has been participating in research studying large magnitudes of chlorine, fluorine and sulfur in massive flood basalts in Siberia, according to a WSU press release.
Rowe, who said he has primarily been in charge of training lead researcher Ben Black, has been involved with the group of researchers on and off for the past few years.
“I have been assisting on and off with this research for the past two years, beginning while I was a postdoc at the University of Iowa where I helped to train Ben to prepare his samples,” Rowe said. “After coming to WSU I began analyzing the same samples that Ben had been working on, to determine the speciation of sulfur in the hopes of better understanding where large quantities of sulfur in magmas may originate.”
Rowe joins other researchers from multiple universities across the nation including Black, a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Lindy T. Elkins-Tanton, the lead principal investigator of the overarching project and Ingrid Ukstins-Peate, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa.
Black said that Rowe has been, and was, very instrumental in the various methods used during the testing process while studying in the Siberian basalts to determine the different gas concentrations.
The group’s research focuses on understanding the relationship between one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions, the Siberia flood basalts, and the world’s largest extinction, the end-Permian. Elkins-Tanton said the research is all a part of a five-year project that involves 28 scientists from eight different countries.
“I organized the effort to write the proposal and I continue to work on organization for the larger project,” she said. “I also work with Ben Black at MIT and collaborated with him on his work at each stage. We were in Siberia together on a number of field trips on which these rocks were collected.”
For a local viewpoint on the group’s research, Rowe said given that much of Eastern Washington lives on a large “igneous province,” such as the Columbia River basalts, the results of the studies in Siberia could be similar.
“Although smaller than the Siberian Traps, the Columbia River basalts could share many similarities,” Rowe said. “Recognizing these similarities and trying to better understand them helps us to expand our thinking beyond a regional context.”
Study results on the Siberian basalts are set to be released in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.